3.27.2008

"Christian Models"

I read a listserve for local entertainment professional types and so am regularly amused by things, but a posting that went up yesterday was so amusing/distressing that I decided to process it publicly:

WE ARE STILL IN NEED OF MORE MODELS WHO ARE AFRICAN-AMERICAN, HISPANIC AND ASIAN.

To recap: this is a large photo shoot for a Christian financial
services provider based in Dallas, Texas. The budget doesn't allow for
the cost of professional models, so we are offering a stipend of $100
for your time, which will in most cases be about 4 hours (2-4 shots).

Here are a few guidelines:
- You should be attractive and not overweight (Don't have to be a
Hollywood star, though.)


And then it proceeded to list other guidelines. Apparently Christians also do not have beards, are not older than 60, and have never been convicted of a crime.

I have, distressingly, had recent occasion to visit the local "christian" book store, so it comes as no surprise that people use the category of "Christian" as a kind of simplifying mechanism for targeting their marketing messages, but its rare that we get to hear the chatter behind the curtain like in this post.

But at least the greed and the disdain are quite baldly stated:

When casting a Christian Model, you should not bother to pay them going industry rates...

but should expect them to be "attractive" and NOT "overweight"...


I understand how the Christian notion of sacrifice can be exploited in the interests of a corrupt persuader -- I grew up a in a revivalist world.

But it does shock me a little that someone feels okay about articulating what is usually unstated and implicit, that "overweight" people don't "look" Christian enough.

And probably what's most distressing about this is that I know that my salary is premised upon just such a marketing scheme. I work for what some people call a "Christian" college -- and yesterday I was in an interview where a colleague asked the good question:

What does it mean to be countercultural as a christian institution?


I liked the candidates first answer: serving populations in need.

I felt a bit more tepid about the second answer: teaching students about faithfulness in marriage [which I feel good about] and not living together before marriage [hmmm].

And then things went absolutely south: and teaching them about decency. how to present themselves well. in their dress. modesty.

Please.

You have to be kidding me.

This is countercultural? I don't blame the candidate. I know that the evangelical quest to obtain cultural equivalence has been a long and complex one (I've written (much more charitably) on this topic before.)

I have nothing against helping people recognize and participate in existing social codes. It's often the most helpful work a teacher (or parent) can do. But it is *not* Christian.

Dressing-things-up-in-ways-that-market-well has to do with ambition and self-preservation and other-castigation.

It is ugly. It is greedy. It is normal here.

But that doesn't make it okay.

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