- Saturday, January 12, 2002
The column below originally appeared on WorldNetDaily.
What if I told you I was quitting WorldNetDaily to open up a Christian coffee shop? "Jesus Java" I'd call it.
At Jesus Java, you'd be able to get Christian coffee: Salvation Sumatra, Anointed Arabica, and Faithful French Roast. You could get your favorite espresso drinks as well: Mind-of-Christ Mochas, Love-Your-Neighbor Lattes, and, if you weren't in the mood for coffee, you could always try our Charity Chai.
We'd also have our own line of Prayerful Pastries: Bible Bearclaws, Sin-free Cinnamon Rolls, Crucifixion Croissants and Doubting Thomas Donuts -- just stick your finger through the hole and believe.
And for those prone to spilling, all of our coffee cups would be printed with "WARNING: NOT AS HOT AS THE LAKE OF FIRE, BUT PRETTY CLOSE."
Undoubtedly, some would support me. In fact, if trends in evangelical marketing mean anything, absurdly huge hordes of people would support me. "Go for it, brother!" I'd hear en masse. There are already plenty of products on the shelves and display cases at Christian bookstores and Web sites to indicate this.
If the warning of James 3:6 that "the tongue . . . defiles the entire body" applies to you, fear not. Verily, you can pick up a box of Testamints and banish bad breath with wintergreen, spearmint and peppermint -- each wrapped in colorful Scripture verses. The dual result of which is to trivialize Scripture to the level of a fortune cookie, while also making it possible to crumple it up and throw it away when you're done. How convenient.
Then there is the Bible Bar, "a highly nutritious food bar based on a recipe from the Book of Deuteronomy 8:8," according to the manufacturer's Web site. Of course, it's not really a recipe -- it's actually just a list of foods found in Canaan: "a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey. . . ." For your little bite of the Promised Land, the Bible Bar has all seven items.
"This bar is so nutritious and healthy that it actually represents a complete, well-balanced meal," claims the site.
But wait, says the Christian marketer, there's more: "It is a spiritual bar too since these seven foods have been singled out by God Himself as being 'good.'" Never mind that God pronounced all he made as "good" in Genesis 1. This bar is more spiritual than anything else on the shelf.
As a kid, I used to go to the Christian bookstore and purchase "Christian" erasers, pencils, Frisbees, toys -- whatever -- each emblazoned with a biblical sounding slogan or Scripture verse. It didn't matter that the quality was schlub or the product stupid; it was "Christian," so it was better than the stuff you got at K-mart.
Christians have a strange tendency to try to baptize everything mundane and make it "Christian." The impulse makes sense to a degree, but it's ridiculous to a greater degree. Does stamping Ecclesiastes 9:10 on a toothbrush make it a Christian toothbrush?
The band Daniel Amos poked fun at the issue in its 1994 song, Bibleland, about a Bible-based amusement park, where, along with Noah's Arcade . . .
There's a 50-ft. cross and a pearly door,
A lions den where the lions roar,
A manger scene on a revolving floor,
A leper and a Christian bookstore. ...
In Bibleland ...
Midgets dressed up as Peter and Paul,
A Christian rock band by the wailing wall,
That Goliath guy makes us feel so small,
Takes a half an hour just to see it all.
While DA points to the truth behind the shabby scenes, the fact is that the external is still shabby. And that becomes the public face of the faith.
Christianity at one time made grand contributions to science, literature, the arts, architecture, philosophy and politics. Now we're happy with Scripture-clad Clorets knockoffs and health food promising to make you more spiritual for eating it. And you don't have to limit yourself to these examples. Check out your local Christian bookstore for any number of other inane and pitiful products hyped as "Christian."
Granted, some of it is cute, innocent and possibly sweet, but there is also a real danger here:
First, it trivializes the faith. Words such as freedom and liberty are used to sell everything from auto insurance to batteries -- beautiful and grand concepts bastardized to fodder for TV commercials. We chance doing the same thing with the faith when we succumb to this practice.
Second, we ghettoize Christianity. If the world's got something, we've got our own little version tailored perfectly for our cultural subgroup. Not only does this tend toward unoriginality and bad quality, it also helps people get comfortable with bad quality and unoriginality because they are deluded into thinking that scribbling John 3:16 on a product makes it good. In so doing, we produce little of merit and contribute zilch to the greater culture, and our influence -- already whittled down to insignificance -- dwindles further.
Worse, however, Christians do a disservice to their own faith when they use the name of their savior to peddle schlock.
Joel Miller is the book editor for WorldNetDaily and founder of the daily Christian webzine RazorMouth.com. Additionally, his own publishing company, Oakdown, recently published "God Gave Wine" by Kenneth L. Gentry Jr.
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