Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Jesus Junk

Remember the New Kids on the Block? Back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, they stormed the teenybopper scene with bubble-gum classics such as “Hangin’ Tough” and the heartfelt ballad, “Please Don’t Go Girl.” They were a pre-fab music group with little talent and no substance, but they were brilliantly marketed to a willing teenage audience and became wildly successful. Pre-pubescent girls (and I guess some boys too) clamored for NKOTB merchandise and bought it off the shelves as fast as it was produced. Who cared if the t-shirt disintegrated after the first wash or if the Little Joe doll’s head popped off as soon as you got him out of the box? If it had to do with the New Kids, their “disciples” couldn’t wait to buy it.

Sometimes I feel like we don’t use any more sense when it comes to Christian merchandise. Just walk into your local Christian bookstore, and you can buy everything from icthus-shaped hair bows to breath mints wrapped in scripture-emblazoned paper. And of course there are the t-shirts with slogan gems such as “My Posse’s Ready for Spiritual Warfare” and “God’s Last Name is not Dammit.” But my favorite has got to be the penny with the cross shape stamped out of the middle…that costs $2. Who pays $2 for a penny? But no matter how poorly conceived, cheaply made, or just plain ridiculous a product is, the Christians to whom these products are marketed gladly buy them.

And it goes a lot deeper than merchandise. Did you record a crappy song? No major record label will touch it, but since it’s about Jesus we’ll let you make an album and play it on Christian radio. Can’t get your pathetic novel published? Turn the main character into a Christian and we’ll have it on bookstore shelves tomorrow. I think that sometimes when we see something that is “Christian” we feel we have to like it, even if it’s not very good. Somehow we subconsciously think that rejecting a Christ-related product means we’re rejecting Christ himself, and that certainly isn’t true.

I Corinthians 10:31 says, “…If you eat or drink, or if you do anything, do it all for the glory of God.” I wonder if we Christians shouldn’t start holding the people who produce merchandise and media aimed at us to this standard. How in the world can God be glorified by a t-shirt that says, “Don’t Believe in Hell? It’s Still There. You’re Still Going!”? There are some amazing Christian musicians, writers, and other artists who don’t get their due because they are so hard to find amidst the sea of crap in which they are swimming. There are many thoughtful and inspirational Christian products too that get lost among the “My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter” bumper stickers and the “Jesus Loves You” pot holders.

Although it would be easy to blame the producers of Christian merchandise for flooding the market with inferior products, it’s really not their fault. After all, they wouldn’t keep making crap if we weren’t standing in line to buy it.

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