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Why is Christian Culture Bad?

November 17, 2008

This weekend I was in San Antonio Texas to cheer my wife on in her second marathon. She finished strong and I am so proud of her (more to come on that)! It’s weird being out of Austin and seeing so much bad Texan Christian culture. The notion that Christians should have their own sub-culture is a very interesting topic. One that we will only briefly address here by way of your commentary on some case studies.

Below are some pictures of several Christian T-shirts my wife and I found while we were on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, a place where a wide array of ethnicities and cultures of the world converge. Embedded in this cornucopia of cultural diversity, I found the following shirts. As you look at them, share why you think they reflect good or bad Christian culture. Have fun!




Yes, I bought all of them and will start preaching in them each Sunday. Just kidding.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2008 1:04 pm


  2. Schuyler David Johnson permalink
    November 17, 2008 1:18 pm

    Well, let me start by stating that I am not much of a fan of witty-slogan or logo t-shirts to begin with.

    Unfortunately, I feel as though these types of christian culture ONLY appeal to those within the culture.

    The most crucial aspect of this is the idea of christian unoriginality. What these t-shirts do is basically spread this undertone that Christianity has to steal from other successful businesses in order to get noticed. It’s like saying “well the public likes Starbucks, so lets put Jesus in their logo! That will REALLY speak to them.” All it does is enforces this idea that Christians cannot come up with their own ideas, so they have to borrow secular ideas to even get noticed. It furthers the gap between Christian culture and secular culture by it’s own nature. Same goes with ‘Christian’ music. It only speaks to those who share the same ideological view, and pushes Christianity farther away from those who disagree.

    There are plenty of christian-based clothing companies that do not do this, such as Ephriam Clothing. I’ve had a talk with the creator of that company, and he feels the same way I do. They push their company with a mission as their foundation, rather than just a witty logo that replaces the company’s name with Jesus.

  3. November 17, 2008 4:07 pm

    These shirts, like so much of the Christian subculture, are of the world but not in it.

    It seems to me that they represent an inversion of the Christian approach to living in the world.

  4. Sara permalink
    November 17, 2008 5:24 pm

    Well, Texas does seem like it’s own little planet down there sometimes:) One I love visiting! I always get a kick out of Christian slogan t-shirts and I totally don’t regret buying my bro “ABreadCrumb and Fish” t about 5 yrs ago. I think it shows Christians have a sense of humor too and anything to get non-Christians to think for a sec isn’t a bad thing (just my opinion). And I have a great friend, a nonbeliever, who listens to all sorts of Christian bands and bands not strictly Christian but made up of believers who have solid testimonies nonetheless. My friend would never associate himself with groups like that but when I listen I hear the message through some of their songs and it’s so obvious to me! I pray that these people just listening would really hear someday. I think it’s exciting and cool!!

  5. November 18, 2008 2:10 am

    Beyond good or bad Christian culture, in an effort to tie a slogan onto a pop culture icon, they are expressing and promoting bad theology.

  6. November 18, 2008 7:46 am

    Christ sacrificed for me
    Happy Hour on Sunday morning

    is bad theology?

  7. spiritualway permalink
    November 18, 2008 9:09 am

    To responce to comment #6; yes, I would say it is “bad” theology! Linking a “happy hour” (which you can find any day of the week in dozens of bars and cafes in Austin) with the central “core” of Christian theology creats the “opportunity” of many more Christians of the “inch deep and a mile wide” variety! Just another example of using language and symbols that appeal to the lowest common denominator in our culture today! Why I continue to be a “church alum” and look for higher opportunities to engage and practice my Christian faith!!!

  8. November 18, 2008 9:36 am

    I’d agree that there’s bad or, at least, incomplete theology on Xn t-shirts. Though you can sometimes work good theology out of it, it is usually in spite of the t-shirt maker’s intent, not because of it.

    SW, you are right, Sunday morning as happy hour is a rather diluted view of church. After all, church is a community created by the Spirit, not a service created by man. HOwever, a gathering of the church can be a wonderful, God-honoring thing.

    It could also be argued that Christ was sacrificed for God, not for us. But that is another matter altogether, and it is wonderfully true that Jesus died to rescue us from our hypocrisy, selfishness, finger pointing, bad culture and theology.

  9. November 20, 2008 6:20 am

    Great pictures!
    Ridiculous t-shirts.

    I think the question itself is worth examining. Is there a Christian culture? I don’t think so. Even if there were, it would contain so many subcultures, that it would be hard to make a blanket statement condemning (or praising) it as a whole.

    (Unless you’re using “Christian culture” as a technical term to refer to a specific American subculture, namely, the safe music, safe TV, safe internet, Veggie Tale collecting, home school family culture).

    I think maybe another way of approaching the issue would be to ask: Is the way Christians engage their culture good or bad?

    The shirts you display reflect a certain method for engaging a particular subculture within the American milieu. And that subculture is one of materialism and self-gratification expressed in advertising slogans. It is one of short attention spans that prefer witty (or not-so-witty) one-liners to rigorous discourse (see “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman). It is one that likes to proudly declare its accomplishments and tastes to the world by wearing them on its chest, “Look at me! I’ve been to the Grand Canyon! I love Starbucks! Metallica is my favorite band! He who dies with the most toys wins! Coed Naked Lacross, I’m a porn star, I *heart* New York, etc.”

    The other subculture that purchases these types of shirts (both secular and even “Christianized”) are the indie band rocker, thrift store shoppers that wear these shirts with a sense of irony, rather than truly identifying themselves with the slogans printed on them.

    To me the question becomes, “Is that particular American subculture worth adapting to in our efforts to reach it for Christ?” I.e., When we engage that subculture, should we stoop to its level of expression, mentality, perspective on life, or should we instead challenge it to be more thoughtful, less willing to be used as walking advertisements, and to find its identity not in superficial tastes and activities, but in virtue, humble service and wisdom?

    Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” But surely this doesn’t mean that he would have become a porn star in order to reach other porn stars or a gang banger in order to reach other gang bangers. Perhaps we should leave that up to the FBI when they do things like infiltrating the Hell’s Angels.

    The question is, do we need to become walking billboards, feeding on and promoting sound bites rather than thoughtful discourse in order to reach those around us?

    “It is wonderfully true that Jesus died to rescue us from our hypocrisy, selfishness, finger pointing, bad culture and theology.” Amen.

  10. Jason K. permalink
    November 21, 2008 11:49 am

    “Christ sacrificed for me
    Happy Hour on Sunday morning

    is bad theology?”

    Only if it recasts the idea of a personal savior with all the connotations of a personal digital assistant, which I think the My Space and Starbucks spoofs have fully achieved.

    The Happy Hour shirt is mitigated by its completely unabashed dorkiness (not unlike wearing a Jan Brady shirt).

  11. November 22, 2008 12:02 am

    Excellent content and style…keep up the good work!

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