Monday, April 09, 2007

Accessorizing for Jesus

There is no end to Christian tacky in America. I once went to a CBA convention (Christian Booksellers Association) and thought I had died and gone to Christian tacky heaven. There was a Gold's Gym guy bench pressing a cross, there were all sorts of Christian flags and license plates and coffee mugs and purses. There were Christian lines of cologne or perfume ("Song of Solomon"-- 'smell like a king, attract a great queen'). There was men's pommade ("look slick like Pastor Rick" or "You too can look like a TV evangelist". I wasn't sure if that was a selling feature). And of course there were endless T-shirts-- some of my favorites were the biker ones-- "Drive by faith, not by sight" or "God's last name is not Dammit" or "If you miss heaven, what in hell will you do?"

Then there was the Christian boxer shorts for men. For Methodists there was the cross and flame boxer shorts, so you could remind your family members of your denominational loyalties while trapsing around the house. My personal favorites in this line were the Wittenburg Door's boxer shorts which said on the left back side "left behind" and on the right back side "right behind". I need a pair of those in case I am raptured while not fully clothed. There was Baptist swimming trunks which proclaimed--- "I'm all wet, how about you".

Of course there were bumper stickers, some more in your face than others. One, which is also on a T shirt, says "Terrorists have killed 3,000 Americans since 1990. Abortionists have killed 4,000 unborns since yesterday" or in a similar vein "Jews did not choose genocide. Blacks did not choose slavery. Unborns did not choose abortion". Then there was "Get stoned like Paul: Stand your Ground".

You have to wonder---- What would Jesus say about all this, and all in the name of making an almighty dollar?

23 comments:

Matt said...

I've been getting your rss feed for the last couple of weeks off a tip from Scot McKnight.

I've often wondered if the whole marketing thing from books to trinkets and everything in between isn't our "indulgences".

Buying the right stuff means I'm right with God....

reGeNeRaTe said...

Dr. Witherington, I used to work for a Christian bookstore and the CBA stories I have from a few years ago were a portend of the "Tres Tacky" mentality that drives much of the Christian retail industry.

I do not believe Jesus would say a word. I believe he would get a bungee cord, crash a CBA event, and go "Cleansing the Temple" on everybody.

Then he'd head for a few local churches and maybe my house (cringes at the thought).

Pastor Astor said...

I am just saddened by the level of the "humor" in that kind of stuff! Is there really noone in the church who can come up with something beyond "turn or burn", or spin offs on trade marks? It is sometimes said about us that we have to turn our brains in in exchange for a membership, I wonder if it really isn't our sense of humor...

Brett Royal said...

I thought the Methodist Boxers sounded like a good idea, but I would have to lose a lot of belly fat to be able to see them as I lounged around the house. A good reminder to go on a diet, but not a good reminder of church allegiance.

mafutha said...

Your comments reminds me of things Keith Green Use to write about when he was living.

We still live in the first century days of selling in the temple court....

Oops...Jesus hated it then too..

Darryl Schafer said...

Maybe he'd say to give the money to the poor?

yuckabuck said...

A decade or so ago, a close friend of mine from high school who had gone away to college came to see me. He was dating a girl who was a strong Christian, and he was interested in reading something about what this Christianity thing was all about.

I took him to a Christian bookstore, because I loved being in that kind of atmosphere. But I was horrified to see the place through his eyes. The place had nothing to do with Christianity, and everything to do with marketing. I ended up giving him my used copy of Billy Graham's Peace With God, and I never took another non-Christian to a Christian bookstore again.

Why are so many Christians intent on creating a comfy Christian bubble/sub-culture, instead of truly engaging the dominant culture for Christ?

Benson said...

What is crazy to me is that there is actually a market out there for this kind of stuff... I know there are some people out there who buy into this stuff legitimately... but it is scary to me that there are actually ENOUGH people out there to make this "weird God-stuff" industry lucrative.

I do have a confession to make though... I have recently started my own "weird God-stuff" collection... not because I have any intention to use the stuff... but rather because I find it so absolutely ridiculous... that it makes me laugh...

Here's the question though... How many people are out there like me... Who...from time to time purchase this junk as Christian satire... Should I quit collecting... I would hate to think that people like me are keeping these people in business... I hope I am the only one...

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Benson:
I am starting a support group just for you and your ilk with a secret handshake and absolute confidentiality. Each session you begin by saying "Hi my name is Benson, and its been sixteen days since I last bought a tacky Christian trinket...."

BW3

Justin said...

When the Apostle Paul preached the gospel in Ephesus in Acts 19, the people who made a buck out of religion didn't secure more trade, they lost it.

It's the opposite today. A pity. Or a tragedy.

dmcfall said...

Dr. Witherington:

apropo of nothing on this blog entry, I had a question for you but do not see an email listed for you....so if you don't mind indulging me here or offline...

I'm in a men's group now where we began discussing Revelation.
An educated layman who leads our group has commented several times that John's writing in Revelation displays inferior, unpolished grammar and would be poor poetry by Classical greek standards?
However, he holds firmly to the authority of Scripture as the word of God.
Having done a commentary on Revelation, would you agree with his assessment or qualify it all?

I'm familiar with the arguments for Mark's gospel displaying all kinds of grammatical mistakes.
And I know first hand from translating 1 John back in my seminary days that John's style at least in the Epistles and Gospels is a simpler one.

I myself have seminary training but did not study Revelation there in depth or go beyond one year of Greek.

My email is mcfalld@co.lancaster.pa.us if you'd rather respond to me there.

thanks-

Doug McFall
Lancaster, PA

Justin said...

BW3,
Thanks so muchfor today's post. I have long been troubled by Christian tackiness. It is, I believe, as I once told my wife: God can't fit on a bumper sticker.

Ben Witherington said...

Not only will God not fit on a bumper sticker, neither will truth.

BW3

Matt said...

Why not spend all that time and money on developing clothes for women that promote modesty?

Friar Tuck said...

The question is, what cheesy Christian trinkets do you have, Mr. Witherington.

Personally, my blog featured the reconciliation of Buddy Jesus (Dogma) and the Jesus Action Figure during holy week.

Ben Witherington said...

Actually I have no cheesy Christian trinkets. I have a wonderful set of Jewish 10 plagues finger puppets (you should see hail) great for use in Sunday school and also a rockem sockem rabbi that came from the same Jewish dime store in Houston, which I couldn't resist. I am happy to report my Jewish friends think the former cute and the latter hysterical.

BW3

Sarah said...

Hi Dr. Witherington,
I am wondering what you think of the more understated bumper stickers, such as ichthus? What about wearing crosses or rings with Hebrew or Greek phrases, ichthus, crosses, etc.?

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Sarah:

I have no problems with witnessing, but there is a difference between witnessing and taunting or berating or condemning.

Blessings,

Ben

Don said...

Have you ever seen or read the book...

A Profound Weakness: Christians & Kitsch (Betty Spackman)

A rather interesting read...Thanks as always for the good posts...

Chip Burkitt said...

Hey, I just had a great idea for a bumper sticker. How about "God doesn't fit on a bumper sticker"? I mean, how cool would that be?

Ross McPhee said...

None of us really need all those trinkets, do we? In my line of work I've met Christians from all over the world, and most of them get by quite nicely without them.

Do you know what the most commonly shoplifted item is from Christian bookstores? What Would Jesus Do wristbands.

Lane Meyer said...

You mean, WWJD? :)

Steve Cuss said...

BW3,

Well, this post definitely brings up a strong response to the kitch around, but honestly, reading it made me want to find a pair of the "left behind, right behind" boxer shorts. Those sound fantastic! Any idea where I can get them?

Steve Cuss