When you play in a Christian band you have the distinct privilege of experiencing one of the finest slices of what Christian culture has to offer: Christian music festivals. The season of festivals is almost upon us, thus I have been reflecting upon it today.
Most of these events are distinctly defined by the following: Desperately hot and humid summer days baking in the sun watching your favorite artists, bumping into sweaty junior high kids who haven’t showered in three days that smell like an onion patch, and waking up at 6:30am because your tent has already heated up to 95 degrees by that time of day. Beyond all of these great elements for the attendees, one of the highlights of the summer festival scene for me as sideman in Matthew West's band is the sampling of amazing Christian T-shirts. You have your classic one’s like, God’s Gym (Gold’s Gym), A Bread Crumb and Fish (Abercrombie and Fitch), and the list goes painfully on and on.
I was at the Nashville zoo yesterday with my family when I was visually assaulted with what I deem to the “best” of all the Christian T-shirts I have ever seen. It is the one that reads, “I am the Christian the Devil warned you about!” I think my good buddy, Eric James Hansen summed it up best concerning this type of apparel when he said the following, “The only thing those T-shirts accomplish is non-verbally saying to an unbelieving world, ‘I’m a Christian and YOUR NOT.’”
Now I’m sure that the man at the zoo wearing this shirt has a profound affection for Jesus, he probably serves wholeheartedly at his church and sacrificially loves his family as any man of God should, but I have to rhetorically ask, if the Great Commission should be one of the main filters though which we look at the world, how does that T-shirt effectively make it through? Does a dying, and unbelieving world look at that slogan and say to themselves, “Wow, that whole Jesus thing seems like something I really want to get on board with!”
I would suggest that it does the exact opposite. It goes well with a church marquee recently that I saw not far from my house that read, “How do you like your eternity, smoking or non-smoking?” That's not exactly the winsome approach that I feel the humility of the cross calls us to. The gospel embodies enough offensiveness in itself, it doesn’t need our help in that area.
I’m not trying to be overly harsh or unfairly critical. I know that the spirit of the person who wears this type of shirt usually is one that embodies a genuine passion for the victory found in Christ, but I deeply desire us as believers to examine what we are communicating to those around us who don’t share our worldview.
Probably the worst t-shirt that I have ever seen was the one that read, “Do the Jew”, modeled after the Mountain Dew slogan, “Do the Dew”. This shirt is so over-the-top offensive that it goes beyond the scope of this article to try and articulate. No lie, this shirt exists.
My bandmate and bass player, James Gregory recalled seeing someone once wearing a T-shirt that said, “They will know we are Christian’s by our T-shirts”. Unfortunately at times I think this shirt might be right.