For many years, the Public Broadcasting Network introduced Americans to the genius of British comedies. From Are You Being Served? to The Vicar of Dibley, these comedies enticed laughter while making us Yanks a bit uncomfortable. One of the best comedies ever produced was Keeping Up Appearances, written by Roy Clarke and starring Patricia Routledge.
The sitcom followed the life of Routledge’s character, Hyacinth Bucket (she pronounced it “Bouquet” though). The show placed Hyacinth in numerous situations where her character would attempt to maintain her British dignity and charm, all the time failing quite miserably. She so wanted everyone to think of her as something she wasn’t, high born and royally regal. This, of course, produced an incredible amount of laughs through the show’s five year run.
What has made Hyacinth so successful is that many within the culture, both in Britain and America, can directly relate to her. For the most part, we are all trying to “keep up appearances” to our spouses, families, friends, co-workers, and the world at large. We hide behind a façade that veils the disappointment and sorrow we carry around with us. In public, we put a smile on our faces and spend money we don’t have in order to project something we are not. This game of “keeping up appearances” has become a true religion.
In his new book, The Market as God, Harvard theologian Harvey Cox, argues that the techniques of a capitalistic marketplace have penetrated the church, but more so have been instilled within the everyday life of Christians. Christians must now look the part of a wealthy, successful, and healthy community of faith. If we project anything less than perfection, then we are construed as a flawed product that will be rejected in the marketplace.
This new wave of Christianity seems to conflict with the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). Or, when addressing the blind pursuit of wealth (more than mere money by the way), Jesus proclaimed, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24).
As Jesus followers, we must always be cautious about our pursuit of wealth and success. Wealth and success are not evils into themselves, for money makes the world go around and there are numerous successful people that have done some incredible things with their resources. However, when we begin to falsify ourselves before others in order to keep up appearances, then we are lying to ourselves and lying to God. We need to be more honest and genuine. We need to live within our means, but more importantly we need to live in a way that points people to God and away from worldly pursuits.