Who Will Call Out The Christian Merchandise Industry, Or I Still Probably Won’t Quit

Opps. I originally started this a few months ago and subtitled it “Or An Early Christmas Post.” Now it would just be a late Christmas post, and that’s lame.

Yesterday I mentioned in passing how the Newsboys were making quite the profit from being a Christian band, as stated by former lead singer John James. This just seems weird to me. (To give an example of the kind of money they were pulling in – John cites a time they drove by a store selling four wheelers – so the band bought one for every person on the tour – musician and roadie).

The Christian book and music industry feels just like its name – an industry. And ultimately an industry is out to make money, and it does what it takes to maximize profits – which can be through exploiting trends, marketing techniques and preying on emotions. I don’t want to spend lots of time giving examples – I trust you all have rolled your eyes in a Christian book store at least once when finding the athlete’s Bible and Christian dieting book, or questioned why every single Christian artist has released a Christmas album and a worship album.

I’m really uncomfortably with people making lots of money off of Christianity. It just doesn’t feel right. It seems like things get real muddy real fast.

Of course I’m not opposed to Christian books and music – but it seems like it has long been out of control.

One thing I don’t like is that the writer/artist/company can imply their products will bring you spiritual benefits. How many books promise to change your prayer life or transform your marriage, or deepen whatever it is that is shallow?  So you can nearly effortlessly justify purchasing whatever it is they’re selling by simply saying “its really for my soul” (and not the part of you that just really likes having stuff).

Instead of simply condemning this industry, allow me to point out that I benefit from it. As I noted very early on in my blog I read a lot of Christian books. Therefore, I not only support this industry but I appreciate it. I’ll admit it’s awful convenient to buy a mass-published Shane Claiborne book, rather than paying for an expensive self-published book that hasn’t been professionally edited and has grainy cover art. Zondervan has linked me to a lot of good books. So I can rant and rave about this disgusting industry, but ultimately it benefits me from time to time, and I’m very unlikely to discontinue use out of protest.

(Which worries me a little bit, I don’t think Christians should resort to violence when peace is inconvenient, nor do I condone knowingly buying child labor-made clothes).

So this post doesn’t have a big message or a grand point, I tried to shy away from too much judgment. I just wanted to initially identify what I see as a huge sore in Christendom – people making money from Jesus’ name, and then hear from you all.

What’s your opinion of these industries? Have you ever thought about them? Do they disturb you too? (Am I being too judgmental?)

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6 Responses to Who Will Call Out The Christian Merchandise Industry, Or I Still Probably Won’t Quit

  1. JamesBrett says:

    my initial thoughts are that these christian “industries” lack quality. and that christians are constantly being asked to settle for less when it comes to music and art of all kinds.

    however, i also turn my nose up at churches spending thousands of dollars on “better worship experiences” through speakers, equipment, bands, etc.

    so i’m obviously fickle in my judgments.

    • oh man solid point. When I traveled a lot I would judge a church based on the quality of its music, but now I’m starting to question the need for professional-grade stuff sitting on stage, though I still don’t want poor quality music.

  2. Su says:

    I first thought that Christian merchandising had gone too far when “Testamints” began appearing on the counters at Christian stores 10 years ago. Since then, things have gotten even crazier, I hear. But since I don’t generally buy a lot of Christian stuff, I don’t really know. In theory I have a problem with people making money off of Jesus, but in practise I plan to make a living by using the talent God has given me, so I can’t say that’s any different.

    I guess I would have a problem if it were exploitative, but that’s kind of hard to define it today’s marketing circus. I guess bottom line for me is that if people are willing to hand over their cash, the industry will continue, and it’s hard to say the consumer is being exploited when the consumer is a willing participant.

  3. David says:

    There is no point here – if nobody should make money off of Christianity, then pastors shouldn’t get paid. If you are isolating your comments to “Christian” genre books, music, and other media, then you are saying that Paul shouldn’t have written letters. The purpose of most of this stuff is to perpetuate the Gospel message (or mess, as it is in some cases.)

    Look, business is business. If there was no market for this stuff it would fail. We get caught up on the quality (but we keep buying sub-par stuff), or decide that certain stuff is stupid. And then we decide how much is “too much” money. However; Jesus told the parable of the talents: they were to be invested and a return (dirty profit) was to come. We get upset of excesses by government, church and Wall St. God is not against making money. His concern is if we (believers) get it by honest work, and whether we give into the Kingdom of God. And then when people do give, we decide whether they gave it to a worthy cause.

    The fact remains that less than 12% of all professing Christians tithe. That is a great place to start ranting, don’t you think?

    If you really want to go after something, go after multi-level marketing schemes and the like. Christians fall for this stuff over and over. They think by signing up (sort of like Jesus and the disciples), their downline will do all the work and drop bags of money on their front steps twice a day.

    So, if you think a Bible printed on whale skin, which is manufactured by terrorists that use infant labor, don’t buy them! And if others do, go preach the Gospel to them –

    BTW – My book, Apostolic Reform is FREE on http://www.FireAndGrace.com! And if it wasn’t, I would take the money and get a 50″ flat-screen to watch the Pats win the Superbowl on.

  4. I can honestly use the lol when I read gospel mess, well done David.

    You make some fair points to consider – of how I can tread into legalism with how much is too much, and that there is a market for the stuff being sold (I will point however that people buy what they like, and sometimes the gospel is hard truth to swallow – now the prosperity gospel or its veiled forms – who secretly doesn’t want that to be true just a little bit).

    Oh and well done on offering a book for free – that’s more in line with how I things should be. I’m not a fan of “sign up pay $50 for exclusive content” style stuff from Christians. Though I’m not a Mark Driscoll fan boy I appreciate that he doesn’t charge for what he puts out there for churches to use.

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