The new Gillette ad We Believe is causing quite the stir around the world (well, around the rich Western world where men can afford razors with multiple blades).
And it’s divided people just as sharply as a well honed cut-throat razor would.
The company is unapologetic for hitching its wagon onto the #Metoo movement, and obviously believes that it can make money out of it as well. And of course it’s about money otherwise a multi-billion dollar company wouldn’t do it. That’s what companies do. They sniff the wind, test the zeitgeist and go with what will sell.
This is the same company, after all, that in the 80s was selling the himbo version of manhood, all surfboards and sand and sexy women, to this prematurely-balding Lit student who couldn’t swim 25 metres in a pool without clinging to the side, and had a chest so concave that light could barely penetrate.
Anything for a dollar.
Of course men should not behave badly. And of course many men do not behave badly. And of course the men who do not behave badly are not simply enablers of those who do. Nothing is that simple or that binary Or are we allowed to even say that without being accused of being in denial?
It’s been quite revealing how, once again, the division has been along identity politics lines. You’re either for the ad or against it. It’s the supreme irony that in a world that supposedly celebrates diversity, we’re once again given binary options.
Love the ad and you’re the right kind of forward thinking man. Hate the ad and you’re probably into toxic masculinity. Who would have thought it was that straightforward? I’m not gonna hate on the ad, or love it either, it’s an ad, it’s trying to do several things at once, the primary one being to ensure the company is successful. Companies now see themselves as agents for social change.
But let’s get some perspective. This is a company pretending – no, more than that – convinced – that it can bring about deep social change through its advertising. Here’s what Gillette’s president Gary Coombe said:
“By holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behaviour, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal ‘best,’ we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come.”
Will Gillette enable us to do that? Will an ad campaign that will be upgraded for the next best seller manage that? It’s a shaving company folks, not a saving company. But if it can manage a bit of external tidying up, along the lines of what its razors do, then so much the better. But don’t hold your breath.
Which of course brings us to Jesus. Gillette shaves, but only Jesus saves. Which brings me in turn to my mate Andrew. Andrew grew up being everything I pretty much wasn’t. And he looks like he was shaving since the age of 12 and he’s got one of those heavy beard lines that needs a razor with at least six blades just to make a dent. He was the outdoors type. Still is. Hunting and fishing and camping.
Andrew grew up pretty toxic. In trouble at school, whenever he attended. He left half way through Year 9, not even two years of high school. A intellectually smart bloke, who never really learned to read, with lots of street smarts as well.
And in trouble with the police. Able and willing to knock blokes out for the sheer delight of it, though often with some regret and guilt the next day. Not that it stopped him from punching blokes out when he’d had a skinful. He and his brother were known for it. There was a vicious circle going on and he was the vicious one.
Of course it wasn’t all bad. Such qualities gave Andrew a few well paid gigs as a drug debt collector, the kind that doesn’t knock politely on your door, but bashes it in. And he did quite a few drugs himself. By his own admission he could hate and despise people with the best of them – or the worst – depending on your perspective.
Often high on drugs or with too much to drink he’d hop into his car and speed like crazy down the Perth freeways, going double the speed limit through the long tunnel under Perth city. Reckless abandon.
Yet what should happen to Andrew, but the good girl stepped into his life. Not a Christian girl yet, but from an amazing Christian family. A family who just simply accepted him into their house and loved each other in a way that he had never seen. And who accepted him and loved him in a way that he’d never been. He didn’t get the Jesus bit, yet, but there sure was something about this family that was different.
Of course the inevitable happened over time, and Jesus stepped in and saved Andrew one day. It was a culmination of thinking and a realisation from the Bible that he was a sinner. No one need to convince him of that fact to be honest, there was a telltale sign of destruction and scars behind him that were proof enough.
When Jesus saved Andrew, it changed him. Not overnight of course. Actually, completely overnight! The very next day after being saved by Jesus, Andrew hit his thumb with a hammer at work and out came this word – “Darn!!” The razor sharp work of God’s Spirit went more than skin deep.
“Darn?” What’s with that? Andrew couldn’t swear! Just 24 hours before that if he’d hit his thumb the whole world would have known the illegitimate nature of that hammer’s conception, and it might well have flown through a window for good measure.
But now? “Darn!”
And from that point on, Andrew’s life went from toxic to doxological. God – and his Saviour Jesus – became the focus of his life.
And love! Love for God, love for others, love of holiness, purity, gentleness. Still a bloke into camping and fishing and hunting. And mixed martial arts. Still a bloke covered in the confronting tattoos of his past life, full of pictures of demons and death But with the God of eternal life and love now tattooed on his heart.
I took Andrew to a lecture I was giving at a theological college on reaching non-book cultures. There he was in his black jeans, thongs/flip-flops and tee-shirt. He talked about how he’d never loved reading, indeed never read any book cover to cover, until Jesus saved him. And then he started reading and reading and re-reading the Bible. He wanted to read more and more.
And then it was apologetics books, and books on marriage (by this time he had married the good girl, who by this time had given up her own goodness and taken on the goodness of Jesus).
Andrew stood before those well-read, well thought out, mainly middle class theological students and said this, which still makes me laugh:
“Jesus just made me love people. Before, I would have despised people like you, people who were not like me at all. But now I love you all, yes, even you in the back row with your lilac polo-neck penguin shirt.”
That’s a whole lotta love eh?
Andrew is now one of our elders at church. His family was one of our founding families when we planted Providence Church in our lounge room. He and his wife Cathy have four children, five acres of property, and dozens of people around at their place for hospitality and prayer.
They’ve also lost a few babies in utero at late stages of pregnancy, and have grieved and prayed and mourned. And then offered prayer and grief and mourning when it happened to another family.
He has a landscaping business. At significant time cost to himself he employs blokes from a rehab centre who are getting their lives back on track. He figures that day in day out he can work shoulder to shoulder with these lads and share the love of Jesus with them. Which is exactly what he does.
And he loves me. And it astounds him that he does. He remarks about how amazing it is that he and I should be friends, brought together by the unity of the Spirit. Andrew loves this decidedly non-Gillette man who never goes camping or fishing and who gets seasick just looking at a boat. This non-outdoors type who recently built a house that Andrew landscaped to within an inch of his life, well beyond the call of duty.
And when he was doing the job for us, I said “I don’t think we need a shed, we’ve got enough space inside”, Andrew just looked at me sadly and said “Whenever a bloke tells me he doesn’t need a shed, a little bit of sick rises in my throat. But that’s okay.”
Andrew is not the best a man can be, as the old Gillette ad promised. He knows his flaws and weaknesses and besetting sins. Andrew knows that Jesus WAS the best that a man could be, and continues to intercede for his weaknesses. Jesus – a man who was never toxic, never violent, and never abusive.
It’s ironic that Gillette’s ad campaign is called We Believe. You see you can believe all you like that you want to change. That change from inside you is possible by you. But Jesus doesn’t stand alongside a hashtag calling you to change yourself. He changes you for you! In fact he changes you for Him!
The Gillette ad? It will continue to divide. And people will continue to polarise. And perhaps it may make a person think twice before they hate on someone else. But it can never turn hate into love. Gillette’s campaign can shave off some of your rough edges. But Jesus saves to a depth that no razor can get close to.