December 13, Advent 3B (John 1:6–8, 19–28)
John the Baptist has a brand.
Who are you? Almost every professional development setting I have been in over the last decade has at some point queried the participants about their personal brand. I’m an older millennial, so my investment in a virtual audience and platform is readily presumed. Online activity now lines the fabric of our culture. One’s social media “success” is now often a critical key to procuring everything from book contracts to speaking opportunities.
Who are you? Living in a world in which the depth of capitalist logic and technology has imbued our very lives with the potential for commodity and celebrity, the answer to this question can often be flattened to an at sign, a screen name, a web presence. We are (and are expected to be) on display in unprecedented ways. Identity is mitigated through screens that either draw us intimately near to or push us distortedly further from some sense of authenticity, some sense of truth.
John the Baptist is anything but mainstream. But ironically enough, his eccentricity makes a remarkably compelling branding case. No, camel hair clothes are not an avant-garde fashion statement, and his diet of locusts and honey does not spark the latest sustainable eating trend. But John is deeply connected to the following he creates. His persona meets the main criteria for building a platform today. His messaging is clear and consistent; he stays in his lane; he speaks with singular authority and palpable authenticity. His commitment is its own brand, occupying the sweet spot where purpose meets passion. He is tapped into his own potential, and he knows his “why.”