Before you read further, I have a confession to make: I can’t stand most “Christian merchandise.”
Bumper stickers, coffee mugs, art, necklaces, bookmarks, pens. When you go to a Christian bookstore, you see all of this Oriental Trading Company stuff that goes from costing a nickel to a dime just because the word Jesus is stamped on it. Take a beautiful picture of a waterfall and it is art. Write the word “peace” on the bottom of it and it becomes “Christian art.”
I’ve never really figured out how stuff can be Christian. Did the artist baptize it? Does it come to church? Is this pen nicer than its unsaved Pilot friends? Maybe it tithes!
I was reading from Alistair Begg’s Made for His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith and came across this thought. Christians tend to see things that become popular in culture and decide that we must have a “Christianized version.”
His example was an exercise fad. “When aerobic exercise, aided by video, grabbed center stage, Christians decided they must have their own version. So they created ‘Praisercize’ to substitute for ‘Jazzercise.’”
At first, I’m tempted to roll my eyes and just write this off as a lame copy of culture, but Begg realizes this is a bigger problem than most might realize.
“The result? Christians who had a desire to get fit neglected the opportunity to plug in with their non-Christian friends, choosing instead to form another ‘holy huddle’: bodies bouncing in time to worship songs. “
The first problem is that rather than engaging in the world around us and living in community with the good, the bad, and the ugly, this behavior causes us to withdraw. We hide, cloistering ourselves to avoid any contact with those people who aren’t like us.
The second problem might be worse. Here’s Begg:
“This allowed them to shun the secular and trivialize the sacred.”
By trying to “Christianize” something, we’ve reduced Christianity from a dynamic, life-changing power to a mere label that’s slapped on merchandise. “Christian” isn’t an attribute of a workout. It’s not a label for art. It isn’t an adjective that enhances some noun.
Christians are disciples. Whole-hearted Christ followers. A relationship with Jesus that is the basis for whatever we do, in word or deed.
Let’s avoid using that term in a way that cheapens its beautiful meaning.