I’ll start by saying I don’t have an axe to grind against the Russian Orthodox Church, (Did I ever think I’d start a post that way? No.) but I did find this little news story interesting.
In 2009, an image of Patriarch Kirill (a leader in the Russian Orthodox Church) was released in which he was sitting at a table rocking a gold Breguet watch valued at more than $30,000.
The story I read (linked above) made no mention of whether the luxurious watch created a stir back in 2009, but when the photo appeared again this month, the watch had been photoshopped out. Some bloggers noticed (they’re a cynical lot, aren’t they?) because some poor underling in the ROC art department was careful enough to remove the watch but not careful enough to remove its reflection from the shiny tabletop below.
The obvious narrative of the scandal is an opulent religious institution flaunting, then haphazardly attempting to conceal, its bling in a country with a notoriously turbulent economy. The response from the ROC insisted that the Church had nothing to hide in regard to its leaders’ jewelry preferences and that the photoshopper showed “stupid initiative,” violated the ROC’s Internet policy, and would be “punished severely.”
The easy takeaway here is that it’s better if we as individuals and organizations scrutinizes ourselves rather than our press photos. Cultivating an authentic identity trumps managing a contrived image any day.
We’ve got to dedicate ourselves to telling the truth.
“If you claim to be friends with a God who created reality, you should be one of the most real and authentic human beings on the planet,” Marshall Allman, star of Blue Like Jazz: the Movie, told ChristianityToday.com. Right? Right.
Donald Miller published a post along those same lines today, and it’s worth your time. At one point in the post he offers an explanation of why we, as well-intentioned Christians, would accept anything other than the truth about the Church: “We want to deify the church, or, more honestly, market the church.”
Sometimes we try to scrub out the truth—either by shaming a critic or digitally altering a photo—so we’ll look better. This is, as Donald Miller observes, a marketing tactic. It’s unscrupulous, but we’re trying to preserve an institution and propagate our version of the faith.
These kinds of tactics in the name of “the Bride” belie their true source—fear, not faithfulness; insecurity, not mission.
Examine yourself. Tell the truth. Walk in the light. And beware what thou dost Photoshop.
Scott McClellan is the Editor of Echo Hub and the Director of Echo Conference. You can follow him on Twitter: @scottmcclellan.