Accessorizing the Christian Life: What Would [Can] Jesus Sell?

Emily ran across an article in the LA Times about a new ‘Christian’ perfume called ‘Virtuous Woman.’ The article is entitled “What Would Jesus Sell?” The main gist of the column is about a new perfume that is hopefully “enticing enough to provoke questions: ‘What’s that you’re wearing?'” And then low-and-behold you have a golden opportunity to share your faith (or explain why you were faith motivated products depending on who is doing the asking).

Though the article is about what Jesus would sell, that seems hardly the question anyone’s asking. The real question seems to be “What Would Can Jesus Sell?”

We are all familiar with these Christian products, and I’m sure we all have stories about them. I used to work at a Christian bookstore called Berean when I was in college. I have to be honest with you, when I quit it was mainly because I couldn’t stomach all the commodification of Jesus and the Gospel. Though I too had a favorite, “testamints,” little square mints with crosses in them (they were tasty). Tons of Jesus-products are available, as the article explains, “books, CD’s, greeting cards, inspirational artwork, stuffed animals wearing Jesus Love You” T-shirts.” I can’t help but cringe a little.

I realize that capitalism finds “needs” and fills them with products and services, but I think Christians should really try to contain themselves from making “Christian” everythings. Why need to focus our energy on being authentic people, who love others, and lay down our lives regularly, this lifestyle will give us plenty of opportunity to share the Gospel.

Emily also reminded me what Christian accessories really are: food and water.

Here’s how it goes in Matthew 10:8-15,

“Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.

“Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.

“When you enter a town or village, don’t insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and be content there until you leave.

“When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that on Judgment Day they’ll be mighty sorry—but it’s no concern of yours now.

Image “you are the equipment” – Jesus that’s not going to make a lot of sales this year.

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

14 thoughts on “Accessorizing the Christian Life: What Would [Can] Jesus Sell?”

  1. I like Mark 6:8-9 “And [Jesus] commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: but be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.”

    A few months ago I wrote a post about Christian magazines. I think my favorite line in it, if I do say so myself, is “Is Christianity about selling all you have and giving to the poor or about embroidering quotes from Jesus on throw pillows?”

  2. I love it!

    Mind you. You are fighting an uphill battle you know. The other day I was tring to discuss the notion of “political theology” with a co-worker. She got visible uncomfortable. Political involvement consists in campaigns to legislate Christian piety and sexual morality. Anything more is threatening and blasphemous. The scriptures outlaw charging interest to the peopel of God. I even provided her with the passages to look up. Nope. Wouldn’t believe me.

    I guess Jesus died on the cross to amke the world safe for North American consumption.

  3. Robin – that’s a great verse for this topic I should have used it myself. And you pose a thoughtful question.

    David – I know that this kind of talk is an unhill battle but I am glad I am not the only one doing it. Sounds like you’ve planted some ideas for you co-worker. It always takes us time to begin to consider other’s ideas, especially when we’ve been convinced they’ve been wrong for so long. I trust that as we live out this kind of witness people will want to know more about it.

  4. I remember when the gazillion dollar making Passion of the Christ was out in movie theaters. I thought to myself, “well isn’t that interesting? People sitting in an air-conditioned theaters, on comfy seats, drinking $4.00 Cokes and downing a pounds of buttered popcorn while they watch a movie about a Jewish peasant trying to help his people live with one another and with their God beneath the crush of an occupying and resource gobbling force aka the Roman Empire.”

  5. I sure hope my idea for Jesus underwear goes on the market soon. You know i have been saying that for years now Wess. Who wouldn’t want to wear jesus everyday of the week? And then when you’re witnessing you just flash them a sight of your underwear and they’ll definently be slain in the spirit. Woops i better stop before i get flogged and beaten.

  6. Now, I dislike the whole commerical “I LOVE Jesus” thing as much as the next guy but here are my questions.

    How much is too much? What do you do when someone LOVES God so much that they want to shout it from the roof tops! What is an inspired Christian to do when they want to integrate God into every part of their life all the way down to the tightie whities because they really love God?

    Is it wrong to supply the world with the good things that they want? Even if it is tacky? Is it okay to sell a bible with a black cover? What about a neon faux pink & leopard skin cover? Especially when they to proclaim a love of God? Is it wrong to take a modest profit from these supplies so that you can provide food and shelter and a good education for your family?

    As Christians who are in commerce how much of a profit is fair and or modest? How much is too much? When are you supplying a service/need and when are you exploiting?

    This is what I think about.

  7. “Emily also reminded me what Christian accessories really are: food and water.”

    I think that about sums it up.

  8. While I respect the sentiment and I really like the simplicity of the idea I still disagree. I think then the queston begs What are we accessorizing?

    Don’t we desire more? As human beings we may only need food and water but I still find that difficult to accept. What about shelter from the elements? Growth as an Indivdual, etc. I think many of us desire, and pursue a closer realationship with God.

    Although there are flaws I think that Maslow in his Hierarchy of Needs describes the common idea that people need more and seek out more then just food and water.

    I do think that in a world driven by consumption that Christ would remind us (most likely over, and over again) of those who do need food and water, and how silly the PC vs. Mac/ Blogger vs Word Press / Windows vs. Linux / Nike vs Addias / Rolling Stones vs Beatles arguments are.

    Let me know what you think.

  9. This is a truly brilliant blog that you have composed here. I really enjoy reading all your posts.

    Thanks.

  10. Steve:
    Thanks for your comments and questioning what has been said. I agree that when people are really excited about God they may want to express it in different ways, and there is nothing inherently wrong with wearing “Christian clothes.” But my problem is, first what is the motivation for wearing Christian perfume and clothing? Is it to create some kind of witness? I really question how possible it is to share one’s faith effectively with these things. Why didn’t Jesus have his disciples write Jesus’ name on their robes, or a verse from Isaiah like the one Jesus preached in Luke 4? Witnessing comes from real interactions with people, and ongoing relationships. Can goofy logos and sayings ripped of secular companies really be that effective? In my mind they seem to have more negative effects than anything else.

    Secondly, it’s the presupposition that if I get my car fixed from a Christian, I wear “virtuous woman” or I listen to Christian music, that I can put my guard down. I don’t have to question the practices of those buisness people, or be concerned with how they are presenting themeselves in the world like I would “worldly” companies because they’re Christians. This is true for many people, including myself when I was in highschool. After being exposed to the back stories of many of these Christian artists and Christian companies I realized this is a bogus presuposition.

    Third – the point of the article is what is necessary for the Christian life, it really is food and water (doused in communion with God). These other things follow, you know I write about my liking macs, wordpress, biking, etc and these of course add to the spice of life. I enjoy having the luxury of these items, but I am not question those sentiments at the moment either. My concern is more with using Jesus to make money.

    In this way I am following in the path of Keith Green. Let’s make money because we make great designs, great music, great clothing, great computers, offer great services, and because we are honest about how we conduct our business and just in the way we treat others – this is true Christian business practice. I will buy from you if you do these things – not because you slap the name “Jesus” on it somewhere.

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