Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Live Strong

A woman recently asked me if we had any “Christian knock-offs” of the Lance Armstrong Live Strong bracelets. When I informed her we did not, she said, “That’s funny, we [Christians] usually have some cheap knock-off on the streets in a matter of weeks. I wonder what’s taking so long?”

This woman was at once my most refreshing customer and my most perplexing. Here was a person unafraid to admit the tendency for “Christian knock-offs.” Finally, an honest person was in my store.

What was perplexing was how this lack of creativity seemed to affect her. While she readily admitted most of the “Jesus Junk” was nothing more than a cheap knock-off, she was more than willing to buy it.

Is this my worst fear? Is this a sign that American Christianity has become content to exist as a mere imitation of popular culture?

I suppose you could easily make that argument based on some of the music, books and merchandise we sell. The majority of our church services create some diluted version of pop culture offerings in the name of being “seeker sensitive.” Why must we be content to exist as a cheaper, less creative version of the rest of the world? Why can’t Christians push the cultural landscape?

This sounds very similar to the discussion taking place in the comments section of my “Jay Jay” post. Some theorized that retail is a method by which we express our identity. Therefore, if some Christians are comfortable expressing themselves as cheap knock-offs of pop culture, they should have every right to do so.

The people who argued this point missed the larger question. This is not about retail existing as a means of expressing one’s identity. This is not even about retail. This is about the church becoming comfortable as an institution catering to the complacency of its congregation. Christianity should not exist solely as a place for people looking for spiritual comfort. Christianity should exist as a tool of social and cultural change.

The church is not meant to be a reflection of culture with a God twist. The church is meant to be a reflection of God in a world drowning in sin. We don’t offer that anymore. We sold the high ground in the name of “evangelism,” and it will kill us yet.

Friday, December 3, 2004

Don't Eat the Vegetables

One Yuletide constant in the bookstore is the overabundance of nativity sets. We literally have them piled up in the front of store. We are out of shelf space. Who knew there were so many takes on the Holy Family sitting in a barn?

Into this fray enters the VeggieTales Nativity Play Set.

I should mention how much I love VeggieTales. I find their videos to be funny, intelligent and great for parents and kids alike. For that, I can look past the unsettling nature of talking vegetables.

Just an aside: What do the VeggieTales characters eat? They can’t be vegetarians. That would make them cannibals. For once the vegetarians would be the cruel ones. I’m guessing its some sort of bread-based high carb diet.

Anyway, despite my love for VeggieTales, I do have to wonder if they’ve gone too far depicting baby Jesus as a baby carrot. I usually dip baby carrots in ranch dressing. For some reason, I feel uncomfortable with the idea of baby Jesus smothered in salad dressing or any other condiment for that matter. It just doesn’t seem orthodox.

Surely, nativity sets are supposed to inspire contemplative thoughts of the lowly conditions surrounding the birth of Christ. The only thing the VeggieTales Nativity Play Set makes me think is, “Boy, a salad sure does sound good right about now.”