Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from KATC.com, May 10, 2004, with the headline, “Jesus Fashion Trend—He’s a movie star and a pop culture icon, thanks to the Passion of the Christ craze at the box office. And now, Jesus is also a fashion statement.
“ ‘It’s a fun little Hollywood trend that was sparked by the success of the movie,’ said E! Network’s lifestyle director, Elycia Rubin. ‘Obviously, fashion influences movies and movies influence fashion.’
“A Los Angeles company called Teenage Millionaire makes shirts that say ‘Jesus Is My Homeboy’ and ‘Mary Is My Homegirl.’ Madonna was seen wearing a Mary shirt; Pamela Anderson and Lara Flynn Boyle have been running around in the Jesus Ts, and Ashton Kutcher was photographed with a ‘Jesus Is My Homeboy’ baseball cap on.
“ ‘We looked at the popular icons of the 20th century and Jesus definitely topped the list,’ said Chris Hoy, a partner at Teenage Millionaire. ‘This shirt has been in our line for about three years, but it’s just now getting all the popularity. The movie’s out; there’s just a big buzz.’
“Other shirts bear the Jesus fish symbol and the phrase ‘Go Fish.’ And an Arkansas company called Kerusso makes T-shirts with slogans like ‘My Savior Is Tougher than Nails!’
“ ‘It’s everywhere. It’s in all the stores,’ said Craig Gross, founder of XXXchurch.com. ‘This is the latest thing. People are wearing them not because they want to display their relationship with God, but because it’s the cool thing to do.’
“The ‘Homeboy’ shirts retail for about $25, and Hoy said they’re selling thousands of them a month.
“E! Networks’ Rubin called the Jesus chic style ‘kitschy’ and ‘playful.’
“ ‘I think these T-shirts are disrespectful,’ Los Angeles attorney, Michael Allen, who grew up Catholic, said. ‘Mary and Jesus don’t belong on T-shirts. There are other ways to show your devotion.’
“But other Jesus followers are pleased as punch with the new fashion trend, and are going along with it as much as the artsy Hollywood set is.
“ ‘The Christians like it, the hipsters like it,’ said Hoy. ‘We had no idea it was going to be this big.’
“The icon status of Jesus Christ in the fashion and pop culture worlds doesn’t necessarily equal a renewed interest in church, prayer, and religion, however.
“ ‘I don’t think there’s much spiritual significance in the popularity of the Jesus junk,’ Gross said.”
Tom: Dave, I have to begin with some definitions here. I’m sure you don’t know what “homeboy” is, or “homegirl.”
Dave: I certainly don’t. And I never heard of these—Pamela Anderson, Lara Flynn Boyle, and so forth…
Tom: Well, just take my word for it. It’s out there. It’s big. These are the popular icons, and it’s amazing that, you know, they’re addressing Jesus here as an icon as well.
But anyway, “homeboy” is gangster rap language, and it means “gang member,” or it could mean just “good friend,” depending on how you want to use it, but you know, terms are…they sort of make them up as they go along, but this is a bit depressing. I know some people who are out there say, “Oh, come on! Jesus is popular. He’s being popularized. We can talk about Him. We can do all of this.
But my concern here is, you know, along with the movie—I know people are probably tired of hearing about it, but—are we trivializing Jesus? I think absolutely and in the most grievous way possible.
Dave: Of course, we are! Tom, it’s very much like what we were just talking about: “Oh, Muslims? They believe in Jesus. We believe in Jesus! Oh, okay! Well, let’s get along!”
No! The Jesus of Islam is not the Jesus of the Bible and of history. And this Jesus on this T-shirt…
Tom: The homeboy Jesus is not…
Dave: No, He is not the Jesus of the Bible and history.
Tom: And some people don’t even care—it’s just the popular…
Dave: That’s right, that’s right. The last statement in the article—“I don’t think there’s much spiritual significance in the popularity of the Jesus junk.” I would say there’s quite a bit of spiritual significance in it. It shows how people are confused spiritually. How they don’t understand what spiritual values are. They don’t know God. They don’t know Jesus Christ.
And I think of this nonsense—compare it with Revelation chapter 1 where John saw Jesus as He is in heaven—fell at His feet as dead! And you’re running around with some “Jesus Is My Homeboy” T-shirt? It is blasphemy, Tom, blasphemy.
But we’ve talked about it in the past. It’s part of this whole “church-growth” thing. “Well, let’s get people into Jesus, no matter how we do it. Just get ‘em into Jesus. Get ‘em talking about Jesus. So isn’t this wonderful?”
People who don’t know Jesus—it’s like using “Jesus Christ” as a swear word— “but isn’t that nice? They talk about Jesus.” Sure they do! They swear in His name. They blaspheme. They are irreverent and ungodly in their references to Jesus.
Okay, you’ve got Jesus on T-shirts. “Isn’t that wonderful?”
No! You are dragging Him down to the level of I don’t know what—chic fashions, Hollywood’s latest ideas. It’s blasphemy, Tom, that’s what it is. But it is representative, unfortunately, of what’s happening in the church and in the world.
Tom: Dave, one of our staff members has a friend who saw the movie—an evangelical. We have to refer to the movie, because this is what started this craze. And she never wore jewelry, but she decided after seeing the movie that she was going to wear a cross. But not just a cross. She wanted a crucifix! She wanted something to wear that had Jesus still on it. What about that?
Dave: Well, you know, that’s the Catholic Jesus. He’s still suffering on the cross. It’s the sacrifice of the Mass. He’s still being offered. Tom, we did an article about it, if anybody wants to…”What Has Happened to the Cross?” I think. That was maybe a couple years ago.
How does the cross—the bloody cross, on which Jesus was crucified—how does that become beautiful jewelry, made of gold and silver, and some of it studded with precious stones, and so forth. This is a far cry from the cross, and furthermore, it’s not the shape of the cross. It’s what transpired on the cross. And Jesus is no longer on the cross. He paid the penalty for our sins on the cross once and for all, which, of course, Catholicism denies.
We want His cross—we’re to take up the cross, deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Him. That doesn’t mean wearing it around your neck. That has a deep significance in our lives. We have died to ourselves and to this world. We want Christ to live His life in us, and we have trusted Him for eternity as our Lord and Savior, and wearing a cross, as you said, Tom…
Tom: Or a T-shirt…
Dave: Right….trivializes Jesus Christ and everything He is and the work that He accomplished for our redemption.