Thursday, February 25, 2010

T-Shirt Theology

I saw someone wearing a T-shirt at the Y on Monday, and I’ve been puzzling over it ever since.

On the front was the word, “Missing,” and there was a picture that I assume was supposed to represent Jesus. On the back it said, “Last seen on Calvary.”

Um. I have a problem with that. On several levels, I have a problem with that. When I first saw the front of the shirt, my immediate thought was, “No, He’s not missing. I know where He is.” And when I saw the back of the shirt I thought, “Well, that was certainly not the last place He was seen.” Hello? Resurrection! At least 500 people saw Him after the Resurrection and He was seen by His disciples ascending into Heaven. So, to say that He was last seen on Calvary is just wrong. Then you get to the whole graven image thing and start the discussion about how I have a problem with pictures of Jesus and artistic license and representations of Him and all that, and, well, interesting T-shirt, to say the least.

I began puzzling out what the intended point of the shirt was. Benefit of the doubt solution: I think probably it was some kind of statement about how we are taking Jesus out of the culture (think taking prayer out of the schools, Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, that kind of thing), and I get the point, but it is carelessly made. I guess it could also be trying to say He isn’t in the tomb any longer - He is risen, but, if so, it is an extremely clumsy and inaccurate way to do so. I’m just not sure what the point was supposed to be so it is confusing and irritating.

I know it’s just a t-shirt. I’m sure someone is probably reading this and thinking, “Lighten up!” But it seems to me that in an effort to be pithy or whatever, that we get too cute sometimes. Bad theology leads to wrong belief and wrong behavior. Our theology informs our actions. (Which reminds me, I have more on a related subject later as time permits.) If we want to be a light, we need to be clear, not confusing. I have no idea what that t-shirt was supposed to mean. I’m wishing I were better at thinking on my feet and had asked that woman what her shirt meant. You wear a provocative shirt like that, seems to me you’re begging to be asked. I have thought since that I’d really like to say, “Could you explain the meaning of your shirt, because I know how to find Jesus if you’re really looking.” But I didn’t think that quickly. More’s the pity.

Bad theology is irritating. Not only that, it’s dangerous. Even on a t-shirt.

***Totally Unsolicited and Shameless Plug: Carla has some better t-shirts to offer if you're interested. :-)


Elle said...

I completely agree with you. I would also equate bad t-shirt theology to some of the church sign theology I see while driving around town--dangerous because it causes confusion & has just enough error in it to pollute clarity of truth. Perhaps though, your benefit of the doubt theory is correct. Altho' as you said, it was clumsily correct. Christians have greater reason to be excellent than clumsy. Good post, Rebekah. Thanks for your points.

Leslie said...

Maybe the point the shirt is trying to make is that Jesus died and there is no resurrection.

Rebekah said...

I thought about that, too, Leslie. It was too depressing to me to think someone would feel the need to wear a t-shirt around with that purpose.

I agree, Elle. I see lots of church signs that just make me cringe and some have even made me cry. Bumper stickers, too.

The longer I walk in the faith, the more convinced I am that our job is not to be cute about the things of the Lord. Our job is to clearly articulate the faith, not muddy understanding.

Carla said...

I very much appreciate the unsolicted plug. :-)

I have large problems with cheezy, cliche' and wretched theology on Christian t-shirts, which is part of what motivated me to begin creating GOOD ones in the first place.

I realize the whole Christian t-shirt thing is not for everyone, but A LOT of Christians like them, and if we're going to wear them (and I do, as well as my hubby) then it should be our goal to wear ones that are biblically solid and present a good message.

Now, with that said, the one you saw essentially did what Christian t-shirts are supposed to do - make you think. Unfortunately that one was rather inaccurate but it proves one thing:

We do read them, and I guarantee, the unsaved do too.

Just a few thoughts.