Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Got Christ?" and Other Signs Christian Commercialism is Missing Creativity

The following is an email I sent to a friend of mine, Scott McClellan, who is the man at the very creative Collide Magazine. The original included the "warning", and since I want your feedback, too, I left it in there.

*** Warning: After reading the email below again, I realize that this may seem a little random. It kind of continues our conversation about music. Also, I want to start this dialogue with you because I feel like you have some good insight and an understanding I don't have. Let me know what your thoughts are over email or a later conversation. ***

Honesty time: What type of Christian commercialization has been good as or better than its mainstream version? I'm including all media, clothing, food, and whatever else you can think of.

From what I can see, I'll go ahead and give you one: Collide. Sojourners may be up there, but I feel like it is hit or miss with them. [Relevant has its moments.]

I bring this up, because it frustrates me greatly that commercial Christianity is about being a bad copy of society rather than being something fresh and new. I feel like the Church of America is no longer about being, but about showing. The problem is that since we aren't being something different, we can't show the world something different with our products. Where is our faith as expressed through creativity? Our faith should encourage us to shock the world with compassion, not shock the world with G-Beck-style hate-mongering. You and I both know a ton of creative people who are Christians. Many of mine don't want to do something "Christian" because it stifles them and labels them not as Christian but as sub-par artists.

I'll end with this story: Yesterday I ate at Kalachandji's, a veggie place inside a Buddhist temple. My friend blessed the meal. I joked that he was doing that to give us extra strength against the wily way of the temple/restaurant. He showed me a spot on the wall where someone before wrote in John 3:16. I asked if he did it. He said he didn't; he found it when he brought an agnostic friend of his to this restaurant. The two had been having discussions about church, and the friend expressed a lot of anger towards Christians and their ways. While eating lunch, the friend looked over at the wall, stopped eating, and said, "You see, this is why I'm not a Christian." It wasn't the words of the bible that disgusted him. But rather, the way the vandal had chosen to deliver them.

As Christians, God has given us the message. The way we are messing it up is in the way we are delivering it. If we are going to continue to deliver God's message through commercial goods and media, it must be done in a way that shows who God is. I don't think a t-shirt that says "Got Christ?" shows that.


  1. The way to effectively share a message with another person has everything to do with the relationship the two people have and nothing to do with the clothes they wear. While I understand your frustration with commercial christianity, there is a market for that stuff (unfortunately, it's a business) and I don't think very many people care one way or the other. If Christian marketing companies became fresh and new, that would be great, but I'm not sure it would do much in the way of bringing people to Christ.

    So how do we communicate the message? It's by having lunch with your agnostic friend at the veggie restaurant and by being there to join him in discovering someone has vandalized the wall with John 3:16. Then, you can participate in his reaction to that. Perhaps it wasn't by accident that he sat there. It opens the door to what the gospel is and what the gospel is not by way of conversation, not marketing.

    Whether my baby is wearing a "Got Christ" onesie says more about my taste in fashion than my spirituality. Let's stop trying to convey the message of the gospel on clothes and start using conversation with those we take to lunch.

  2. Dangit, Joe. Do you know how hard it is to come up with blog ideas? And you just took two of mine.

    Actually, I agree with you completely. Gimmicks rarely work--if ever. The relationship is all that matters.

    I also agree with you about the fact that there is a market for this stuff. In fact, saying "Christian commercialism" tastes bad in my mouth, because it puts two things together that stand in opposition, in my mind at least.

    Boom, people!

  3. Also, I need to be corrected on this post. As my coworker, Imtiaz, threw in my face:

    Just FYI, Kalachandji’s is in a Hare Krishna (Hindu) Temple. The Hare Krishna movement is a religious organization within the Hindu religion.

    Not Buddhist at all.