I read Tony Woodlief's recent commentary over at World on the Web, and was tempted to simply link to it, but I'm reminded that you, my faithful readers, don't come here for directions to my favorite purveyors of mental nourishment; you come here for MyndFood.
So, hop on over; read the article. But, first, allow me my discourse.
At the center of the controversy is an importer who has introduced a new wine-"Grapes of Galilee"-made from grapes grown near Galilee. The bottles feature paintings of Christ, and will be advertised in the Catholic Digest.
The product has garnered some measure of controversy, in that it seems to commercialize-rather, capitalize for profit-on Christ. Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research, is one of those who are ired about the product. "Jesus," he said, "chased people out of the temple for selling products in God's name. He did not put his name of the label to pump up sales."
Woodlief goes on, though, to argue, that Stetzer's comments are a bit hypocritical, in that LifeWay's catalog, according to Woodlief, are rife with similar products. Like their "Jesus IM's" t-shirt; or their "Believe God"-Spanish Edition sterling silver bracelet; or their "Jesus Died for MY SPACE in Heaven" t-shirt.
Woodlief chickens out, I think, in that he really doesn't present an argument on one side of the issue or the other; instead he simply points out that folks that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones (although, I think it's safe to say his disdain for folks profiting in the name of God shines through pretty clearly).
As the preparer of the fine mental fare disseminated here, I have, I guess, an obligation to try to present something wholesome and edifying.
I was in our local christian bookstore a few weeks ago. The guy behind me in line struck up a conversation with me about a CD I was purchasing. Somehow the conversation turned to some product he'd seen there in the store-a kid's t-shirt (I think it said something like "My Invisible Friend Created Me"), and I made a passing comment about religion being the new big business. He gave me a blank stare; I don't think he caught my point.
To be honest, "Jesus" products leave me with a sour taste in my mouth. It started, I think, with the "WWJD" bracelets (you remember, What Would Jesus Do). They just turned me off, but, by and large, people ate them up. But my problem with the bracelets didn't really have a lot to do with the fact that they were using Jesus to make a profit (Bible publishers since Gutenberg have been doing it with much success). In fact, I'd argue Stetzers point about Jesus chasing folks out of the temple. I recall Him saying something about His house being called a "house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves." He overturned the tables, and cast them out, because they had turned His house into a marketplace, not because they were selling Jesus paraphernalia.
My problem with the whole movement is that it's a pacifier; it's a "feel-good" mechanism. That's, I think, what has really built this whole industry-that you can go get a cheeky "Jesus" t-shirt, and feel good about yourself. Wear a "WWJD" bracelet, and project "I'm a christian" to those that see it, and you feel alright. Tell folks about your space in Heaven via your apparel, and feel certain that you've got one reserved. And really, none of that has anything to do with Christianity, God or Heaven.
You see, you can be a christian, talk with God, even make it to Heaven, without having the t-shirt and without wearing the branded jewelry. None of that has any real impact whatsoever. I'll tell you, if I thought I could fool God into thinking I was an A-OK guy just by wearing one of His t-shirts, I'd have a wardrobe full of them; I need all the help I can get. But, as the Good Word says, you and I look on the outside, but God looks at the heart. He doesn't really care whether we wear Jesus on our clothing or not; He does, on the other hand, care if we project Jesus with our lives.
But read the article; come to your own conclusions. Ask yourself this, though, the next time you go to pull your "Jesus Is My Homeboy" t-shirt out of the closet: does Jesus have one of these shirts with my name on it?