Holy Toasters!

  “WWJD?” it says on the bracelets, backpacks, key chains and ski caps.

“WWJD?”  What would Jesus do?

Shop, evidently.

If Christ were a consumer, he might browse the aisles at Cedar Springs Christian Lifestyle Store [Knoxville, TN], possibly the nation’s largest emporium of all things evangelical in the $3 billion-plus Christian retail industry.

Megastores such as Cedar Springs — with 20,000 square feet of selling space for boutique and specialty merchandise — display wares like Bloomingdale’s for Jesus.

Beyond books, Bibles and music, they sell clothes, art, jewelry, toys, lap rugs and birdhouses — almost anything to support,proclaim, enhance, deepen or simply decorate beliefs.

Are Christian cake mixers next?

“The trend hasn’t crossed over into appliances — yet,” says Bill Anderson, head of the CBA (Cynthia Lynn Grossman, USA Today).

I’m always amazed by the thought that it is possible by sticking the name of Jesus on a refrigerator magnet to transform a cheap piece of hokum into a “Christian” magnet.  The word Christian used to be a noun.  One was or was not a Christian.  It was possible for one to act or not to act like a Christian.  That is to say, people were called Christian—birdhouses were not.

Of late, however, being good consumers, many Christians have taken to using the word Christian as an adjective.  The word is thereby casually tossed around to be used as a modifier for any dime store bauble that might carry a religious word or symbol signifying its apparently consecrated status—“approved for use by Christians.”  Evidently, using religious words and symbols on consumer goods is viewed as a tacit seal of imprimatur on whatever piece of plastic or polyester upon which they happen to be emblazoned.  The logic appears to be: “Yes, but if it says Jesus on it, it must be a better lap rug; it proclaims my faith to the world, and I’m being faithful by buying it, eating with it, walking on it, drinking out of it, or slapping it on the bumper of my car.”

Let’s take those points in order.  First, it is not clear that just because a shirt or a pencil or a set of dishes has a Bible verse on it, that it is of any greater inherent value than those same products minus the slogan.  Second, neither is it clear that using “Christian” stuff makes a discernibly positive statement to those who are not Christians.  Oftentimes, it just gives them more ammunition for thinking we’re foolish (see the tone of the article above).  And if we’re going to be fools for Christ, let us do so over something that matters, not over the “Christian cake mixers” we use.  Third, one of Jesus’ major emphases in the Gospels had to do with divesting oneself of “treasures on earth,” not with going out and buying more things that “moth and rust consume” just because they were adorned with religious mascots.

The Christian life is a life predicated on the notion that we have a story to tell: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.”  Apart from the lives we live, the only thing we have to tell that story to a world bent on tuning us out is our words and symbols.  They are the holiest treasure we have been given by those who have gone before us.  They are our pearl of great price.  If we give them away too easily, if we allow them to be trampled underfoot in the marketplace, if we sell them just because we have a buyer, then we have sold the birthright of our heritage for a mess of pottage.

What am I trying to say?  Well, maybe the most Christian thing we can say is that Jesus did not go to the cross in order to give us the opportunity to own “Christian” birdhouses.

WWJD?  It’s not always clear, but I’m pretty sure “go shopping” isn’t it.