The Commodification of Christianity

The Commodification of Christianity

We’ve all seen them. The christian marketplace is literally saturated with religious products – from the crass to the kitsch to the corny. These Christian trinkets are concerning not only for the cultural messages they portray but for the erroneous theological points they make. Or, as Matt Capps – in Kitsch, Trinkets, and the Commodification of Evangelical Christianity – puts it, “the commodification of the Christian message not only exploits the faith to consumer capitalism, but it also sentimentalizes and trivializes the gospel.”

What is this industry currently worth? The numbers are hard to find and very outdated. CBA, the Association for Christian Retail, reported that in 2006 the Christian Retail Industry stood at $4.63 billion. 30% of that was related to books. Leaving a cool $3.2 billion that was spent on must-have items like these (and yes, that’s a bobble-head Buddy Jesus):

easter egg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • reddit
jesusbobblehead
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • reddit
Africa
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • reddit
jesus sunglasses
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • reddit

When I think of it, I can’t decide which offends me more: “In God we Trust” on a $1 bill created by the Federal Reserve, or Jesus’ face on a novelty bill created, and sold, by Christian industry. We don’t need more christian stuff; we need more Christ-following. We don’t need this written on our things; ” It should come out of our own mouths. It should be written all over our lives!”

 

Valerie Anderson

Valerie Anderson coordinates Operations at Common Change. She received her MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cape Town and has spent the last 6 years establishing and maintaining a range of community development projects both in her home country, South Africa, and in low-income urban areas in the United States. She is a writer, problem-solver and strategist and loves to create environments in which others can thrive. Valerie and her husband, Brett Fish, have recently returned to their beautiful home city, Cape Town. You can find more of Val’s writing at valanderson.wordpress.com

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  • http://www.jcalexander.org Jeff

    Thanks for sharing! I agree with Matt Capps quote “the commodification of the Christian message not only exploits the faith to consumer capitalism, but it also sentimentalizes and trivializes the gospel.”

    In this sentimentalization and trivialization of the gospel the witness is lost in the midst in some peoples attempts to adorn and surround themselves with consumer goods representing a marketable Christ.

    The only marketable Christ the world needs to see is the Christ in us. The witness of Him provided through us as a light of hope. As Valerie stated, “It should be written on our lives!”

    • Brett Anderson

      Absolutely. This is a topic to probably not get me started on cos i just get so mad when i see how people use the gospel or gospel-related subjects as pure merchandise and as your quote suggests that starts to rob the meaning from the message and especially for those who are outside the church who recognise a con when they see one [probably more easily than those inside cos we are hoping the Jesus-doll people have good hearts and intentions etc] and so it just weakens the witness completely. Add to that how a lot of the merchandise contributes to the “us” and “them” theology or life-ology as it just creates more boundaries [when we need more bridges] culturally between us and the people we are trying to share our message with. Grr.

  • Allan Narci

    The federal reserve note has a horn with eye of man on the back, read the book of Daniel for context.