Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lent Blog 14: Conformity

A few years ago, I was talking with friends who worked in an organisation where "house style" was being implemented with gusto. Documents, articles and resources all had to be written in a particular way, and when published had to have a particular look about them. Being creative people, they experienced this as highly oppressive and controlling. No doubt those who were pushing implementation had the best of motives - consistency, ensuring every publication spoke of the organisation and, of course, quality control.

When I moved to work in a college, later a university, I started to encounter the same issue. Questions of branding, corporate image and house style started to affect a number of areas of work, even though the Chaplaincy had a lot of autonomy in many areas. Our web pages on the University site were (are) the same template as all the others, and so the look was the same; only the text varied. This ensures there are no maverick pages, but it does make the content about finance, courses, chaplaincy and where the car park is located look the same - you don't get a different experience reading about different aspects of an organisation's life. Of course, our creativity came out in other ways - we put the content of non-conforming web pages into hyperlinked pdf documents.

As you can probably guess, I didn't like my experience of "house style", especially when it tips over into control and inhibits creativity. I think there's a theological truth in there somewhere. What would "house style" look like if applied to the design of a human being? Every human being is unmistakably human, but the diversity of shape, size, colour, features, skills, abilities, mobility, agility, etc. is enormous. It's not that there are no boundaries on the template, but the template is very accommodating and generous. To be made in the image of God is not to come out of a standard mould, but to have some common qualities.

Maybe that is something to think about when we think of what it means to be church. A lot of churches are working very hard to be places where people - their lives, their worship, their values and their beliefs - conform to a very tightly drawn-up template. That seems exactly contrary to the diverse creativity of God which we see reflected all around us.

Time to change the blog template - wouldn't want people thinking it's "house style"!

1 comment:

Sassa Golden said...

Enjoyed your article on house style. Happy to have you as a "neighbor" in the blogosphere...I'm right before you with "The Atheist's Guide to Proof of God."