I have watched with bemusement as the NY Times scrambles to apologize to all of us simple folk who live in Flyover Country. The Grey Lady has had to remember her manners and ask for forgiveness over a recent review in the paper. The aptly named column "The Critical Shopper" recently reviewed the arrival of American icon J.C. Penney in upscale Midtown Manhattan. The author of the piece is not a fan of J.C. Penney. That is okay. She is not a fan of their merchandise. Again, that is okay. But her tone in dismissing those who might shop there was instructive of how those big city folks view us simple Midlanders just now learning how to walk upright and use utensils. Here is a part of the column.
Why would this dowdy Middle American entity waddle into Midtown in its big old shorts and flip-flops without even bothering to update its ancient Helvetica Light logo, which for anyone who grew up with the company is encrusted with decades of boring, even traumatically parental, associations?
I wish we had time to debate the red hot issue of which font style is best for logos. Exactly how does an ancient logo get encrusted with boring associations? Is it like barnacles attaching to the ancient Helvetica light font? Are parental associations really traumatic? Is that the right descriptor? Do all Middle Americans waddle? What is wrong with flip-flops and big old shorts? Is different always dowdy? So many questions…so many stereotypes. She continues…
It has the most obese mannequins I have ever seen. They probably need special insulin-based epoxy injections just to make their limbs stay on. It's like a headless wax museum devoted entirely to the cast of "Roseanne."
To be fair, how could you market to waddling, dowdy, big short wearing Middle Americans with slim and attractive mannequins? Has anyone else ever written about the DMI (Dummy Mass Index) of department store mannequins? The writer complained about the lack of size 2 clothing on the racks but noted that "the petites section features a bounty of items for women nearly as wide as they are tall."
The author suffers from a rather pronounced version of a malady that all of us battle. I refer, of course, to IBTY Syndrome. The "I'm Better Than You Syndrome" is particularly nasty among the cultural elite but is a danger in all areas of society. I am particularly saddened when IBTY Syndrome invades the church.
My friend John Lynch recently wrote about being blindsided by a man with this sad affliction. John had delivered the message about grace and identity in Christ that God used powerfully in my life to revive my walk with Him. I will let my friend pick up the story.
Not long ago we were out on the road again, presenting the Two Roads talk. I think I have spoken that message over 200 times and have never lost my passion for it.
Anyway, long story short-afterwards I'm chatting with a handful of new friends-and a man I don't recognize steps into the circle. Almost immediately he says something very much like this: "You know, this whole message of grace and identity and trust and such-I think it's very important for broken people and maybe new Christians. But some of us are mature and ready to move on to the real stuff. We're learning to partner with God in the work of the Kingdom. We've moved past this message, doing real and significant things for God."
I stood there dumbfounded. I was caught totally off-guard. Everything I had just taught was suddenly being articulately and competently patronized. Everything was now silent and in slow motion. I was embarrassed for those standing with me; fearing they were losing confidence in the message the longer he spoke.
You can link here to get the "rest of the story" from John. Personally I land exactly 180 degrees opposite of this man. The message of grace and identity and trust is important for everyone and for everyday. When I mature I am not moving on to the real stuff…I am maturing in the truths of grace and identity and trust. When I mature in those truths I realize I cannot partner with God because I have nothing He needs. I am learning that when I lean fully on the message of grace and identity and trust then I find God doing real and significant things through me. I pray that I will never move past this message.
The Two Roads talk is the most significant message I have ever heard except for the Gospel message. It is now available for free download. Please, please, please download this message and listen to it soon. Understanding grace, identity, trust and humility is the vaccination to prevent a lingering case of IBTY Syndrome. Don't forget to download the "Two Roads" message. Do it now. Pretty please.