Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Christian "stuff"

Having grown up in the heyday of American evangelicalism, I know all about Christian "stuff." You know what I'm talking about: the bookmarks and key chains and books and music and bubblegum. I used to ask my mom to let me stay in the Family Christian Store while she browsed the mall. You could get everything there, I mean everything!

Sometime while I was in college, things started to shift (or, perhaps more likely, I started to notice a shift) in regards to how Christian "stuff" was sold to us. The Prayer of Jabez was the first I really noticed. Not only was the book cute and hugely popular, but all of a sudden you could get all kinds of "stuff" to go with it: calendars, bookmarks, study guides, even Bibles! You could have Prayer of Jabez wall-hangings and refrigerator magnets, journals and stationary. No longer just Christian "stuff," there was some kind of shift towards branded "stuff." (I'm still kindof miffed that I've never seen a Mere Christianity Bible, but I bet I could find one if I looked hard enough).

All of that said, this shift in Christian marketing has made me wary of Christian "stuff," especially the stuff that goes on the wall and becomes nothing more than decoration. Consider this passage from Deuteronomy (11:18-21):

18"You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.

Having gotten jaded to Christian stuff because it had become merely stuff, this passage reminds me that things like hanging Scripture on the wall can have a purpose: to teach us and our children to treasure the promises and commands of God. But, woe to those who hang God's Word on the wall merely to look at it or to mark themselves Christian over against the house down the street. Instead let us use them as tools to be reminded daily of God's saving acts on our behalf so that we might prosper in obedience along the way of the cross.

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