Thursday, November 17, 2005

Advertising Our Faith

It's amazing. I take a ten-minute glide through a few of my favorite blogs and I hit a theme. At Cerulean Sanctum, Dan was imploring people to take the Christian fish symbols off their cars. Then at The Gad(d)about, Matt had written a great piece about not being a bad witness of our faith through our actions. Two sides of the same idea. That idea was simple: If we make any outside indication of our Christian faith to the world, then our walk had better not run the name of Jesus Christ through the mud.

Dan's logic was a bit strained for my liking though. It's a good point, but his solution is to get rid of any merchandise which identifies us as Christians. It seems to me that the point should be to live up to what we wear. In his comments section, Dan writes about we Christians destroying our witness by being overweight, eating junk food and wasting our money on tourist trap trinkets. Sure those aren't good habits and traits, but should we be covering up our faith or improving our lives?

I'm overweight. When I'm not wearing a Christian t-shirt, driving a car with a fish symbol or wearing a cross around my neck is it any different? I'm supposed to stick out as a Christian anyway -- by my actions. I'm not to live my life denying my relationship with Jesus Christ. What I'm saying is that I can have a bad witness without any shirts, hats, fishes or crosses adorning my possessions. I stand for Christ and when I screw things up, people should know that it's a Christian who blew it because they know I'm a Christian even without the merchandise.

I do have a bit of a bias. I sell Christian t-shirts. There's a link on my sidebar where you can see some of my merchandise. It's a side business for me, helping me to be able to live on a pastor's salary. I've been doing this for a dozen years, and I've seen and heard all kinds of things regarding Christian merchandise. Some shirt designs I won't even carry because I think they send a poor message. I've had customers ask for all kinds of unorthodox -- and I mean that literally -- sayings and pictures. I've listened as one women told a friend, "I could wear this shirt to church!" Or the ever popular, "I can use this to sleep in!" I like to tell them that these are to wear in public where non-Christians will see you and watch your witness. Frankly, I'm hoping some of those women aren't parading about in their sleepwear or hosting large groups of seekers in their bedrooms!

The point is that my view of Christian t-shirts and other merchandise is that they are to help us with our witness, not by showing off our "goodness" but by reminding ourselves to live up to what we wear. Use them to elevate our game, so to speak. I noticed one day that when I was wearing a shirt with a large picture of Jesus on the front that I was much more careful to avoid any behavior to make me look like I was checking out women. The shirt was a reminder that even if I wasn't doing anything, I needed to make sure it didn't look like I was doing anything. I'm not to be a stumbling block for others, after all.

Not that I condone all Christian merchandise. Slapping the Savior's name on a product isn't always in the best of taste. The Bible insoles are one such item. Then again, not everyone wearing Christian merchandise actually subscribes to all that the faith is all about. For years, Madonna paraded around with crosses around her neck while giving only lip service to her own translation of the church. Certainly there are people wearing WWJD bracelets and ballcaps with a church name on the front who don't care much about that church or even what Jesus would do. But the assumption is that a person wearing a cross must have some connection to Jesus. If that person doesn't act like Jesus would have us act, the world cries, "Hypocrite!" I think simply erasing the outward Christian sign is the easy way out. The renewing of our mind and the transformation of our heart should be evident to the world -- especially when wearing your faith on your sleeve, or your hat or wherever.

Matt's story of the obnoxious political freak with the church hat and Dan's obnoxious driver with the fish symbol on the van are examples not of a poor choice of accessories, but a poor choice of action. Perhaps if you're dim enough to be unable to behave yourself in public, then you should distance yourself from Christian wardrobe and immerse yourself in Christian Scripture. Aside from that, let's concentrate on living up to our status instead of dressing down to our desire.

1 comment:

Dan Edelen said...

Rev-Ed,

I think you missed some of the subtlety of my argument against Jesus paraphernalia, particularly fish stickers.

My reasons for calling for their removal is that 9 times out of 10, we are not having any personal confrontation with the people viewing our T-shirts, bumper stickers, and whatnot. They never get to see a real, caring Christian beyond the appearance--good or bad--of the adware we're sporting. Because of this, more often than not the impression left will be negative. We tend to notice people just out of personal contact who are doing dumb things. If that person is a Christian, identified through adware, how can any personal response come out of that?

That's the problem and that's why I think we need to cut back on all the Christian adware.