Sunday, February 7, 2010

Branded

The Mark of the Beast has been a very popular subject for those interested in biblical prophecy. Speculation has ranged from Social Security Numbers to Universal Product Codes (UPC). Some cartoonish depictions, circulated by groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, have taken the symbol literally and shown a real 666 tattooed on foreheads and hands.

I have a different idea. In researching my book, I came across another interesting book entitled Branded Nation by James Twitchell. He explores the concept of brand identity and the mythology that develops around brand names - stories that companies (and churches) tell their customers in order to promote their product and ensure brand loyalty. The symbols for these companies - like Nike, Pepsi and Apple - become cultural icons that are easily identifiable worldwide. These days even people (i.e. Tiger Woods) have their own logos.

If I were to identity the mark of the beast (and it is pure speculation; anyone who says otherwise is just selling you their brand of religion), I would see it as a brand logo. Revelation clearly identifies the mark as having economic significance (Rev. 13:17), and so it seems to fit. If the first beast is Big Government and the second beast is Big Religion, (see last blog) then the mark of the beast is the economic arm of this duo: Big Business and its marketing campaign.

Revelation says that devotees wear the logo on their foreheads or on their hands. Anyone ever see logos on caps? Anyone who has ever been marked with a handstamp at a fair or a concert knows about hand marks. But enough speculation. I feel a bit silly even suggesting a solution to this end-times riddle. The more important point is what it means to us today.

How entrapped are we by the branding culture? How many commercials do you have in your wardrobe? Do we really believe there is any significant difference between Burger King or McDonalds, Coke or Pepsi, Toyota or Honda? We are so easily sucked into the commercialization process that we become walking billboards - human advertisements for clothing manufacturers, sports teams, performers and products.

We willingly play the role of "consumer," wearing our patrons' marks on our sweatshirts and caps. Is it too much to suggest that consumerism could possibly be the religion of the Beast?

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