Thursday, January 25, 2007

Valentine's Day at LifeWay: Love Like Jesus

Back during the Christmas season, I wrote a post about the apparent silliness of LifeWay's "pray while you shop" campaign. Leave it up to LifeWay to outdo themselves, and outdo themselves they have. For all you over-enamored, starry-eyed, twitterpated lovebirds, you can go to LifeWay and learn to love like Jesus! The link takes you to LifeWay Store's main page with a second link that will take you to peruse the online catalog of their new "Love Like Jesus" line of novelty gifts (just in time for Valentine's Day). You can get the Love Like Jesus embroidered pillow. Or the Love Like Jesus divided heart tray (no irony here). Or the Love Like Jesus tote bag. Maybe your darling heart would like the Love Like Jesus plush bear with a photo holder.

LifeWay is promoting the new line of gifts with Jesus' words from John 13:34, "Love one another;" of course, that is LifeWay-ese for "come go shopping." To take one of the most profound, life-altering statements Christ ever made and turn it into a selling point is deplorable. I shudder to think that this is what Jesus really meant when he said those words, especially the context in which He said them.

After He had just denigrated Himself to that of a foot-washer, acknowledged who His betrayer was and loved Him anyway, and knowing that He was only a few heartbeats from the ignominy of the cross, He gave each one of His disciples a little memento of His coming: a heart-shaped coffee-mug with a matching coaster. Jesus' timeless message to His disciples, us included: Go shopping.

Oh, and sorry to let the cat out of the bag, but I thought I would give you the dirt on LifeWay's upcoming selections. For the doctor in your family, there will be the Heal Like Jesus set of medical equipment, replete with a Heal Like Jesus examining kit. For the teacher, the Teach Like Jesus chalk and board set. For a modest price, you can get a Sermon on the Mount or Sea of Galilee backdrop. For the prayer warrior in your family, you will certainly want the Pray Like Jesus prayer shawl, mat, and knee-pads. And for the lawyer, the Litigate Like Jesus matching coat, tie, vest, slacks, and cummerbund.

I think I need a good dose of Pepto-Bismol for the soul.

14 comments:

Raborn Johnson said...

Whew! Ouch! Man, there is such a fine line between products with a truly Christ-centered purpose and just plain-ole' "Christian" capitalism. I think that it can be great to have Christian books, but what about "Testamints"? At what point are we crossing the line?

I work in a Christian bookstore, and I have asked myself the question over and over again "where is the balance"? The terms "Christian" and "retail" seem diametrically opposed, and yet there seems to be a place for specialized Christian bookstores. I mean, you can get the Purpose Driven Life at Walmart, but where do you go in town to get a lexicon?

This is a subject that is very "close to home" for me. I would love to hear some more input on this topic. Thanks for your thoughts on this Tony, and thanks for not being afraid to step on some toes. :)

Heather said...

Okay, the subject is totally not funny, but your sentence "Or the Love Like Jesus divided heart tray (no irony here)" had me LOL this morning!

I just received my own personal catalog yesterday - yippee! I didn't have time to read the cover while putting the mail away, but I did notice upon a glance that it smacked of blatant pink and red valentine's commercialism. I have no problem with valnetine's day per se (I enjoy the candy and flowers and nice evening out), but this is not very fitting for a store that claims to have "Biblical solutions for Life".

Raborn is right that there is a line, and I'm afraid it's being crossed more and more, with no thought to the implications.

Tony said...

Raborn,

I thought about you working at a Christian bookstore after I posted this, but I figured you could handle it, so I let fly...

There was a time when LifeWay was more of a church resource store...before they changed their name and focus. They catered paticularly to the educational side of church with Bibles, study materials, SS lit, VBS supplies, etc.

The committee admitted, years ago, that the whole identity of LifeWay needed restructuring to reach a broader base of people. Now it is more of a conglomerate retail shop with "Jesus" slapped on just about everything; their agenda, make money, and consequently, ours is to go shopping to support our faith.

That message troubles me. The best way for us to practice our faith is to go shopping. Our faith is directly related to how much "Christian" fodder we have and that in order for us to be good Christians, we will tote our work home in a "Love Like Jesus" tote bag, exorbitantly priced, when a regular tote will be sufficient. But how will passers-by know we are Christians? It must be by our love, because it is plastered all over that bag.

Buying this useless stuff makes me love more like Jesus? Come on!

Heather,

I hope I didn't make you spit out coffee or anything ;)

No, I have no problem with Valentine's Day; neither does my wife! :)

But the equating of Valentine's Day erotic and romantic love with the agape, brotherly, sacrificial love of our Lord does bother me. Well, I need to be truthful...it incenses me.

Capitalism has creeped into every aspect of our lives and we don't even realize it. Patriotism; buy a beach towel that looks like a US flag. Don't actually participate in the civil process. Support your alma mater by buying sweats, fleeces, scarves, ad infinitum. But wouldn't it be a better demonstration of your "school spirit" by providing scholarship money for a needy student?

As an aside, a local mega-church now has their own store inside the church building. They sell all kinds of promo material for the church itself, so you can show your faith not just to the Lord Jesus but also to your local, geographical assembly with your New Mercy Seat Baptist Church #2 sweatshirt and matching ball cap.

Just a bit self-serving, don't you think so guys?

I'm glad you got a laugh, but I had to inject a little humor to counterbalance my own sarcasm and irony.

Alan Knox said...

Tony,

Great post. It touched me, brother... anyone got a "Jesus" hanky? I love the irony and sarcasm, but that's just me. Keep up the good work of pointing us all in the right direction... and that doesn't mean toward the local Lifeway store.

-Alan

Heather said...

You said,

"That message troubles me. The best way for us to practice our faith is to go shopping. Our faith is directly related to how much "Christian" fodder we have and that in order for us to be good Christians, we will tote our work home in a "Love Like Jesus" tote bag, exorbitantly priced, when a regular tote will be sufficient. But how will passers-by know we are Christians? It must be by our love, because it is plastered all over that bag."

You know, I am embarrased to say it, but I must admit that there have been times that I have fallen for this and have felt guilty that my house is not decorated with "Jesus" junk (for lack of a better term - you know what I mean)or that my purse doesn't have a Bible verse embroidered on it. And *gasp* I don't have a Jesus fish on the bakc of my van!

Then I humbly remember that it's not about that ... they WILL know by my love, but not because I give lip-service to it. They'll know by the love of God that is shed abroad in my heart that spills out of my life and into others'.

Thanks for this edifying reminder!!

Cameron Cloud said...

I have to agree with raborn's "thin-line". There is a need for finding good study tools and books. The problem with many Christian stores is finding a book of substance in them. If you can make it to the "Bible Study" section without asphyxiating on the "Jesus Potpourri" and stumbling over the Joel Osteen display, you MIGHT find that lexicon.

But really, why does something have to be "Christian" for Christians to think it desirable? And, why do we often have to accept inferior quality products simply because they bear the title "Christian"? (Christian t-shirts, Christian music, Christian fiction, etc.)

In our attempt to be "separate from the world," have we set up a false line of demarcation between the sacred and the secular? When Bunyan wrote "Pilgrim's Progress" it wasn't "Christian fiction". He wrote a classic piece of literature that stood on its own merit.

American Christianity is perhaps the first example in history of believers developing their own "sub-culture" products. I believe it is a combination of inherent separatism of conservative Christianity(not necessarily a bad thing in itself) and the freedom, capitalism, and individualism of the US.

The result is a materialistic religion that sells the cheap, the chintzy, and the church.

Streak said...

Personally, I think we crossed that line to the point that we can't even see it any longer. I completely agree that there is a legitimate role served by Christian bookstores, but the commercialization of the faith is an embarrassment.

For me, the line was the merchandizing of "pewter nails" to sell alongside the Passion of the Christ. I had a thought of suggesting a happy meal toy set, but figured that would be inappropriate. As I said to a friend of mine (who still disagrees with me on this), if you can commercialize and profit from the crucifixion, then you can sell anything. Anything.

Tony said...

Alan,

Thanks for the encourgement and for stopping by. The only Jesus hanky I have is the John 11:35 Weep Like Jesus hanky (with a matching ascot). ;)

Heather,

No fish? You must be a substandard Christian! Only joking, only joking. ;-)

The "Jesus junk" is not intrinsically bad. I think you would agree, it should not substitute for the proper outworking of our faith. If it does, we have crossed that line Raborn pointed us to. Thanks for the follow-up!

Cameron,

Provocative and precise, with the Nephos humor I have come to respect and admire.

The Christian "subculture" that has developed is certainly an American phenomenon, a by-product of consumerism and materialism. That false line of demarcation also becomes a catch-22...if you don't buy the "Jesus junk," as Heather calls it, then you are that substandard believer I humorously pointed Heather to; in the eyes of some at least.

Then if you do, have you sold out to some sort of system? Where do you draw the line?

Streak,

That line is not even in the rearview any longer. For mainline Christianity, I don't even think there has been a backward glance.

This Love Like Jesus line really is an embarrassment, because it equates the sacrificial love of Christ with some pathetic sentimentality.

And I take it you didn't buy a nail?

Streak said...

Tony, I refused to see the film. I found the entire episode troubling.

Tony said...

Streak,

Admittedely, I made the mistake of seeing it. I should not have for numerous reasons.

But you are right...it is indeed troubling. I felt that I was being a good pastor going to see it. The folks I serve were all seeing it, so I needed to see it just so I could offer an objective opinion.

It wasn't worth it.

Raborn Johnson said...

Tony,
Thanks for being willing to chance stepping on our feet! It's good for all of us to analyze why we do what we do!

Cameron,
It is so true that we, as believers, have accepted substandard music, movies, etc. simply because they bore the title "Christian". When are we ever going to realize that there is no such thing as "secular" and "sacred"? These kinds of neat compartments emphasize an external form of Christianity foreign to the teachings of Jesus.

Heather,
I, too, am one of those "crazy Christians" who at one time got rid of my secular music and put a fish on my car. I believe that I did this with a pure heart though. Since then, God has tempered me out and helped me to realize that what He wants is my heart, not my t-shirts and car bumper.;) If all of the people who wore a WWJD bracelet would actually allow the Holy Spirit to do through them what He did through Jesus, we might actually see that transformation in our culture that we desire; a transformation that ballot-boxes and political action groups can never deliver.

Streak,
Truly, the commercialization of the faith is an embarrassment. God help us not to "peddle the Gospel". Thanks for your insight.

Tony said...

Raborn,

Nice summary and round-up. I am always glad for your participation. Thanks!

Headmistress said...

Hey Tony,

Great posts here lately (as usual)...sure wish I didn't always have to cram two weeks worth of posts in at one time, but that seems to be the case these days.

All these complaints and frustrations echo my own. My liberal friend has coined a term (or perhaps borrowed a term--who knows) she likes to use when referring to what we would call a mega church: Six Flags Over Jesus. I'm sure we can't rule out here that such a concept hasn't been discussed at some committee meeting...

Tony said...

HM,

I understand about cramming...I tend to do it a lot myself.

I love the Six Flags over Jesus line. Can I borrow that one? It is definitely worth repeating.

Thanks for dropping by!