Walmart always brings out the catatonic in me. I feel glassy-eyed and once removed from the staggering array of choices, poorly lit and crowded on their shelves. So it was last evening, as I found myself facing off with a plethora of skeletons in the apparent skeleton aisle. Skeletons in cages, skeletons wearing capes, skeletons with red eyes, skeletons draped in cobwebs—some white, some gray so as to look old and dirty, some large, some small—and all of them available for pennies on the craft store dollar. It’s no wonder I couldn’t decide. (Too many.) It’s no wonder I just turned around and moved away. (Feeling dizzy.)
As I did so, my eye caught the look of groovy day-glo lettering across the aisle and without thinking my feet walked toward this bubbly pink word on a square greeting card. “Jesus,” it said. And when I opened it up, music I couldn’t understand started playing as I read the message: “To one Jesus freak from another.”
When did Jesus become trendy? I know about the wristbands you can buy in bulk from Oriental Trading Company, that ask in alphabetism: “WWJD?” I’ve seen the shirts: “Jesus is my homeboy.” And even at my local gym there is an Escalade rolling on enormous rims with a sign emblazoned on it’s tinted back window in Olde English: “Jesus Saves.”
And I agree, He really does. But I have to wonder over all of this! Is it a good thing that Jesus is so hip? Or should the very name of our Savior be too sacred to toss around in rapper culture, Hallmark culture and bulk party favor culture?
Sometimes I think anything associated with religion should by default assume traits of the more austere. Sometimes I feel drawn to the Catholic de rigueur of gilded things and heavy incense— an intoxicating cocktail of religion, the physical mixed with the metaphysical. And at these times I practice yoga while birthing babies and listening to the velar chants of my homeboys: those good ol’ Tibetan monks.
But then I see the quiet plainness of the corner stake building without a cross or statue in site and covered in orange bricks, and can’t help but feel drawn to the simplicity of a place to worship unadorned. But then again, that is my culture.
And I appreciate that in my culture, Jesus is set apart and revered. And that out of piety and respect, we fear God, we love God, and we keep holy the things that are holy. We worship a Lord that was humble and unassuming—as a people it makes sense to follow that lifestyle and adore in similar respect. I believe that the Divine are set apart for a reason, and that to allow something special to become mainstream makes it subsequently not so special.
Should I be as comfortable seeing Christ’s visage on a shirt as I am seeing Hello Kitty’s outline on a shirt? Or Bon Jovi’s venue line-up for North America?
And really: what would Jesus do? Probably not wear a shirt with graphics.
But can we make judgments on what is appropriate simply because we wouldn’t do it ourselves? I’m certain most of this pop-culture Jesus hoopla is in jest. And yet every time I am on the treadmill near the gym windows overlooking the parking lot, I secretly hope that I will happen to see who gets into the “Jesus Saves” Escalade. Is it a brother from a neighbor Christian church? Or is it a sister from Relief Society? Couldn’t it very well be either? Because we both know it to be true.
Until then, until I see the driver of the Jesus SUV, I content myself with seeing the other things. The dalliance of God in daily life is found in the beauty of these changing leaves around me, and I see my Savior in the good works of my neighbors who offer to babysit, who diligently visit teach. This is a form of spirituality I can handle in the mainstream.
I don’t need a t-shirt or a car to shout out what my heart already knows. But does the world?