Bags of Bran


Your Constituency
February 20, 2015, 8:45 pm
Filed under: Destined to get me in trouble

I sometimes wonder what it’s like to have a blog that has to answer to financial pressures and deadlines and stuff. I guess I’ve been a sponsored athlete before, so I know enough not to wear the other guy’s stuff when I’m racing for The Man. But blogs? Blogging for The Man? Blogs are supposed to be different. Blogs were originally developed in response to media that answered to financial pressures, or so the story goes. Everything is for sale, however, and selling your influence is one way of paying the bills.

It’s true that in some ways, we all come at information or ideas from our own angle, and the coloring we provide makes it especially palatable to others who see things the same way. That’s fine, as long as we’re willing to agree that it’s happening. It only becomes a problem when those who answer specifically to market pressures pretend that they don’t.

For Christians who claim to be subject to the Bible, that can be especially problematic. You can’t index the Bible to the free market: it simply does not work that way. The Bible makes timeless, non-negotiable, unilateral demands of humanity, and those demands defy fad and fashion. “Love not the world” means “love not the world” whether your present constituency loves the world or not, and if your constituency happens to love the world, saying “love not the world” unambiguously is a good way to end up alienating them. Goodbye, influence; goodbye, market share.

What happens, then, if you’ve been discovered as a blogger? You’re a guy who is being listened to, whose opinions seem to matter? What if companies, desiring to attach themselves to your good name, start sponsoring your blog? Do they have any influence on what you say, or don’t say? Do you recognize that, by taking that check, it implies that you endorse without reservation whatever that company sells?

What if, say, Christian clothing companies start paying your bills for you? You just might end up having to reproduce things like this on your website:

Zoe Clothing Company is a Christian design company based out of Los Angeles, passionate about merging the truth of God’s Word and the beauty of thoughtful design into clothes that matter. Our desire is to be a vessel by which men and women can express with their style what they hide in their hearts, and our hope is for the light of Christ to shine brightly in the world as our customers seek to be lamps in darkness, cities set on hills.

Clothes that matter? As in, Philippians One Ten? Or Plato’s forms? Clothes that embody the diaphora?

My questions, having visited their website: if you’re trying to communicate, why use such indie-band sounding phrases, and not clear propositions? Why make the fonts so scroungy? If your intention is to stand out, why does your clothing look exactly like what everyone else already wears? If you’re trying to get attention with your clothes, why not wear lemon yellow sandwich boards printed in Helvetica font, front and rear, “THIS IS ME SHINING MY LIGHT OVER HERE IN THE DARKNESS! FOR JESUS, I SHOULD HAVE MENTIONED!” ?

I can only guess how much sheer relativity lurks in “the beauty of thoughtful design.” I see evidence of neither. A more honest rendition of their marketing philosophy might be “hipsters are not into sandwich boards; they prefer ‘slouchy tees’ and stuff.”

But back to the point: does Tim Challies really think that Christian t-shirts are taken seriously by anyone besides mainstream, middle-class, unoffensive, tepid evangelicals? He’s a pastor/blogger/big name guy; but does he have any access to people outside the evangelical bubble, where he could bounce-test this theory? Has he forgotten that Christian t-shirts have been around for decades?

Perhaps Challies et al. are right and I’m wrong. Perhaps this really is a wise and discerning way for them to get their message out there in the marketplace of ideas. Perhaps the whole ἰχθῦς-couture phenomenon is at least partly an admission that, apart from a few scribbly, esoteric, insider-language phrases scrawled upon an article of ephemeral clothing, there really is no way to tell.

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