Monday, November 19, 2007

Will It Never Stop?

I am rather horrified at the Christian spiritualization of every popular thing in culture in recent years. From "Contemporary Christian Music" to a mark of the icthus on every piece of clothing available for the body, why do we find it necessary to put a Jesus stamp on everything? Will you believe what I saw tonight in the CBD (Christian Book Distributors) catalog? I kid you not: Fun Bible Sudoku!! And, worse than that--it's VOLUME TWO!

OK, I sort of understand the Milton Bradley Candy Land game being converted into a Fruits of the Spirit game...I am not really keen on enticing my children to follow colored squares to little islands of dripping sugar images which would never adorn any package in our home, other than at Halloween, Easter or Christmas...but that is more about our health choices and my anti-sugar attitude, than my opposition to all things that don't scream JESUS at me. (In fact, I take up issue with the whole sell-Jesus-with-candy topic, too...& will blog on that separately in the near future...). So, rather than encourage children to drool for sugar goals along the way to a massive buzz at the end, the FOTS version, (which is otherwise an exact replica of Candy Land), has Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, etc. as the goals. OK. I guess. Still, it's unoriginal. It's copying. Are we supposed to innovate and create, like our heavenly Father, Himself, or embezzle the world's ideas to pass off as our own? When is copying considered plagiarism?

But back to sudoku... Is there something inherently un-spiritual, or un-biblical, or un-Christlike about matching numbers up on a 9X9 grid? If so then I might be headed for h-e-double-hockey-sticks, because I happen to LOVE a game of sudoku almost nightly just before bed. I challenge myself to try to finish more quickly each time, and to develop new strategies. I'm getting pretty good, and am eager to go head-to-head with my sister: sudoku for the two us, Scrabble with Mom. But, wait! Ought Mom and I only allow words that can be located in Scripture? Now there's an idea. For word challenges I could holler out, "No way! I challenge that. The word 'trinity' is not in the Bible!" Or, "Uh-uh. No way, Mom. Great Triple Word Score with that letter 'Z', and I bow to your superiority in this game,"Ziglar" is a proper noun...and also, not in the Bible."

Bible sudoku. Give me a break. For the record, I am not a part of that version of Christianity--the ghetto version. No, Ma'am! Count me out. I am a part of a long living history of believers who study the Bible to live and love God and people better.

Here's another poignant example. About five or six Christmases ago (before I had children), I waited with dozens of others in the inevitable Christmas post office line. The woman directly ahead of me stepped up to the counter as I balanced my half dozen odd-sized boxes in the Next In Line space. She ordered First Class Christmas stamps, and then had a near tirade when she was offered only secular options--maybe reindeer or holly wreaths or something. The post office was out of madonna with child and she was infuriated. All of us took in her commentary on What Is Wrong With America that she cannot walk in to the United States Posts Office and get madonna and child stamps for her annual Christmas cards.

I have thought about that moment time and again. Yes, I agree, the True meaning (original meaning/only meaning) of Christmas is harder and harder to find in the public arena. Battles over public space nativity displays are not uncommon news across the country, and it is difficult to locate a Christchild-themed advent calendar any more. So, I agree that the Christmas stamp ought to represent Christmas. However, what I heard this woman rant about, specifically, was the perception of her cards' recipients, when they received envelopes from her without the message of Christ in the corner.

Shouldn't the message of Christ be, most importantly, in her every day living, and second, in the cards she chose, then inside the card, in her notes to family and friends? One stamp isn't enough to ruin the mood, is it? Maybe I'm wrong, but it is the size of...well, a postage stamp, and is otherwise hidden by a big black cancelation stamp. Some might argue (legalists of certain ilk) that the mark across Christ and his mother could be considered more offensive as defacement than not having their image in the corner in the first place.

Living as Christ lived, loving as God loves us--these are the goals of our life when we choose to call ourselves Christ followers; not to sequester ourselves from normalcy in order to make some sort of odd point like, "I can only enjoy this game (Sudoku) if it is endorsed by other Christians. That will make me feel that it is endorsed by Jesus, Himself!"

People! Live with practical discernment! We have been given intelligent minds to be ever-challenged, creative hands in order to make beautiful things, keen ears to use for the enjoyment of every musical note on earth. Living as human beings forgiven by a gracious God brings glory to the Lord--not artificially adding Scriptural verses to the 150 pages of a game book to add an element of...of what? False face, that's what. LIVE for Jesus. Don't shape him, like a moldable piece of Play-Doh, into whatever shape suits your current trend. LIVE for Jesus. LOVE God and love others. Go ahead, take a break to do a sudoku puzzle every once in a while--your brain could certainly use some sort of stimulation!

Good grief. I'm sounding like Jimmy Carter, who thinks that What is Wrong With America Today is the Evangelical church's invasion of the political arena. Or, I'm sounding like an Emerging Christian...neither of which I am completely satisfied to find as an ally...but I am something other than Mainstream, that's for darn tootin'.

"Fun Bible Sudoku 2?" Give me a break.


Jen M said...

O.k. Lisa, I'll bite, and offer up another twist. I do agree that lots of people use Christian products to serve as passing as appearing Christians themselves, but shouldn't we as Christ's followers be praying for them as well as balking at the insincerity of their actions?
And...what of those that do enjoy both a personal relationship with the Lord and Sudoko (as you yourself admit to)? Shall not that entrapenure, consumer, gift giver be able to create a product serving both interests? Whatever the "other" interest may be?
You are absolutly correct that our minds should be that of Christ Jesus so that "our words can match our faith", but I don't believe that there is a problem with buying and/or using items to help "open the door". For instance, I used to buy tea bags and candies with verses on them to use when guests came as a witnessing tool. I thought perhaps it would be a good ice breaker or just pointed conversation piece, much like a large centerpeice or coffee table book might have.
I believe you may be overwhelmed by the mass productivity of it, but you being the technologically advanced woman I knew you once to be, should not only understand but embrace it.
Praise God! For if there wasn't a market for it, it wouldn't be on the market, at least for long and yet the products just keep coming. We as Christians need to pray that like all other things, God will use these for good as we know He does all things.

ModMomMuse said...

Jen, thanks for commenting--I certainly welcome your disagreement, and challenges. I think that the people in my own life who do not know Jesus are looking for him in my life rather than in my clothes or other things (you mentioned candy wrappers or tea bags). In my opinion, much of that is more beneficial for Christians than it is influential with non-Christians. If I visit you & see a tea bag with a verse I might be encouraged because the Word of God has value to me...but you may be right. I mean, when Celestial Seasonings puts a quotation on their bags from, say, Ghandi, people read it and are inspired...right? My problem is, yes, definitely with the mass marketing of Jesus. It seems pharisaical.

I have attended several nationally "renowned" mega churches, where I know every imaginable ministry to the community is offered--but I cannot get comfortable with the Starbucks and deli on your way just reminds me of Matthew 21: 12-13:

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Since I have recently made my home in a high church atmosphere where tradition is lauded and the art of worship is respected, I find myself so much less attracted to the mainstream techniques and styles. I think America's brand of Christianity is oftentimes more American than it is true to scripture or Christ's teachings.

Forgive me--my intention is not to balk so much as to seek righteousness and honor in my own walk. I always love it when others challenge me to look at the way I do Life, so that's my point here, too.

No, I am not so sure I can celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit that makes money by selling Jesus. The better you can sell Jesus the more money you can make...that's not about Jesus, that's about using him, or his name, to pad the wallet--greed--one of the seven deadly sins.

Writing a book that encourages others to walk a finer walk is one thing (I am being significantly helped right now by one such book, myself), but putting Jesus on pencils, keychains, paper, checks, shirts, bumper stickers, hats, Bible covers, slippers, lampshades, afghans...

The title of that post is "Will It Never Stop?" because I think it has gone way, way, way too far. When do you suppose there is too much?

To a person who has not yet met Jesus, our "marketing" appears kitchy and crutchy, not authentic. Our lives, as they are lived, not as we market them, are to make the difference, amen?

;-) Thanks, again, for posting!!