by Tracy Moore
What with these damn-it-all-to-hell economic times we've been living in, when I saw a little news write-up on a new line of clothing around for people who want to get their Christ on, I was all, "Thank God!"
Made by local label Kingdom Swag, the T-shirts they produce proudly advertise "Church Girl Fresh" and "Church Boy Fresh"--gray for guys and popping, vibrant green for ladies. According to a write-up on the Examiner, "Kingdom Swag is not a t-shirt line (per se) but a lifestyle website dedicated to making the Christian urban music scene a reality in Nashville."
How can we help? By wearing the T-shirt? On the company's website, the 'About' section claims, "KingdomSwag.com is an online, urban gospel magazine and clothing\product catalog designed to cultivate a daily life style of Jesus Christ centered, kingdom living in youth and young adults through promoting and providing gospel Music, videos, clothing, and more!" They use the story from the book of Daniel to elucidate their position:
The following passage in Daniel describes our commitment to this lifestyle:
Daniel 1:8 "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portions of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank, therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 15). And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies."
Like Daniel, we choose [to] pursue the things of God, rather than what's popular because God's way of doing things is the best way of doing things.
Yeah, nothing says "I don't care about what's popular" like staging your urban Christian clothing line on railroad tracks against an inner-city graffiti backdrop.
Look, I don't have the theologian's background to argue exactly how Christianity should coexist with the modern world, but I can tell you what it shouldn't do: ape secular-world aesthetics and values and disguise them as Christian. Only don't disguise them. Only kinda do. I know, it's basically the same old Rocketown argument. But I continue to be on the fence about the ways Christians try to reach out to teenagers, and I'm not targeting Kingdom Swag per se. They're just a useful jumping-off place for this argument.
Rocketown works to me because it brings the secular into the Godly arena and confronts it head-on. It discusses it. It allows it to coexist. It finds ways to help teens address it or experience it, all the while keeping their heads on straight about it. You can show up with your Skinny Puppy T-shirt on and your ridiculous inverted cross and still be treated decently. And even for all its successes as a decent place where kids can hang out and listen to Misfits, it still has a cheesiness/uncool factor that's unavoidable at times.
But when Christian music/lifestyle efforts have all the seeming edginess and pose of rock, or a T-shirt line has all the tropes of urban fashion, and then says, 'Oh hey, we don't care what's cool--we follow God,' that's when I begin to get confused. It looks like a Misfits shirt, but really up close it says, "Jesus was a misfit" or something.
Can't J.C. just be righteous or whatever? Does he have to be cool? Maybe the fact that teens don't instantly flock to J.C. means they should wait till they're older to even start thinking about their religious beliefs. You know, after their brains have formed. Also, shapeshifting to attract a new flock of followers sounds eerily like that one dude you're not supposed to be like in the Bible. Holla?