Christian ministries used to depend upon tried-and-true direct marketing techniques to win your spiritual allegiance, your continued viewership, and your money. With every call, you might recieve a free book, christmas ornaments, or discounts at religious theme parks. We've all moved way beyond 700 Club bumper stickers and Jesus Fish. Creation East, held late last month, offered an opportunity for Christians from across the spectrum to meet, debate, and buy an unprecedented number of themed t-shirts, tchotchkes and albums.
The parellel trade show, the NYT observed, reflected a growing trend towards expressing one's Christianity in a non-traditional way, whether through rock music, independent ministries or witty t-shirts.
"I was never comfortable with the shirts in Christian bookstores," said Jeremy Limpic, 28, who is selling his own line of punk-themed T-shirts and hats at about 10 Christian festivals this summer ... he [is] sometimes uneasy about the intermingling of faith and commerce at the festivals. "You come in these places and it's a major Christian marketing scene," he said. "There's a quick buck to be made for Christ. But the way I see it, I'm going to make money in a secular way or expressing my faith."
Still, there is an uneasy relationship between religious activities and outright commercial activity.
As evening settled over the bands, three teenagers sat around a campfire, taking a break. A speaker earlier in the day had called for donations to missions in the developing world. At the end of a long day, the boys had come to regret their purchases.
"I spent all my money on five CD's," said Scott Hanson, 13, in a tone of self-reproach. "If I'd waited, I'd be able to spend that money on someone other than myself."
His friend Luke Beckmeyer came away with a similar lesson. He had been reluctant to come because he didn't like music, he said. But the band Pillar had converted him. "I came here hoping to get a new video card for my computer, but after doing small groups and hearing the music, I realize it's not all about me," he said. "The speakers really get to you. Too bad I spent all my money on a Pillar T-shirt and CD's."
Heh. I'd have to say the marketing overwhelmed the message in this instance.