“Three marketing researchers have concluded that the less religious one is, the more commercial brand names matter…. For people who aren’t religious, visible markers of commercial brands, such as logos on a laptop or shirt pocket, function as a means of self-expression and as an assertion of self-worth comparable to the symbolic expression of faith” (The Christian Century, November 2, 2010: 9).

“In [Christ] you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

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I can’t quote him exactly now, but I recall Alan Flusser, the men’s clothing designer and expert, saying in his 1981 book Making the Man that if you wear initials on your shirt, they should be your own, and not some designer’s. What Flusser advised in that early work and in his subsequent books has been a kind of gospel for me as I built my wardrobe.

Interesting that the actual Gospel preaches a similar message. Our identity comes not from the brand names we wear or own. Rather it arises from our baptism, our being marked with the sign of God’s grace which claims us. Invisible once the water and oil dry on our skin, the symbol of our identity is nevertheless indelibly imprinted on us.

How sad to try to affirm your self-worth by sporting a logo that tells everyone you’ve bought an overpriced shirt or that you are technically savvy because you have a smartphone from the “right” maker! But also how telling. We are all at root people who seek meaning, who want to belong, who desire to be claimed by and identified as beloved by someone, and indeed by Someone, whatever our protestations to the contrary. St. Augustine famously said: “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

When the One composer Kurt Kaiser once called the “Master Designer” (© 1969 Lexicon Music, Inc. in Tell It Like It Is) has touched you and marked you as his own, you know who you are. How could you want any other monogram on you than IHS or XP?*

© 2010 Tom Cheatham

* The classic Christograms: the first three letters of “Jesus” in Greek, then the letters “Chi Rho,” which begin the word “Christ” in Greek.

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