Calvary Hill
Includes a roll-a-way stone hill with tomb
Ages 4-9
Collect them all!

I’m not kidding. I saw it at a friends house. Let me get this straight: you’re supposed to encourage your child to play with a toy Jesus that starts off dead (burial rags not included) so that your child can repeatedly re-enact the resurrection. And people get on me for being a horror writer. What is supposed to be the climactic point in history, the pivotal moment around which our faith revolves, has been trivialized to a children’s toy.

All of this got me thinking about the Christian market.

This goes beyond marketing to a needed or under-valued market. I’m a big market guy. A few years ago, a big brouhaha broke out on several horror message boards regarding “black only” anthologies. If there is an under-served market, I’m all for getting your products there, broadening the marketplace. This isn’t the same issue. However, one of the things that these niche filling/marketed products do have in common is the stigma that they somehow weren’t good enough to make it in the mainstream. But that’s besides the point. My main concern is that far too many Christians create this bubble for themselves and are content to stay there, when our calling is exactly the opposite.

This starts off from trying to figure out what it means to be in the world but not of it. We don’t want to take on the values and priorities of the world, and somehow we’ve equated that to what we watch (television and movies) and listen to (music). Instead of being a part of the culture, a driving force within it, we’ve become afraid of it and retreated from it.

Then it slowly occurs to us that we still have to do the stuff of life. How can you go about doing it while remaining in your Christian bubble? Bring the stuff of life to you. We’ve created an entire sub-culture in our wake so that no one has to go outside the church for anything. Not for school (home-schooling). Not for Boy Scouts (Awana, anyone?). Not for karate lessons (I refer to them as the kung fu Christians). Not for Halloween (Hallelujah Night. Again, I’m not kidding. If you don’t think that this Christian sub-culture exists, go watch the satire Saved! then come back to this blog entry.) We have Christian money management seminars, Christian child-rearing techniques, Christian drug intervention, Christian counseling–all the things we can readily find “in the world”, but with Bible verses sprinkled throughout them so that they’re okay and you can avoid the taint of the world.

Except that it makes it hard to reach the world. The lost remain lost, or on the outside looking in.

Christian books is a multi-, multi-million dollar industry. Same with Christian music. Again, the unsaid implication seems to be that if you aren’t talented enough to make it in mainstream, go to the Christian market. Left Behind. The Passion of the Christ. Veggie Tales. Those Christian products that have crossed over into the mainstream. Regardless of what you think about the products themselves, they have made an impact, at least one beyond entertaining Christians and keeping their bubble intact.

I have already wrestled with the idea of what it means to be in the world but not of it in a different context. Some of my comments went along these lines: We need to be infiltrating–for lack of a better word–the world. Spiritual depth comes from the real stuff of life, the day in/day out being with each other and working things through. Rather than the importance of relationships and community, what we’re in danger of breeding is more of the same narcissistic and over-individualized spirituality revolving around “just me and the Bible” and “getting my butt into heaven.”

Our spiritual lives should be incarnational and missional, but we’re in danger of being defined by what we’re against rather than who we’re for.

Should there be Christian movies? Yes. Should there be Christian books? Absolutely. Should Christians hide within this ghetto of Christian entertainment in lieu of interacting (read: risk being “tainted” by) the world? By all means, no.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out why The Passion of the Christ didn’t do a toy tie-in with Chick-fil-A.

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