Monday, October 08, 2007

"Christian" T-Shirts for Sale

Many years ago, I heard Josh McDowell speak during a chapel service at Asbury College. When I went home that evening, I shared with Dave my disgust at McDowell's message of American exceptionalism (USA=#1) and his promotion of the idea that the USA is the New Israel, etc. I have not read or listened to anything by McDowell since that time.

I was reminded of McDowell's lecture when I came across some "Christian" T-Shirts for sale on the Internet. The first two noted below are particularly offensive to me because they are inspired by the exceptionalist, dominionist rhetoric of McDowell, Dobson and other right-wing Christian zealots.

The Religious Right, of which McDowell is one prominent member, is vocally and visibly active in American politics. It's message includes McDowell's exceptionalist message about the superiority of the USA and the idea, promoted by Dominionists, that the USA should be a more overtly "Christian" nation. Christian prayers (but not those of other religions) should be uttered in public schools and at government functions; the 10 Commandments should be posted in government buildings everywhere; "Christian" morality as preached by the Religious Right should dominate American life, etc.

I disagree vehemently with Christian dominionism and the arrogant, mistaken idea that the USA is superior to all other nations (such arrogance is part of what led us into the current disaster in Iraq). Moreover, contrary to what the Dominionists preach, the USA was founded as a secular, religiously neutral nation - not a "Christian" one. There is no place in American society for the worldview of one religion or sect to dominate all others. If prayers are to be uttered in government spaces, then believers of all denominations and sects should be equally welcome to pray. If all are not so welcomed, then none should be. The USA is supposed to be a place where believers and non-believers of all sorts can abide with equal freedom to live according to the dictates of their own consciences. That is the USA I love - not the narrow, bigoted, arrogant America of Dominionist nightmares.

I also found these T-Shirts intriguing: more of that famous Christian love, apparently. Do people not realize how offensive these slogans are?

Seriously, would any of you wear these shirts?


Stephen said...

I have never heard of the term "dominionism" before. Interesting word with interesting connotations.

Thanks for your thoughts, Evie. You seem to be a rare one these days in the US when it comes to this type of thinking (at least that is how it is portrayed up here in the media).

However in saying that, I find that one can also take secularism to the extreme. For instance, Canada is perhaps one of the most secular countries in the western world - even when it is compared up against many European countries. I would have to say, almost too secular. Following the 911 terrorist attacks in the US, the world over was in shock. Governments around the world took time to remember those thousands who died. Canada was no difference except for the overt absense of anything to do with spirituality. At the official public memorial in Ottawa, where people by the thousands gathered in grief on Parliament Hill, there was not one prayer - not even the most non-offensive generic prayer.

As I watched it, I was struck by the sensless spirial into extreme secularism that had effectivly ignored that 90% of all Canadians has a belief in God whether it be Christian, Jew, Hindu or what ever.

The following day in the media, there was a coast to coast heart cry about the emptiness of the whole memorial - the hopeless, the comfortless nature of the memorial. The cry lamented that "political correctness" has gone way to far to the point where the entire nation had now been offended.

Evie said...

I think the term "dominionism" has it roots in the passage in Genesis in which God commands Adam and Eve to have dominion over all the earth.

When I was at Asbury, two contrasting attitudes were subtly encouraged.

The first was to withdraw from "the world" and make sure to keep oneself and one's family pure and untainted by corrupt companions and influences. Thus, Christians frequently only associate with other Christians; they homeschool their kids, or send them to private Christian schools, to ensure that they won't be ruined by the secular curriculum and non-Christian playmates of the public school, etc.

The second was a subtle "dominionist" attitude, the idea that society would benefit greatly from more overtly Christian influences in business, government, etc. The term "dominionism" had not been coined yet (I don't think) but the mindset was there. One difficulty, of course, is who has the authority to define what is properly Christian? There are lots of interpretations out there. Which one is right? How do those in charge accommodate those who disagree with them? The Religious Right's answer appears to be that accommodation is not an option. That scares the bejeebers out of me.

Barbara said...

It's these kind of "Christian" attitudes that leave a bad taste in the mouths of others.

Jenn said...

i agree with aunt barbara - it's the "in your face" Christians that turn other people off of the true message of God

Dave said...

Those who wear such shirts or put up such signs tend to justify their action by pointing to Jesus being in the face of people. What we forget is that those situations were when Jesus was adressing those that were religious teachers who were defining faith in an unbalanced manner. For the general public he told stories and offered positive encouragment.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Most Christian tee shirts that I have seen are either offensive, or just downright ridiculous. So, if you are going to wear one you are either turning someone off, or just supporting the supposition that Christians are laughable.

Because of exactly this issue, we designed a website that allows users to submit their own Christian tee shirt designs (not necessarily overtly Christian), and the rest of the online community can vote for their favorites which are then made into shirts.

We figured that this would allow the community to decide what was acceptable or not, and that the creative collaboration would give Christians the option of getting some really cool shirts.

We feel that if one of the CUBI shirts gets a non-believer to show some interest, just to ask a question, then we've accomplished our goal.

If anyone is interested in checking out the site it is at

We would really like any feedback that anyone's got.