Christian knockoffs are hot these days - Guitar Praise, Bibleman action figures, American-Girl look alike Psalm 13 Dolls, I am God's Princess tiara and dressup shoes (yes, seriously).
Walk into a Christian bookstore and you'll feel like you just entered the movie Pleasantville. It's like you were living in color but, suddenly, you entered into the black and white 1950's goodness.
In any other store, you'll find lots of Made in China toys, improve-your-life books and useless gifts. But in a Christian book store, you'll find all of those things...but with Jesus stamped on them.
As matter of fact, most Christian bookstores don't offer all that many books. As there is more and more desire for "encouraging" gifts, there are more companies willing to provide them, even if they are concept ripoffs.
Christian-fied items are so hot that secular stores have started trying to get in on the action with Jesus Bandaids, Grow-a-Jesus and a Jesus bobble head. There's even a screen printed t-shirt resembling a junior classroom note that says, "Jesus totally loves you. Do you love Jesus? [Check the box:] Yes or No?"
So, now you have Christian bookstores selling Christian secular items and secular stores selling secular Christian items. Buy either one and all you get is: a loss of truth.
Yes, David was an amazing Godly man from the Bible - a man we can certainly learn alot about how to live our own lives for Christ. But does he really deserve his own plastic model for kids to use to reenact the David and Goliath situation again and again? And yes, Jesus does love you. But do you need an entire pink and purple heart pad to help you remember this?
The plethora of Jesus items and Christian knock-offs bother me on two levels - as a Christian and as a consumer. As a Christian, I am saddened by the commercialism of my faith and my God. As a consumer, I'm disappointed in the lack of using this opportunity to create really unique alternative items.
When we put the Lord in a trite phrase or make a Bible character into an action hero, we dumb down the power they have to change us and teach us about God. And taking a secular item and baptizing it only confuses our children as to why one thing is bad and another is good (aren't they really the same?).
Some people have criticized the companies for making these items, blaming companies for just wanting to make an extra buck. But my criticism is on us as Christians - especially us Christian women. Companies would not make it if we didn't want it.
There is a genuine desire among Christians, I think, for wholesome items which are also faithful to use in our homes and lives. I know I particularly long for this.
What if there was a place that offered items that weren't just Christian knockoffs but were thoughtful, faithful alternative items that would help me serve God better, love others more and turn my heart towards God?
For example, instead of offering a cheap plastic Guitar (the guitar probably made in China where working conditions are not good) that you hook up to your TV (a TV that offers little in the way of family time), how about offering locally made natural wood guitars along with song books that teach how to play music of all types (God's beauty is in all things).
Or, instead of offering same-oh plastic American Girl-knockoff dolls, offer handmade plush dolls made of the finest material that allows girls to imagine and play until their hearts' content. (God himself must be imagined - why not help children use their imagination?)
Why make the alternative: the same...but Christian?
Why not offer something radically different? (Isn't this most reflective of Christ?)
But before I look to others to offer it, I must look to myself to buy it. I have to be willing not to settle for the cheap items just because they are inexpensive and easy. I have to be willing to pay more and look for the items that might cause me more trouble.
While possibly more faithful, free trade, handmade and all-natural items are expensive. They take alot of time and resources to provide.
And learning how to play a real guitar, imagining with a limp handmade doll and reading the book version to my kids instead of throwing them in front of the movie version is more difficult. But they are better - for others, for my family and for my soul.
To offer something radically different, must mean I have to radically reconsider my buying habits and desires. It means choosing not to buy the secular items or the Christian knockoffs - but choosing to buy things that offer a peak into the beauty, mystery and love of God.
These are the things in which I find Christ (not the secular items simply stamped with his name).
Here are some other websites on the topic of Christian knockoffs: