For I am ashamed of the Gospel: Christianity’s Crass Commercialisation

New from Testamints

New from Testamints

When products like this appear I am embarrassed to be Christian retailer. I could, I suppose, walk by on the other side or look the other way and claim that as a specialist in academic theology this has nothing to do with me — but in truth it is that very theology that cries out against the crassness.

Let me put this very simply: it takes more than sticking a Bible verse on something to make it a Christian product; and tacking Bible verses onto packets of chewing gum does not make them ‘fit for purpose’ — except, perhaps, to be spat out in disgust, as Christ is depicted by St John of the Apocalypse, spitting out the luke-warm water of shallow commitment. But please don’t spit it out onto the pavement: the last thing I want is this stuff stuck to my sole to then be trampled into someone else’s carpet (that’s what’s known as a spit infinitive, by the way).

And stuff like this does stick: it sticks to our souls, tarnishes our spirits, contaminates and undermines this entire once-glorious enterprise for which Christ died. The man of sorrows weeps once more as the Good News, the message of a love stronger than death, of lives transformed, is reduced to Bible verses on packets of bubble gum.

What makes it worse is the source: STL. Send the Light. True, it’s STL USA, but is not STL now one single, global corporation combined with IBS, busily rebranding itself as Biblica?

What next, I wonder? Christian-branded toilet paper with a Bible verse on every sheet and the strapline, “Now you don’t need to wash your hands afterwards.”

Something deep in the heart of this particular Christian just died.

STL Distribution - Keeping you informed of the latest Christian titles & products!

New from Testamints

Testamints Sugar-free Gum is now available in a completely redesigned package in two best-selling flavors: peppermint and spearmint.

Testamints has been providing encouragement to Christians from all walks of life since 1998, and the sugar-free gum packs have been proven best-sellers at the checkout counter since their initial introduction.

Each package contains 12 pieces of delicious US-Made sugar-free chewing gum, and a carefully chosen Scripture verse is also printed on the back of every package. With a commitment to helping Christian’s [sic] share their faith with a product that people use every day, Testamints Sugar Free Gum is an easy way to introduce the gospel to a friend, relative or colleague.

What makes Testamints gum so unique? It’s the name that everyone instantly appreciates. And Testamints supports Christian ministries worldwide. As soon as someone mentions the name “Testamints” the connection is made with a quality product that bears a scripture verse to help “Pass The Word.”

Ensure you are always well stocked with Testamints Gum at your checkout counter. It’s the most recognized best-seller in the USA and Canada.

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “For I am ashamed of the Gospel: Christianity’s Crass Commercialisation

  1. Hi Phil,

    An interesting article, indeed. Money can appear to be more important than faith.

    I was surprised that CLC UK’s Director (Phil Burnham) informed retirees that they will no longer be supported by CLC (they have always worked without salary in return for accomodation and help with bills). The money saved will be used to attract new workers with salaries. However, I was surprised by some of the comments in his letter:

    ‘The increasing number of retirees will soon overburden the mission…’

    ‘It is necessary to free the mission to fulfil its vision through commercial
    activity.’

    ‘Retirees are a financial obligation.’

    ‘Ageing workers have less energy, initiative, imagination and pioneer spirit.’

    ‘The economic downturn may now have made this route unviable for us.’

    ‘The legality of our proposal and its ramifications were passed on to a QC’

    ‘There is no right or wrong here.’

    And this is a Christian charity!

    Ian

    • Thanks Ian – looks like an innovative approach to pastoral care of those who’ve given their lives to CLC’s mission!

      Would you care to copy me in on the full letter, please? Maybe a scanned copy?

  2. Hmm,
    The interesting factor in this -setting aside the potentially dubious idea of christian caritas being shown by retailing and distributing christian charities these days- is the fact that CLC are looking to start paying its workers to do the job to get a ‘better’ worker at the same time as IBS-STL are looking to reduce their paid workers in favour of voluntary staff!!
    and both are 100% Charity.
    One wonders what that says really – this should be interesting to watch as time passes – though for the real humans financially effected by these attitudes and actions it will not be so good, indeed more like that chinese proverb/curse:
    ‘May you live in interesting times!’.

  3. Pleased to note the following comment from Steve M on my previous post about this:

    just so you know, the UK cousins if IBS-STL ( who will be renamed Biblica…but not quite yet) do not, and have no intention of selling these….errr…products.

    With apologies to Steve for not retrieving it earlier: it was being chewed over by the spam filter…

  4. I tremble to enter into this discussion, but I have to admit that we have been selling a range of ‘Scripture Candy’ from Potters House……. !

    We were shown this by the rep some months ago, and, like everyone else, I was pretty horrified. However, I chatted to my ‘team’ and we jointly felt there was a market, and after seeking suitable assurances from Potters House that the various UK legal requirements had been met, we brought these in the store just about May time. This range seemed to me not quite as corny as the ‘Testamints’, but are still brashly advertise ‘Every piece of candy wrapped in Scripture’ (and it is, of course, the Authorised Version- perish the thought of our Scripture Candy being wrapped in anything as heretical as the New King James!).

    They are not cheap, but have sold well, and the customer comments are quite favourable about the quality etc. We do (to be honest) treat them as bit of a ‘joke’ item and have a good laugh with the customers about them. But they have been particularly popular for Sunday school teachers as ‘prizes’.

    We merchandise them near the counter, but not so near- nor so low- as to present yet another screaming issue for parents with kids……

    So please keep my secret safe- and if anyone else is interested in breaking ranks on this one, you can contact Neil at pottershousecards2@tiscali.co.uk 01709 377295!

  5. Thanks, Andrew, for alerting me to your honest assessment of the ‘Scripture Candy’ range!

    Although I do understand the “goodness me, whatever next?” kind of reaction from some, I do (obviously) believe there is a serious side to the product.

    I am going to resist the temptation to use this space to ‘sell’ the product to anyone (I’ll leave that to our excellent sales agents!) but I did want to thank you for your comments.

    Thanks, as ever, for your support. You are appreciated.

  6. Interesting conversation with a customer about this: he says the only redeeming thing he can see in it is that using scripture like this seems to imply a high view of the Bible … which is then completely undermined by the fact that the Bible verses printed on the sweet wrappers are presumably screwed up and thrown away, just so much more litter. He then compared it to the respect with which Muslims treat their holy writings, the Qur’an, and said there’s just no way he could envisage them doing something as crass as this.

    As for using the King James Version: that’s just a cop out to avoid having to pay royalties or a licensing fee to the translators, isn’t it? If there was a genuine concern for mission behind these products, the producers wouldn’t be using a translation that no one can understand in today’s world.

    Sorry, guys, but slapping a Bible verse onto something does not make it into a Christian product anymore than sprinkling water on a baby’s head makes a disciple: gimmicks for the gullible and and saps for the superstitious.

  7. Hi Phil,
    Gimmicks for the gullible? – ouch!

    Actually I am with you when it comes to the hijacking of our faith for propheteering..oops sorry, profiteering purposes.

    I did think this one through carefully, and on balance felt the benefits of reaching people this way with scripture was worth the effort.

    I was initially attracted to the idea by the original purpose of the product (to be given to the dreaded trick or treaters at Halloween) althoguh there are obvious other opportunities – as Andrew pointed out in his post.

    As for respect for God’s word, I tend to see the wrappers as just that – wrappers that are disposed of once their job is done.
    If they carry a message to someone in the process, all well and good.
    I would liken it to other products such as carrier bags, giftwrap etc.

    Here’s something that might just cause a re-think.
    I was chatting with the owner of ‘Scripture Candy’ at ICRS in Denver this week, who told me of one person who was contemplating suicide until he read the scripture on a sweet he was given which caused him to re-consider and put him back on the right path.
    That was just one of a number of situations where the wrappers did a job more than just wrapping a sweetie!

    Funnily enough, we might be having a similar debate soon on a brand new product we are about to bring in to the UK!

    Thanks for your candid comments Phil.
    I suspect this one may run for a while yet!

    Peace and love to you Brother, Neil.

    • Hey – if your Scripture Candies brought one guy back from the brink of suicide then I stand properly rebuked; and the Halloween trick or treat thing: actually, I like that!!

      Thanks Neil – definitely something to suck on there … the idea of food for thought takes on a new meaning.

      Question: are these products made with fair trade ingredients? That could really begin to make a world of difference…

      OK – from the ridiculous to the sublime, or the other way around: I’m undecided: thanks again; watch this space…

  8. Oh Phil,
    Just when a slight feeling of euphoria began to flood through my veins, you go and hit me with the fair trade issue!
    I don’t know for sure, but umfortunately I suspect not…which I agree is a shame.
    I think it is a point well worthy of mentioning to the S.C. people, which I will endeavour to do in our next communication.
    Thanks for that.
    On the other new product I mentioned, have a look at the following link. I would really value your thoughts/comments.
    http://www.themissionball.org

    • Hmmm. Sorry, Neil: I do seem to have developed the gift of discouragement to a fine art, don’t I? Not a good place to be. As somebody or other once observed, I am the ingrowing toenail in the body of Christ. Maybe I need more sleep or something; or snipping down to size. Lord have mercy.

      The Mission Ball, eh? I shall kick the idea around 😀 and get back to you.

      Hang on in there, bro, as they say, and don’t grit slingers like me get you down: remember the finest pearls grew from a piece of grit.

  9. Pingback: Bibles for Causes: how far should we go? « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

  10. Far from getting me down, Phil, you’re like a breath of fresh air.
    I like your sense of humour and I respect people who are honest enough to give their true opinion (even when they’re so obviously wrong! – lol).
    I’m sat in Denver Int Airport as I type this waiting to start the long journey home, so apoplogies in advance for disappearing for a while.
    I can’t see me surfacing much before next week.
    Bless you Bruv, Neil.

  11. While we are on the subject of the ‘crass commercialisation of Christianity’ I thought you might appreciate these images- if Phil can get them posted somewhere in the same area! Thanks to Jackie for n
    being the ‘hand model’ for these wonderful/dreadful pens loudly declaring ‘Keep your eyes on Jesus’- and when appropriately squeezed the eyes POP OUT OF THE HEAD! Yoh! Now that is really crass! If you contact me after hours, I can quietly whisper to you the name of the company they came in from……Hang on- they’re actually IN my shop! Who ordered them? Who authorised them? Who has been having fun without my permission?!

    Seriously, there are major issues here, and, for what it’s worth, I actually had an article half written not long after I started in ‘The Trade’ expressing my concern about some of these aspects of the trade. I never completed it because I sensed my own ‘complicity’ in the whole process. After all, I AM the guy who buys the sweets, who sells the poppy-out-eyes pens and groans at the proliferation of Bibles- but still populates the shelf with them. (By the way- is anyone else having serious problems getting black bonded leather Bibles- of most translations?- we are really struggling!!)

    In fairness to ourselves, there is a path to tread between the ‘crass commercialisation’ and the genuine urge to be creative- and have a bit of fun! And it is difficult to get it right. In the same way that very few (in a previous conversation here) who had a desire to censor out ‘The Shack’, there are probably very few managers out there who would be supportive of a ‘Product Police’. Ultimately, it is the customer who will do that- and they are often more discerning than we realise.

    That said, I do agree with your concern about many of these aspects, and really do take these buying issues pretty seriously. Now, I must go & find out who ordered the poppy-eyed pens……!

  12. Pingback: The Mission Ball: A Social Media Survey « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

  13. Bible peddlers on your doorstep. Jehovah’s witnesses. They’re all the same.”Predators” I say. Is there a patron saint for those who peddle Bible Smut?

  14. Pingback: Keep your eyes on Jesus, your feet on the ball and your tongue in your cheek… « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

  15. I don’t know if this is a triumph or disgrace, but we had, today, our first customer who drove some considerable distance to purchase ONE roll of Scripture Candy Strawberries & Cream sweeties at 49p on recommendation from another customer.

    Result!

  16. Pingback: For I am ashamed of the Gospel? Concerns raised as Living Oasis declares plans to “de-Christianise” shop windows « The Christian Bookshops Blog

Comments are closed.