Jesus Is My Helvetica

Rusty - January 26, 2005

During my first year of seminary we studied the Old Testament. At the beginning of the year my teacher put a chart on the wall on which we’d write the different names of God that we’d encounter while reading. Included were names such as Alpha/Omega, Banner, Shepherd, Sheild, King, Anointed One, Rock/Foundation, etc. The list was sizable. However, there’s a problem: the Bible is really, really old and was written in a desert. I’m really new and live in Brooklyn. I don’t think these are good symbols anymore as they are dated and have no basis in our modern society.

An example: the King. I live in a country with an elected president so I was raised with the understanding that kings were a bad thing. Most of the kings with which I’m familiar were men who abused their power by abusing the poor, their wives, their enemies, and anyone else they wanted. I don’t like to think of Christ taking up the office of King (but should he run in the next election, He has my vote!).

I propose that we do some housecleaning and update the names we use for God (in our modern, convenient, not-so-sandy existence).

Rule Number One: you can only use metaphors which apply to your own lives. This means no words like Alpha/Omega, Shepherd (unless of course you happen to be one, but if that’s the case, what are you doing on the internet?), Rock (though I imagine rebar is more important these days to home builders than rocks), Shield, Banner, etc.

Rule Number Two: you at least must briefly explain why you chose the word you did (how it applies to you and why that word represents Christ).

Rule Number Three: no offending and no getting offended. If you think that the only sensible words to be used for Christ are the ones given in the scriptures, please don’t continue reading.

I will submit the first entry: Jesus is my Helvetica. I’m a graphic designer who works with typography all day long and the font Helvetica is possibly the most important, most beautiful, most influential font in the designer’s arsenal. So much so that there are books written solely about that one font. Helvetica is the standard and everything else is judged on its use or non-use. I would be lost without it.

I now invite any and all to step forward and tell us of the real importance of Christ in your lives.

Avoiding Cliches to an Extreme

Guest - January 23, 2005

The subtitle to this blog states that one of the reasons it is here is to laugh at Mormon culture. It has done just that to a great extent and it has been a very enjoyable part of posting and commenting on this blog (and I know, it’s been far too long since I’ve posted!). As with all cultures, we have many quirks and conundrums that, when viewed with objectivity, are really quite silly and sometimes dangerous to ourselves and/or others.
Let me try to make this clear through an example dealing with my roommate. My roommates and I have grown somewhat tiresome of the many cliche things many members of the church do here at school. Things like getting criticized for not being dressed in Sunday clothes for devotional, growing facial hair between semesters, and not going to stadium singing. Some of the worst complaints are made in the school newspaper about people getting offended for an article they read that they obviously did not get the satire of.
Anyway, the danger I find hard to avoid is not in going the extreme that these people are, but in trying to avoid that by going too far the other direction. I feel like one of my roommates has done this. He hates hearing these complaints and seeing members of the church be so judgmental that he ends up judging them and raises his own trump to the case. He becomes satirical at inappropriate time and in inappropriate places, purposely grows his hair to the maximum (w/o braking the Honor Code), and avoids going to devotional. Even in controversial things, he makes no qualms about watching any R-rated movie, drinks caffeine incessantly, and so on.
Does this make any sense? I love the kid and am not really worried about his testimony or anything, I just find it dangerous to overcompensate for self-righteousness with anti-righteousness. I have fallen into this at times myself and can see it being just one more problem for we as followers of Christ to find that fine line between the two. Of being true followers of Christ who work to help our fellow men without condemning them.

Award Shows

Rusty - January 21, 2005

I’m honored to even be among all these nominees. I really didn’t expect this. Thank you to my father, my brother and my sister for their constant labor and support. I couldn’t do it without you. God bless America.

(now go here and vote for the best blog stuff of the year)

Mormon Propaganda

Rusty - January 11, 2005

As someone in the business of corporate branding, I’m forced to look at a corporation for what it is: a bunch of people providing a service or product trying to make money. From there we build their story. Depending on the service/product and the company, the story differs. David, the graphic designer, drives to work in his Volkswagon listening to David Byrne. Wearing all black and drinking his special coffee blend he works on his Macintosh G5. Phil drives a Dodge Ram to his cabin where he chops wood and drinks a bottle of Budweiser. By the campfire he prepares for the next morning’s fishing trip with his dog Patch. Jen buys her clothes at Abercrombie and listens to… you get the idea.

The stories are lifestyles.

Companies no longer deliver products or services, but try to either fit your lifestyle or entice you to be a part of the lifestyle they create. You no doubt notice how commercials rarely mention the product itself, but rather showcase a potential happier life using it. Your choice in beers means the difference of meeting a beautiful woman or going home alone. There is so little difference between the carbonated sugar waters that we need athletes and polar bears to help make the distinction for us.

This is nothing new. Wartime propaganda used similar techniques (regardless of which side of the border it was produced). The enemy was always portrayed using negative stereotypes, meanwhile the portrayal of those at home as wholesome, righteous, innocent and courageous.

The obvious purpose of this is manipulation. Whether by truth or deception, the idea is to lead a large segment of society to take action (buy war bonds, buy Pepsi, join the armed forces, etc.) or think a certain way (Hitler is evil, Volkswagon is hip, America is good, etc.). There have been volumes written about this relationship and I will continue no further, other than to say that it doesn’t stop with corporate advertising or national patriotism.

Enter, the Church.

The other day I received a packet in the mail from my CES administrator. In it was a booklet put out by the CES for seminary teachers. One of the photos really bothered me. It was of a primary teacher teaching her group of children. Each child was sitting upright very attentively, all smiling, two resting their chins on their hands, all with hair combed and dressed in perfect Sunday attire (boys with white shirts and ties and girls in dresses).

You know these types of photos because that’s all that exists in the Ensign. Everyone doing something righteous is happy, anyone making a poor decision is mad (well, supposed to be mad, but most of these photos are of some phony actor who can’t even hide the laugh just below the frown). The men all wear plaid button shirts with khakis when casual and white shirts and ties and suits (over the age of 14) when performing a church function. The images of women are even more pathetic. They all have ankle-length dresses/skirts with either a plain, plaid or flower pattern. I can’t recall seeing any image of a woman over the age of 14 wearing pants. The hair is always very conservative. If there is any expression of rebellion, it usually consists of wearing black (and extreme rebellion with someone in a black leather jacket with metal zippers). Nobody prays slouched over, nobody leans back in their chair, no seminary students look tired, nobody ACTUALLY looks poor, and NOBODY believes these photos!

This is silly propaganda and I don’t understand why they do it. I’m not sure if it’s to avoid a truthfull portrayal of a real person or to try to influence us all to become more like those they portray. Either way, I hate it. I can’t imagine how this false portrayal of the Saints is beneficial to the general membership of the Church. These aren’t real humans. It makes me think of all the popular magazines with their skinny models and the psychological damage this does to young women. When less-than-perfect members of the Church see these pictures it’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up (i.e. Prozac consumption in Utah). The argument could be made that they portray something to aspire to. Well, if you think skinniness is something young women or plaid button shirts for priesthood holders is something worth aspiring to, then I don’t know what to say.

Logical Consequences?

Rusty - January 3, 2005

One of the many wonderful things that my mother instilled in my brain at a young age is that we often must do the right thing, even when we don’t feel like it. I’ve often interpreted that to mean, “…even when we don’t see any harm in not doing so.”

I am sometimes very good at studying my scriptures every day, praying with my wife and alone, participating at church, preparing seminary lessons, treating others with kindness, etc. Sometimes I’m terrible at any or all of them. My problem is that my general happiness and the blessings in my life aren’t based on those things. The days that I have a really good scripture study session may often be filled with a general unease about the rest of my life. A two-minute pass of the next day’s seminary lesson may yield a fantastic discussion the next morning. Multiple days without giving thanks to my Heavenly Father for my blessings sometimes ends with even more blessings.

I don’t know whether to be jealous or content when listening to testimonies of people who say, “Since I started reading my scriptures regularly this week my life is different… I’m now happier, more charitable, and better looking!” In no way do I dismiss or disbelieve those accounts, I’m just saying that’s not the way it works for me. I think my testimony would be more along the lines of, “Since I’ve been studying my scriptures somewhat-regularly since high school, my life is generally happier, though I can’t say there is a direct correlation between the two.”