By Cheri Rae
I understand that the world of the promoter is very different from the world of the writer. We don’t really speak the same language and we don’t share the same values.
Over the years, I have voiced my concerns and objections to the Conference and Visitor Bureau—and to City Council—about the out-of town-contracts it has given to Stryker (in Los Angeles) and Pace Communications (in North Carolina). We have such a wealth of talent in this town, I have argued, surely we can keep those job opportunities here. Those objections have been met with shoulder shrugs and eye rolls, and haven’t made a bit of difference at all.
But with the co-opting of a sacred religious figure, Saint Barbara, CVB world has collided with mine at a much deeper level. As an Orthodox Christian, and longtime member of St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, I am not really objective on the subject.
My husband and I were married at St. Barbara’s; our children were baptized there, and we have witnessed countless sacramental ceremonies there. The head of the entire Orthodox Church, The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, traveled to this site for a symposium on the “Sacredness of the Environment” in November of 1997. As His Holiness said in his remarks that day: “Here in this historical city of Santa Barbara, we see before us a brilliant example of the wonder of God’s creation.”
At St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, there are no images of sea nymphs, no drawings of mermaids, and no silly stories about Saint Barbara. There are, however, revered and holy icons about a real and very pious woman, who really lived and who gave her life for her faith—way back in the year 209.
Obviously, no one involved with this branding effort bothered to check with anyone in the religious community about the appropriateness of giving St. Barbara a makeover from chaste true believer hidden in a tower to full-bodied babe emerging naked from the sea.
In the hands of this branding team, Saint Barbara was transformed from an expression of faith to a figure of fun, from a holy icon to a trendy logo.
Really, is nothing sacred to these people?
This crass, commercial hijacking of St. Barbara is a violation of both church and state, since taxpayers of all faiths—or no faith at all—paid for this travesty.
The meaningless logo created by modern groupthink ignores all manner of ancient belief and spirituality; the universally negative response to it indicates that we are deeply offended by it.
Joseph Campbell would probably say that our collective unconscious has been violated.
Some images are just plain off-limits to exploitation: religious icons likely top the list. Relentless destination marketers need to realize that not everything is a commodity that they can use to lure tourists and their dollars.
It’s time for them to go back to the drawing board, while we all pray they do a better job next time.