There is a lot of talk in the UK press about whether we can be ‘overtly Christian’. People want to wear a cross around their neck, a ring on their finger, a bracelet around their wrist and a t-shirt that trades upon the branding of the latest must have item. It is what Jesus would do – “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, for you have a WWJD bracelet”. For those who buy in to the Christian brand these are must have items and those who do not buy in are seen as “de-christianising” and are therefore vilified. People must be ‘overtly’ Christian or they are “ashamed of the gospel” and are removing our Christian presence.
There is an episode of Friends where Joey finds the keys to a Porsche and uses this to spend time with the ladies. At one point he no longer has the car but wants people to recognise that he is a Porsche owner. To achieve this he is wearing all of the Porsche gear. Hat, jacket, keyring… if they make it he has it. When his friends see him the response is
“What happened Joey? It looks like a Porsche threw up on you!”
Personally, I ride a motorbike. There seems to be a broad consensus among bikers about the Harley Davidson brand that they market to two different types of people. There are those for whom the primary focus is the bikes and those who like the logo. The bike lovers buy a Harley and ride it. The others buy a t-shirt. It is a much cheaper option. You do get the warm fuzzy feeling of brand loyalty without actually having to do anything about it. The added benefit is that you don’t get cold or wet as when the weather is bad as you don’t actually ride a bike. This type of merchandising is concerned with one thing, making money from people who can’t or won’t make the bigger sacrifice and buy the bike.
So how does this play out for the church? I agree that it is time for people to stop being “ashamed of the gospel” and to “re-christianise”. However, I suspect that merchandising is not the best way that the church can show that it is not ashamed. May I humbly suggest that “re-christianising” does not involve buying a t-shirt but by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison. This is the mission the church has been sent on. As Emil Brunner said,
“The Church exists by mission, just as a fire exists by burning. Where there is no mission there is no church”.
You can tell a Harley a mile away because it oozes Harley from every pore. If we focussed upon following the way then we will have a real christian presence in our communities. Our “Christianity” will ooze Christ from every pore.