Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What would you do? Would you wear this?

I wanted to get your reaction to this. You need to read the story below first.
That will give you an idea why this is posted here. Once you've read it, feel free to comment.
The post is from Dan Kimball, Pastor at Vintage Faith Church, you can see the full post here.
You should read the follow up post here.

I am recently in an airport and I am sitting in the waiting area for boarding. From the corner of my eye I see a young fellow wearing a black t-shirt with letters on it that says "INTOLERANT" and I saw the name Jesus on there too. I walked up to take a closer look and the shirt had the verse John 14:6 about Jesus being the way, the truth and the life on it. I see it and I agree that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life - but I wasn't comfortable with the large INTOLERANT letters used as it kind of looked like it was putting that word in the verse itself. I sort of was indicating that Jesus would be shouting out "INTOLERANT" by the way it looked. (you can click on the shirt image for a larger look at it).

Then I saw the back of the shirt. It had the large all caps words "HOMOSEXUALITY IS SIN" "ISLAM IS A LIE" "ABORTION IS MURDER" and in smaller letters it said "some issues are just black and white". I was taken back when I first saw the back of the shirt and how large the words it used were. I sat down looking at the young guy wearing the shirt. He was probably around 25 years old. Athletic looking type. He eventually stood up to get in the line as they called everyone to get on board. The shirt was blatantly obvious and everyone was looking at it who was in the line behind him. I saw a little kid looking at it. Men, women, of different races looking at it. Jesus' name on the front, and these large statements on the back clearly designed for people to read and easily see it.

As we stood and slowly moved in the corridor getting into the plane, I was wondering if someone who was Islam was in the line reading it. Or someone gay. Or a woman who had an abortion.

I was wondering what messages this would say to people reading it about Christians to the two dozen or so people I saw looking at it in the line.

I wondered where the guy got the shirt (since then I did a search and found the organization who makes them). People in a neutral airport minding their own business now having this shirt in front of them having to read it. I understand the underlying motive in what he believed about what the shirt said. But even if he believes that, I wondered how effective the method in what he was doing by wearing the shirt was.

I wondered what Jesus (whose name was on the front of the shirt) thinks of this?

I wondered how we would feel if we saw a t-shirt in an aiport saying CHRISTIANITY IS A LIE. It is a free country. I kept going back and forth in my mind about wanting to say something and ask him something. I finally did go say something to him and had a brief conversation.

I am curious however, before I say what I asked him - what would you think about this shirt? What do you think Jesus would think of this? Approval? Disapproval? Is this effective in representing a voice of Jesus, as shown on the front of the shirt, to the people in the airport?

What would you have said to this person? Or not say anything at all?

I am not asking this for maybe what seems an obvious answer. But what are the serious reasons and even biblical principles for whatever we may think of this shirt? Not just an emotional reaction, but what would the argument be to wear or not wear this shirt as a follower of Jesus. And if you could ask or say something to the guy wearing it, what would that be?


Shieldsy said...

This guy stole my idea ... but has spoilt it a bit.

I wanted to have tshirts that just said
DIVISIVE (...I'm not sure that was the 3rd word I had but it was something like that).

I think Christians are called to be all those things. Wearing tshirts that say LOVE TOLERANCE PEACE ... who'll take notice of that!?

On the discussion about the other guys tshirt ... don't think I'd wear it. Not sure how much that is out of fear though and how much is because of the negative message it conveys. I don't think I'd have the guts to have a tshirt that said "Mohammed was a false prophet" even though there are times when I'd like too!

Only "Christian-wear" I've got is my very cool 4points tshirt (www.the4points.com).

I intend to go spray painting them on billboards around Bradford. Righteous vandalism ... now there's something for discussion!

Anonymous said...

I actually interpreted the shirt as being sarcastic, making fun of the stereotyped Christian. It's of course a valid point in some ways. But it seems that such a display, whether interpreted your way or mine, would only really incite anger and negativity, and thus is not the best way to get the message across. The intention does not seem that pure. Perhaps it might affect the thinking of someone in the way the wearer might have wanted at a specific point in their lives, but it seems more negative than posotive to me.
Hmm, but judging does not seem right...These are just the sort of thoughts that would go through my mind if I was to consider wearing it or something.
As for what Jesus would think of it, how am I to know? But in my interpretation (which I admit is somewhat unorthodox) Jesus would sort of...understand, be compassionate, know that that wasn't the highest way to act, but accept that because everything is how it is, perfect in its manifestation.
As a follower of Jesus, it would seem that one would not wear such a shirt simply because he teaches to not harm others, but to love unconditionally.
And if I were to talk to the guy wearing it...I would perhaps just have a spiritual discussion regarding his perception of god and religion and spirituality.
Take care :)

ML said...

from my own point of view, I feel that this organisation move as one cell, promoting their like minded views of a political nature and endorsing it with the name of Jesus to give it clout. They have used HIS name as a brand name like Gap or Calvin Klein on the t-shirt, it is an abuse. I just find some people/organisations/churches use the Lord as a platform to shout out their prejudices and finger pointing and do not recognise that the the Lord judges all of us. Who are they to say I have no sin (not even a white lie or three)and go out wearing a t-shirt condemning others of murder etc, smells of log and eyes to me and half a gospel message. Where is the grace in condemnation!!!
I hate "christian wear", not only is it totally uncool but it automatically puts a wedge between you and a non believer, Jesus did not go around with a tabard saying "I am the messiah and this is my agenda", people knew who he was by his words and prescence.

Adios for now ;)

dinsy said...

Right on, ml.

I personally would not wear a shirt like this: primarily because I don't agree with anything it says (Except John 14:6 of course); also I don't believe in forcing my opinions on other people.

I've no idea what Jesus would say/do/think about it - I think that's one of the most stupid slogans "the church" has come up with recently.

If I were to talk to the guy I would want to ask him how he was fulfilling Jesus' command to love his gay, Muslim or abortion-having neighbour!

I would also like to know what plank is in his own eye!

Sorry shieldsy, you and I are definately back to normal, I don't think christians are called to be intolerant - or if we are, it is only to be intolerant of the "pharisees" of our day. When it comes to the "sinners" I think we are required to not condemn them (with a possible exception for those without any sin themselves).

Just out of interest, why do you want to wear a t-shirt proclaiming Mohammed as a false prophet? How is this going to help you? any one else? helping people know that Jesus came to earth to restore a right relationship with God to humanity?

If I were to get a christian t-shirt, it would probably read "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" on one side, and "before removing your brother's speck, please deal with your own plank" on the other.

Dave said...

Good discussion, and I think if I had a shirt it would say on the front "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone", and on the back "ouch, who threw that"

Shieldsy said...

In an ideal world our “words & presence” would be sufficient for the world to take notice of us as we go about our daily lives. The reality is that we're actually just another anonymous face among the thousands that people see and encouter each day.

As part of the Christian organisation I work for, we have to wear a distinctive Tshirt. It's amazing the effect it has on you when you realise that you instantly stand out from those around you. You become a very visible embodiement of the organisation. Which in turn causes you to become self-concious about your witness (again, I know in theory we should be all the time). And it's amazing how quickly it gets your organisation known and recognised in the community.

I live in a predominantly muslim community ... I'm reminded of the fact everywhere I go by the clothes I see people wearing. I also had the opportunity to chat with some Franciscan monks the other day ... they certainly stand out from the crowd and generate all sorts of interest and get a lot of conversations simply because of the "statement" of their appearance.

The tshirt that generated this topic might create all sorts of negative reactions, but at least it's getting a reaction, demanding a response. What reaction do the vast majority of Christians get? What response does their presence demand? We still seem to have a bit of a rose-tinted, "meek & mild" view of Jesus sometimes. Fact is that He created an awful lot of offence, heartache, upset and “negative” response ... and not just amongst the religious hierarchy. But He always got a reaction.

I happen to agree with everything written on the tshirt in question (...well, "homosexual acts" rather than just "homosexuality" but then you could only fit that on an XXXL!) . I guess it'll get a lot of unfavourable reaction and I doubt it will lead directly to people getting saved, but I bet it'll demand a response from everyone . And too be honest I suspect there's actually a good proportion of non-Christians who'd share those opinions ... they're just not the people who make up the polite, educated, middle-classes who set the social & political agendas.

Think the man inside the tshirt will ultimately be the one who turns people on or off to Christ more than the tshirt itself ... though some already seem to have judged him by the clothes he wears. And despite the pros and cons of it all, I say hats off to the guy for having the guts to proclaim an unpopular and uncomfortable message in such a personally identifiable way. I'd much rather get irate about those who publicly proclaim "Go FCUK yourself" or the shops that sell tshirts for 10 year old girls that say "I'm not just a bitch, I'm THE bitch".

Shieldsy said...

I've just talked about this with my wife and no longer agree with everything I've just said, only most of it ;OP

Pete Lev said...

Thanks for the link to Dan's story. I have to admit I side very much with Dan: the T-shirt is an outrage and I really don't think it is very "Jesus-ish" (noramlly called Christ-like!Yes Jesus confronted and his message was hard- but not like that!

dinsy said...

Shieldsy says "I guess it'll get a lot of unfavourable reaction and I doubt it will lead directly to people getting saved, but I bet it'll demand a response from everyone ."

And what if the response it gets is to turn people away from christianity for ever because of the intolerance and hate that christians like this t-shirt wearer show to people they don't even know? Is that OK?

The amount of hate that gets preached, and lived, in the name of the God who is love, and the violence that gets preached, and lived, in the name of the Prince of Peace never ceases to sadden, and sicken, me.

Shieldsy said...

Unwise? ... possibly. Uncompassionate? ... maybe. Insensitive? ... probably, but "Hateful"? Why is it now thought that any strong opinion is "Hateful"? I happen to believe that abortion is murder. I happen to believe that Islam is a false religion. I happen to believe that homosexual practice is sinful. Does that mean I am hateful?

dinsy said...

Shieldsy, I never said holding opinions, strong or otherwise, was hateful in itself. I haven't given much thought to the matter.

Though I do think that if you find some woman has had an abortion, and that causes you to automatically think of her as a murderer without knowing anything else about her, it probably won't be doing your soul a lot of good. And you're not likely to be able to share Jesus with this hypothetical woman very effectively.

I think that wearing a t-shirt with wording calculated to attack people reading it is hateful.

I think that such strong, negative opnions often give rise to hateful actions such as bombing abortion clinics, gay bashing, etc.

I think that, for instance, spray painting anti-Muslim grafitti in an area where Muslims have no choice but to read it would be an act of hatred, and illegal on more than one count. However, I do not believe that one act of hatred automatically makes a person hateful. It depends on what they do after they have committed the hateful act.

How can I say whether you are hateful? I don't even know you, or your deeds! By their fruits you shall know them.

You haven't answered any of my questions about how any of this is going to help, or whether it is OK to turn people away from Christ through such behaviour.

Shieldsy said...

Is it OK to turn people away from Christ by making provocative statements? I'd say yes if the alternative is to do nothing/say nothing for fear that we might.

Jesus said things that made people walk away from Him pretty regularly (...not just the pharisees). He wasn't afraid to publicly recite the very intolerant "thou shall nots" for fear of hurting the feelings of those who might be in ear shot. He did all sorts of things that would offend and upset ... turned up at funerals and asked why people were crying; asked one woman why He should give her something because that would be like giving to the dogs; told a Jewish audience to drink His blood; etc etc

I actually think that sometimes confronting sin has a strange attraction about it (Herod liked to hear John the Baptist preach even though he condemned his immorality). Sometimes people are actually glad to identify what it is that they have these awkward feelings of guilt about but everyone else just tells them to ignore or brush aside. Sometimes people admire those who are willing to just "tell it to them straight" ... no matter how uncomfortable it is or how much they dislike it at first.

The awesomeness of Gods love or of Christ's sacrifice are completely lost without first comprehending the law and His holiness. "God loves you just as you are" is just sentimental mush on a par with the Dali Lama loves you ... unless you comprehend that God loves you despite the fact that you are a murderer, an adulterer, a blasphemer, an idolator etc

The effeminate, "Beatles Gospel" ("All we need is love") is IMHO the main reason the church has hardly any men in it. Most of us arent interested in the mushy stuff. Give us sacrifice, obedience, purpose, mission, etc anyday :o)

Ultimately I think the tshirt in question might be a better if it said "But He loves & forgives you anyway" ... but maybe its our job to get those tshirts printed and walk along side him! Or if you want to proclaim the whole gospel on one tshirt, get a 4points tshirt and wait til someone asks you what they mean!!

In the meantime, while we debate his tshirt on a website, that guys probably having some pretty challenging conversations with people ... or at least generating them for the likes of you and me to follow up on. I don't particularly like street preaching and question its effectiveness but I admire them for doing something I wouldnt have the guts to do.

As for why I sometimes want to wear an anti-mohammed tshirt ... just coz I can be a cantankerous, opinionated git with militant tendacies and because I hate to see all the deference that's paid to a false prophet whilst the name of Jesus is treated with contempt.

Phew! Hope that answers your questions Dinsy. It's good to chat :o)

dinsy said...

Jesus offending people by what he said.

Some good points Shieldsy, but a major difference between Jesus' way of doing it, and this guy's is that Jesus was talking to the people, face to face, and not wandering round with "Samaritan children are dogs" (or similar slogan) embroidered on his robe!

I agree that there are people who are genuinely offended by what the gospel actually is, (eg. the workers in the vineyard who all got paid the same amount, the prodigal son's elder brother)
in my experience this is usually the sin of pride (I deserve more, or better treatment than them cos although I'm bad, I'm not actually as bad as them) but once we are truly offered the choice, we all have to accept Jesus, or reject Him, and on His terms, not our own.

There are far more who are put off by the intolerant arrogance of so-called christians, than by what Jesus actually said. I know, and know of, a lot of people who say things like "Jesus is great, it's a shame about His followers", I said it myself for years, I have never heard anyone who says "I can't stand Jesus but He's got some great guys in His church".

I agree about the sentimental stuff not being the gospel, you have to include the narrow gate, the steep path, the cross. And you should make sure people understand the cost of following Christ before they make a committment. But if your gospel message is not based on grace, and love for the people you are sharing it with, you may as well not bother.

On the subject of cantankerous, opinionated gits, I can love them too, as long as they know that's what they are, when they are being that :-)

It's a funny thing about Mohammed and Islam, don't you think it's growing popularity in traditional christian countries is more of a judgement on "the church" (body of Christ, no denominations meant), and on christians who say one thing and live something else, and fail to agree with each other over trivialities, and so on and so on.

If the church had been living its calling down the centuries and now, there would be no need for another monotheistic religion than the two the world already had. People who are truly satisfied by what they have, rarely leave it long term for something else.

I think we should see Islam as a call to repentance before God, rather than a rallying cry to crusade.


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