#033 – Faith As Usual – Cosmeticize

We have explored the five common Placebos of what we call faith as usual that can lead well intentioned leaders to stumble down faith as usual Side Roads in their effort to integrate their faith and their work. After Agonizing, Individualizing and Monetizing, the fourth of the six Side Roads is Cosmeticizing.   Side Roads represent responses to Placebos advertised as the Red Pill that we believe actually miss the ancient path of business a better way.

Remember, Side Roads are not inherently bad–in fact, they are better than doing nothing at all.  But Side Roads are not transformative and can lull the leader into believing they are on the ancient path when they are missing deeper purpose for the organization, deeper calling for themselves and deeper flourishing for their people.  In his book Ekklesia, Ed Silvoso writes “The enemy of the “best” . . . .  is the “good”, because by being so satisfying, it deprives  us of the hunger for the “much more” that in this case God has in store.


For those brave leaders who are willing to embrace the “Save” portion of The “Save or Give” Pill and use their business platform to “evangelize”, what we refer to as Cosmeticizing is a likely Side Road IF the leader has been stranded between the Sunday/Monday Gap and the Sacred/Secular Gap. 

Cosmeticizing is also a Side Road that flows from The “Add Some Faith” Pilleven when the leader has crossed the Sacred/Secular Gap.   Hopefully you recall from our post on The “Add Some Faith” Pill the key problem with that Placebo–it gets its theology backwards by sending the message to “integrate your faith into your work” (we believe faith and work integration is about integrating your work and business into your faith).  The result of this reversal is that leaders can see their work or business as the “main thing” and their faith as the sugar on top.  The “Add Some Faith” Pill can deceive a leader into believing that the integration of faith and work is principally about sprinkling some “faith” pixie dust over the organization to make it look and feel “Godly”–and that leads down the Side Road of Cosmeticizing.

Cosmeticizing is when an organization adopts overt faith symbols and practices without transforming how it actually does business.  At its worst, it can look like the person who has a fish decal and a “WWJD” bumper sticker on their car but is blowing their horn aggressively at intersections.  It is “putting lipstick on a pig” (which is a more modern version of a phrase apparently used by Charles Spurgeon in 1887, “A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog.”)  Business as usual dressed with overt faith symbols is still business as usual.  At its best, it is leaders with good hearts and good intentions who are implementing positive practices–they are just missing the change in the organization’s heart.

Cosmeticizing shows up in practices like prayer at meetings, workplace Bible studies and prayer groups, corporate chaplains, Bible verses on packaging, giving out Bibles to workers and customers, and including “God” or “Faith” in the mission and values.  None of these are bad things–they are actually affirmatively good (and all could be practices instituted by an organization that is engaged in business a better way).  As with Monetizing, the leader will likely “feel good” about himself or herself and is certain to receive affirmation from others.  These leaders will definitely get put on stage at faith/work events and written about in books to share the practices they have instituted.  Sadly, those listening to THAT “4-Hour Content” Pill could leave thinking that Cosmeticizing is the goal.

A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog. (Charles Spurgeon)

As we have emphasized in prior posts, the risks of relying on a Placebo and stumbling down a Side Road include:

  • Missed purpose for the organization
  • Missed calling for its leaders
  • Missed flourishing of its people

It is important to emphasize that none of these Side Roads is bad–they are better than not even thinking about faith/work integration. Of all the Side Roads, Cosmeticizing is probably closest to being on the ancient path of business a better way.  The leaders understand it is about changing the organization (unlike Individualizing) and not just about maximizing profit for social good (unlike Monetizing).  Those who have crossed the Sacred/Secular Gap also know that faith/work integration is about more than just evangelizing.  In addition, the types of practices listed above will likely start changing the culture in a positive way, including by attracting people who share the expressed values (with a downside that the overt faith symbols may scare away precisely those people who most need to experience the power of faith).  But we believe it is still lipstick (or a silk waistcoat) if the day-to-day operation of the organization–how it treats vendors, employees and customers–remains business as usual and the WHY of the organization–its heart–remains Profit as Purpose.  Sadly, it can also be an affirmatively bad “witness” for faith/work integration–a business a better way body with a business as usual engine under the hood. We believe more is much harder, but it is necessary and worth the journey. That journey is the journey of Integriosity®

SPOILER ALERT:  One of the five key “mind-shifts” in the RENEW step of Integriosity is understanding that “Symbols Are Secondary“.   While the overt faith symbols and practices characteristic of Cosmeticizing could be part of an organization practicing business a better way, they are not necessary to business a better way and, in many cases, might not be appropriate to business a better way.

PERSONAL FOOTNOTE (from PM): Embracing the idea that a business adorned with multiple overt faith symbols may be “missing the mark” on a Side Road while a business with no overt faith symbols may be on the ancient path can be hard for many people of faith.  I certainly thought putting a Bible on my office shelf was an important step when trying to figure out what it meant to integrate my faith into my practice of law.  But I had it backwards–I was sprinkling faith pixie-dust.  When I first began participating actively in the faith/work movement in 2011, the more overt the better seemed to be the preferred path espoused by most.  The revelation came as I thought about my children at Christmas time.  Our family Christmas Eve tradition has included our children going outside and sprinkling “reindeer dust” (a precise mixture of glitter and oatmeal–the proportions are a family secret) in the yard to attract Santa’s reindeer.  When they were young, it was a visible sign of “believing” and it made them feel good (like putting out the milk and cookies for Santa–which, unlike reindeer dust, also made me feel good)–but it didn’t actually do anything.

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