On the irony of religious consumer goods & etc.

Preface: This actually belongs on the more personal blog that I’ve yet to start because I’ve been busy getting ready to launch an entrepreneurial/tech program for South Side youth with a certain Hipster Hacker Scientist Scholar. It is, nonetheless, a rant that I’m sure echoes across The Internet, so it’s going here until I get around to setting up that website.

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I was at a public institution of higher education the other day when the following conversation transpired with an employee in the HR department:

Her: “I see you’re also part of the club, so let me ask you something.”

Me: *blank stare*

Her: “Your crucifix. You’re also a Christian.”

Me: “Oh, I was rais—”

Her: “What do you think about people wearing the cross sideways and upside down?”

Me: “What, like, for fashion?”

Her: “Yeah.”

Me, treading lightly: “Oh, I mean, I love fashion and art, so… as long as they’re not trying to be offensive, I see no reason for Christians to take offense. It’s a fairly straightforward shape, so it was bound to be used in other contexts [see, for example] and we appropriate things from other cultures and religions all the time without meaning to offend anyone. Like those checkered scarves everyone was wearing for awhile that are actually political symbols of Palestinian solidarity.”

Her: “And they represent the Illuminati, too.”

Me: “…”

Her: “It offends me. I guess I’m more traditional. That shape symbolizes my religion.”

Me: “Wasn’t Paul crucified upside down?”

Her: “Well Jesus wasn’t.”

This is the sort of legalism and missing-the-point-ness that drove me away from religion in the first place. I wear the cross around my neck along with one of my late grandfather’s Scottish Rite rings which is inscribed with “Virtus Junxit Mors Non Separabit” and makes me feel like death cannot, in fact, separate us completely. Both trinkets are from people who are special to me and they’re both pretty and visually interesting (if coated in aerosolized sunscreen at present). In spite of its sentimental value, however, I often debate removing the cross. I always get really uncomfortable when I have to explain that I don’t wear the cross as some sort of unsubtle Ichthys fish. The kinds of values I took away from Christianity are taught in precious few churches in the United States and I’m frankly ashamed to be associated in any way with the remainder.

Jesus wasn’t crucified on a cross of gold and that your mass-manufactured, shiny $100 cross from J.C. Penney or whatever is somehow more representative of your god’s sacrifice than the ones being worn by fashionites is just sad. If your deity is going to be more embarrassed/angered at the completely meaningless appropriation of a symbolic shape than he is that you place so much value in yours without questioning whether the money spent on it was supporting good stewardship of the earth or good labor practices or anything else a just god should stand for, then I’m glad I don’t know him.

Attending a Christian school growing up, I always felt massively uncomfortable with Christian bookstores and such. Others were always so happy to support “Christian businesses” like Chick-fil-A without questioning that anything about the business was actually “Christian.” Tell me again why I should pay $5 for this cheap WWJD Made-in-China bracelet probably made using child labor? Who gave Chick-fil-A the moral authority to judge…anyone? Why do I have to pay for Bibles at all? Shouldn’t the “Good News” be free to anyone who wants to access it?  Christian recording labels obviously don’t have the same evil corporate practices that secular labels do. Oh, wait, what?

I’d bet my left arm (admittedly the less favored one) that HR Lady brings a Christmas tree into her home near the winter solstice and sings along to Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas—that is, you know, “if the Fates allow”—and does 100 other things that Christians have appropriated, perverted, and/or been tricked into by corporate greed. It makes me sad that so many people have bought into this conveniently packaged version of corporate Christianity because it has turned them into the popular base for, in my opinion, a lot of horrifically unjust things that I very much hope the Christian god, if he exists, does not support. I especially resent being told that people are worried for my eternal soul because I don’t worship Jesus Ford Christ. To know that god by the actions of his followers has convinced me that I’d be better off in hell. Which is probably just a corporate law firm anyway.

I don’t wear my gold cross because I believe in a god who is at all like HR Lady’s. (In fact, I consider myself agnostic; even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could find a modern religion or god that’d fit the bill.) I wear it because it was a gift and because it is beautiful. But I also wear it to remind me of the problems I have with the Christian/Protestant/Evangelical “Church” (in a monolithic sense) in the U.S. and of my resolve to actually act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly, whether I ever decide to try it alongside a deity again or not.

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One thought on “On the irony of religious consumer goods & etc.

  1. YES to all of what you said here. Growing up and becoming more aware of other religions in the world helped me realize what religion (as a whole) actually is, which turned out to be in complete opposition of the religious values what we learned as young kids.

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