Marketing Christ

A Christian Coffee Mug

A Christian Coffee Mug

Do you ever wonder if Christian stores and those who produce Christian merchandise are authentic?  I mean, do they really care about Christ and the gospel, or are they just catering to a niche market that is eager to fork over extra cash for a product emblazoned with a cross or a passage of Scripture?  Exactly what makes an item “Christian” anyway?  Does a product need to be, in some way, sanctified to be considered Christian?

For example, can I have coffee from a regular coffee mug or is it better to have my coffee from a Christian coffee mug with John 3:16 on the side?  There must be something to having Christian symbols and Bible verses on products, because stores are selling anything and everything with them on it.  You can find T-shirts, mugs, key-chains, stuffed animals, Christian versions of all of your favorite board games, etc.  I once met two married couples who had exchanged their normal wedding rings for ones with crosses on them because they thought this was a more spiritual thing to do.

I believe the Bible teaches that everything comes from God and there is no need for it to be sanctified by Christian emblems.  In other words, a regular old coffee mug will do…and it will cost much less than one with a cross on the side.  In fact, I believe that the marketing of “Christian” products could teach a dualistic theology that says that ordinary products are bad, but spiritual products are good.  It is the same type of thinking that leads people to believing that this earth (which is God’s creation) is bad and that our goal is to escape to another spiritual world (heaven).

Please do not get me wrong.  I am not against T-shirts and mugs having Christian emblems on them.  I am just against a mindset that believes that these items are in some way more appropriate for the Christian than their ordinary counterparts.  I am also against turning Christ and Christianity into a fashion statement in the name of corporate profit much like Abercrombie and other marketers attempt to do with their products.  I think it would be better for Christians to save their money by buying regular products that are less expensive and give the extra money to the poor, or their church, or a missionary.

What do you think?

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16 Responses to Marketing Christ

  1. jonyork1958 says:

    Surely this can’t be right! This is NOT a Christian Nation. Or … Is it?

    Just like the marketers are no fools, neither are the politicians. This is still predominately a Christian Nation. If one wants to win or to sell a product catering to the Christian is wise.

    Go C:28!
    CLICKHERE

  2. Kelsey says:

    Interesting post. It ties in really well with your recent post about “Green” Bibles, because Christian stuff is often just about consumerism. Obviously, consumerism is spiritually bad, since it puts too great an emphasis on our possessions and can hinder our ability to follow Christ, but it is also environmentally terrible. When we buy a “Christian” coffee mug in addition to our perfectly good regular mug, we’re just wasting the resources it takes to make the second mug. We can kill two birds with one stone by curbing out buying habits: consumerism and waste.

  3. wistle says:

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy yourself — as long as it doesn’t lead you away from God. If having a mug that says “faith” on the side reminds you to think about your faith every morning, I think it’s a fine idea. And if you are foolish enough to think that being Christian is about how people perceive you, you have more troubles than recycling and thrift.

    http://www.100steps.wordpress.com

  4. Tim Farley says:

    Kelsey:

    Good point. I agree that much of the Christian retail market is driven by consumerism. We are enticed to buy things that we already own or do not really need just because it has Christian emblems on it. Why are we so willing to pay such a high premium for these things?

    wistle:

    I do agree that it is not wrong to enjoy ourselves. God created us and wants us to enjoy Him and His creation. However, we have a responsibility to be wise stewards of what we have as well. How much “enjoying ourselves” can we do before we are disobedient to Scripture’s clear calls to care for the needy and the environment? As I said, I am not against having things with Christian emblems on them. I have a few T-shirts myself, although mine were all free (one of the many perks of being a pastor). I am against a mindset that says that having “Christian” products makes one more spiritual and marks a more godly follower.

  5. jonyork1958 says:

    I wish everyone had something “Christian” on. Many times it has become a springboard to begin a conversation about Eternal Life.
    Lots of people wear crosses.
    On several occasions the wearer had no idea of the Gospel Message! It was an opportunity to plant a seed. To tell the Good News!

  6. Tim Farley says:

    Jon:

    Yeah, I do see how wearing things in public can open the door for sharing the gospel. Do you think this is the reason most Christians wear these things? Do you think this reason is even on their minds when they make their purchase? I do not think that we really want “everyone” wearing Christian things though. It would be the same as if no one were wearing them. I just hope that we are not sending a message that things with Christian emblems are more spiritual, while things without the symbols are worldly and to be avoided. Like I have already said, I am not arguing there is no place for these items. I am arguing that we can go overboard and make Christianity into a fashion trend, fall into Christian consumerism, or develop a dualistic theology.

  7. jonyork1958 says:

    Tim,
    I suppose the danger is a falsely perceived righteousness in the wearing of one of these, (ie my “T”-shirt is my breast plate of righteousness).

    I ask you, wasn’t the opposition to everyone owning their own personal Bible the same reasoning?

    It was thought that personal Bible ownership would result in thousands of false religions.

    Finding out if the wearer is genuine usually is quickly discerned. A discussion in right theology can result, and is usually not opposed since wearing the icon of the topic of discussion is considered an open invitation. I guess I’m an optimist.

    Let me just say that I saw a man coming out of the Thrift Store wearing a Christian baseball hat. However; I could not engage him in that I’m not fluent enough in Spanish! Hee hee. 🙂

    The spread of Christianity doesn’t always have to be the result of a hostile environment where Christian symbolism is forbidden.

  8. Tim Farley says:

    Jon:

    I am not saying we should forbid Christian symbolism. I just don’t think that everything we own needs to have a cross or a Bible verse on it. I am worried that some think it makes the item holy or more spiritual by having these things on them. I also do not think that you can equate having the word of God as the same as having a Christian T-shirt.

    The question is this: Is my plain old blue notebook OK or should I, as a Christian, only have notebooks with Bible verses or other Christian messages on the cover? Do the Christian symbols sanctify the items they are on in some way? Do we, as Christians, spend extra money on these types of items just because we think they are more spiritual? If so, we have bad theology.

    Also, I would ask, do we wear Christian T-shirts, bracelets, rings, etc. because of a deep commitment to what the symbols mean to us or because there is a current Christian culture that says it is cool to wear these things? I am guessing that many of the kids I see wearing NOTW clothing are doing so for the same reason kids wear other brands of clothes. It is a fashion trend. It is not because they are interested in sparking conversations with their friends about Jesus. If they want to spark interest in Christ with their friends, why don’t I see those same kids carrying their Bibles to school (or church for that matter)?

  9. jonyork1958 says:

    Tim;

    Great! I’m glad you’re thinking this way. I, having girls, am usually on the receiving end of fashion criticism. Growing up in my generation plain was all I could afford.

    The climate our kids are coming up in today seems a little more hostile to Christianity than when I was a kid in the mid 60s-70s. Evolutionary thought is taught as fact and defended with intensity. Intelligent design especially creationism is viewed as antithetical to science and reality.

    I am glad when I see kids wanting to identify with Christian ideology. I see some Goths, some Anime’ styles, surfer, aggie, gangster, street among others. There is a pull to identify with some kind of group, any group. While I will agree your concern that an air or an impression of holiness or of being more spiritual as a result is a possibility and most definitely should be questioned, I am relieved to see Christianity admired.

    Also on the positive side, I see a utilitarian effect to Christian symbolism on everything; If kids identify with Christian ideals others tend to hold these accountable to those ideals. Most people know what a Christian is to represent, and most of the time know how they should act and “call” offenders on inconsistencies.

    When I was a kid a plane old everything is what I had, no frills. I remember guys who played baseball lived it. It was baseball everything. I saw this the same way, they’re just living it. Girls want style, style in everything from monogrammed gel pens to clothing to test-a-mint candy. I am glad to see kids take a stand. I think you are right in that it is a fashion trend. But I think they are interested in living it, sparking conversations with their friends about Jesus, I hope they are. It is a good question to ask, I see the “Jesus conversation” unavoidable wearing it on everything.

    You ask why I don’t see those same kids carrying their Bibles to school (or church for that matter)? I do, maybe only a verse at a time …on their “T”-shirts.

  10. Jeff says:

    Yeah, I used to wear a Christian shirt when working out at the gym until I noticed everyone laughing. I don’t think they understood that when it says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” it refered to spiritual strength not physical!

  11. Jeff says:

    THE CHANGE
    by Steven Curtis Chapman

    Well, I got myself a T-shirt that says what I believe
    I got letters on my bracelet to serve as my ID
    I got the necklace and the key chain
    And almost everything a good Christian needs, yeah
    I got the little Bible magnets on my refrigerator door
    And a welcome mat to bless you
    before you walk across my floor
    I got a Jesus bumper sticker
    And the outline of a fish stuck on my car
    And even though this stuff’s all well and good, yeah
    I cannot help but ask myself …

    What about the change
    What about the difference
    What about the grace
    What about forgiveness
    What about a life that’s showing
    I’m undergoing the change, yeah
    I’m undergoing the change

    First verse and chorus of “The Change,” by Steven Curtis Chapman

  12. Tim Farley says:

    Jeff:

    Thanks for sharing the lyrics to The Change. They are very relevant to this conversation. I think Steven Curtis Chapman has hit the nail on the head with this song.

  13. Robynne says:

    As far as Christian versions of board games go, Apples to Apples: Bible Edition is pretty great.
    However, playing it does not make me a better Christian. In fact, it’s kind of terrible when you chose Satan for the Cute adjective.
    But seriously, some of the stuff they sell is ridiculous. It’s great to have things as a reminder to yourself or a way to open things up, but surrounding yourself with cheesy Christian merchandise is not necessary.

  14. Bill N. says:

    It’s not about what we wear or use as much as it is about what we are…. The NT speaks more about people seeing Christ in us. Our fundamental identity is in Christ, not in those things that pass away. Words are cheap wheather on a cup or a T shirt or a bumper sticker…. Those words only have meaning if at the same time the observer sees Christ in our life…. The old saying is, “Actions speak louder then words..”

  15. jonyork1958 says:

    …And NONE of us have arrived … yet.

  16. jonyork1958 says:

    Jeff,

    Who would laugh at those “gunboats?”

    Did you capitalize on the reason for wearing the “T”?

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