Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Watch you do WHAT??

Bizarre Messages! "Watch Me Live My Life" proclaims the imbossed rubber wristband. Now, what is the guy beside you on the bus going to think you mean by that?

I found this little item advertised on the margin of my Facebook page. It looks like a bit of Christianese lost in translation. I know what it's supposed to say...but what does it actually say to people?

I know what I think...what do YOU think?


Anonymous said...

If your a stranger passing by I can't watch you live your life. If yuo are a close acquaintance like a coworker I can already see you just fine, so why the bracelet?

Christi R said...

Ok, I'm going to freely admit that I cheated and looked it up... but what it means and what I thought it meant are WORLDS apart... seriously, maybe universes apart.

Probably due to a somewhat cynical view of the world and people in general, I didn't think it meant anything good. My first thought was that it was a way of saying "stay out of my life and don't tell me what to do". I think often people today aren't interested in living by someone else's rules (and that includes God and church); they want to do things their way.

So, I completely missed the point of the bracelets. It certainly was an eye-opening, if slightly depressing, exercise. But I also have to say I'm not sure those bracelets are really going to get the point across that they are hoping. Maybe it's just me, but I'm betting there are a lot of cynical people out there would never even bother to ask...

Joe B said...

That's funny Christi, and it makes a lot of sense. It makes more sense than assuming it means what it is really supposed to mean.

It's insider talk that makes little sense outside.

Thanks for not spelling out what it actually intends to say!

Jan Kelley said...

i think it sounds arrogant,like "watch me do it right", which would indicate to the observer of the bracelet that the observer must be "doing it wrong". Others "eyes" should directed to the Creator,not to the bracelet wearer.
A second meaning that came to mind and could be construed to be like Christi stated, "Leave me alone and dont try to judge/convert me because i am going to live my life like i want to ...you just step aside and let me do my thing."

Anonymous said...

No doubt.

"If you pay close attention then my life will prove beyond doubt that God exists."

-Anonymous Eutychus

Jan Kelley said...

i woke up thinking about this blog and this thought came to me....what if the message on the bracelet is for the wearer to remind the wearer that others are watching him/her and to remembe4r what type of life the wearer is to live before others, himself, and his Lord.

Joe B said...

Quite possible Jan K. That's the only way it actually makes some sense. Even so, the message on the bracelet is addressed to the reader, so nobody who reads it incidentally will take it as a reminder to the wearer.

I think the main purpose of the bracelet is not as a witness to the bystander OR as a reminder to the wearer. I tend to think that its purpose is to SELL to Christians who feel like they are doing God a favor by wearing it.

In that respect I can see it being very effective. The next WWJD.

Jan Kelley said...

Your statement, Joe B., is why I am a J.B. groupie. You are a thinker. I think you have hit it on the head. It is a money-making plan. I aint buying one. jk

Joe B said...

That makes it kind of awkward...I was planning to start selling those bracelets on the unChurch website. Just as soon as I figure out What Would Jesus Discount.

Jan Kelley said...

joyfully laughing out loud... truly lol...."joy" giving and receiving is a fruit of the Spirit, so this comment is "on target" for the unchurch.

Anonymous said...

Scott Anonymous said:

I have a number of thoughts on this that may be longer than the post itself.

When I was 12 or 13, I had a bunch of the old "Christian" t-shirts that I thought were sort of funny and pseudo-trendy. My favorite one had a cartoon of a dead guy wearing neon green flip flops, and he had a big tire track across his chest. It said "Don't get caught dead without Jesus."

It sounds morbid, but it was kinda funny. I think.

I'm not sure who would see a kid wearing that shirt and think, "Wow, yeah, he's right, I really need Jesus in my life." I mean, sort of like the wearer of the bracelet (including the WWJD bracelet fad), there are some good intentions involved -- nothing wrong with wanting to make your feelings on Jesus known to other people. In reality, though, the effect is pretty minimal, and we would all be 100% more "effective" at showing who Jesus is by actually going out and LOVING people. Proactively. So many of us get caught up in living as reactive Christians that "watch me live my life" often means that I don't drink or smoke or cuss. And I go to church. Ooh, what a great witness for Jesus! That sums up his life SO well.

Jesus wasn't about "not drinking or smoking or cussing." He was about loving and serving. Washing feet, helping the guy on the side of the road in the rain with the broken down car, inviting the poor and homeless into our homes. Being people of forgiveness and love, whether it's someone who mugs you or a terrorists who kill thousands of your countrymen. THAT kind of radical love is a representation of who Jesus was.

Second topic, and Joe beat me to the punch on this one. The commercialization of Jesus. Bracelets, keychains, bumper stickers, hats, memory verses on mints... Have you walked in a Christian bookstore lately? (I don't think I have for years, actually, but I trust they haven't changed much.) In many places, "Christian" isn't a noun anymore, it's an adjective, to be put in front of others words. Christian mugs, Christian shirts, Christian music, Christian candles. It's a huge industry, and yes, it's to make money. It's part of the empire that Jesus criticizes. Can anyone else envision Jesus walking into a bookstore and knocking over some window displays?

I think the WWJD bracelets were to be a reminder to the wearer. And I can appreciate that, even if I get troubled when anything involving Jesus gets over-institutionalized and "pop." These bracelets in the picture were, I imagine, created by someone hoping to start a fad (or jump off existing ones) and make some money. And I doubt anyone is actually buying one.

Of course, I could be wrong on both counts. Maybe they've sold millions, and the company has donated 100% of the profits to getting clean drinking water in third world countries. ;-/

Joe B said...

I think we in Christendom may have reached the point where "is it Christian" and "will Christians purchase it" have become one and the same question.

Unfortunately I think that question figures increasingly into matters of church ministry and leadership.

When "the church" was shaped by the world of feudalism, it grew in power and influence by functioning according to that pattern. Now in the age of consumerism, the Megachurch has fixed all that...

Garry said...

Well said "Scott Anonymous", if that is your real name. ;-)
Consider the nail hit squarely on the head. In 1 Peter, he reminds us to "live our lives with excellence among the pagens." for a very simple reason: "So that even though they continue to despise us, because of the purity of our lives, God receives the Glory" (my loose paraphrase).
When we put our faith on our sleeves (or wrist in this case), we can place a lot of extra pressure on ourselves and others who, like us, are just trying to be Jesus to the world through the things we do for others. We better be doing it exactly like it should be done.
While I always want to be identified with those who "love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul and our neighbor as ourselves" it should be because of the things I do, not the things I wear.

Christi R said...

I can't decide if everyone here is just more cynical than I am or just more realistic than me. I tend to think I'm pretty cynical. But... when I first found out what the bracelets were supposed to mean and their purpose my first thought was "wow, they are really not getting their message across". It never occurred to me to think "jeez, here's just another ploy to cash in on God." So ok, maybe Christianity and Jesus have become too commercialized, but is that completely a bad thing?

Two points:
Surely some of the groups selling Christian whatever use that money for good. Right? C’mon, help me out here… in this particular case I don’t know. But, Scott talks about serving and loving; about feeding and sheltering the homeless. Hey, those things take money. Joe B said to me in an unrelated e-mail conversation “Yeah, people who want to give their full time to pastoring a church need to eat and drive cars” (hope you don’t mind, Joe B). I would say the same is true of people who run ministries and want to serve others.

Point two: I think we all agree that it is MUCH more important how we act than what we wear. And I would agree with everyone who said the effect of these types of things is minimal and like Scott said “we would all be 100% more "effective" at showing who Jesus is by actually going out and LOVING people”. But, hey look we are talking about it… the bracelets brought about a dialog. It may have started out as one thing, but it got us talking about, and therefore thinking about, Jesus and and doing His work. So, maybe it does have some effectiveness! Just a thought.

Redacticus said...

It is good to have lively conversation, Christi, but that last remark comes perilously close to "disagreeing" with Scott. As you know, we do not tolerate dissenting viewpoints. That's strike one. If it happens again you will be banished to the dark dungeon in the bowels of unChurch Abbey.

Haven't heard from Big Doofus or Dr Gwaltney in a while have you? mmwwahh-ha-ha-hahahahaha! (wicked laughter.)

Redacticus has SPOKEN!!

Joe B said...

Aw, lighten up Redacticus. I think being appointed as Moderator may have gone to your head.

And hey, just what have you done with Larry and Doofus??

fiber_tech said...

I'm one of the people that has (and still wears) t-shirts with Christian messages on them. They actually serve several different purposes - one of which is very practical. I am not endowed with one of those physiques that are enhanced with the removal of my shirt when it is miserably hot outside, so if I'm going to be wearing a t-shirt anyway, why not one with scripture on it? Makes me feel like I paid attention to Deuteronomy 6: 4-9

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

He also repeats this exact same thought again in Deut. Chapter 11
(I know, if I REALLY wanted to get with the program, I would tie the shirt around my hand or forehead - but that gets us back to the bare torso problem again :)

Matthew 5: 13-16 talks about salt and light, which in context is referring to deeds, (back to that fruit production that others have mentioned), but I also read this passage in the context that everything about us can point to Christ. (A lighthouse is visible to those at sea, and those on land; those in eminent danger, and those that are safe.)

God has blessed me with many conversations over the years with strangers that had a question about something on one of these silent witnessing tools. Even if the number of persons affected were only 1% of those seeing them,
it reminds me of the story Jesus told of the shepherd that leaves 99 sheep to look for the 1 that was lost as recorded in Matt 18 and Luke 15.

I have heard the snickering that accompanies the "Jesus freak" comment while wearing a shirt, but funny thing is I never thought it was coming from Christians...

Joe B said...

Hi fiber_tech! Nice to hear from you.

The post and comments are not snickering at putting or wearing godly messages on clothing. I see Christian items I would like to wear. The WWJD bracelet is my own favorite, both a personal reminder to walk circumspectly and (as Fiber T pointed out) a clear personal identification with Jesus, the Lord. Some items are provocative, with great potential to engage people in spiritual conversations (Scott's own "What Wouldn't Jesus Do" and "Jesus Loves Porn Stars" shirts, for example.)

The post raised the issue of garbled and bizarre attempts at communicating godly messages. Some messages are clever, some are clumsy, and a few are just plain destructive.

One thing I love about the Watch Me bracelet: The words are highly provocative. If anyone does read it, the words practically beg you to say ”W-W-W-WHAT??”

But the reason I jumped on this one so hard is that it demonstrates a very standard blunder: IT STATES AN INSIDER MESSAGE, ADDRESSED TO OUTSIDERS, PHRASED IN INSIDER JARGON.

An avid, experienced Christian will likely understand it without any explanation, and will likely connect it with a host of scriptures, parables, and experiences. But, objectively, it says nothing about Jesus. Even if a non-insider figured out it's a Christian message, it appears to center on how good Christians are at living their lives, in implicit contrast to the sort of people who do not understand Cryptic Bracelet Messages.

Ironically, while actually living a good life among unbelievers is essential to proclaiming the Kingdom of God, drawing attention to it is like Kryptonite to the Kingdom message. OOPS!

Joe B said...

re: Christian merchandise and evangelism

Personally, I deliberately do not wear any of those items, and I will not even put Indiana’s popular “In God We Trust” license plate on my car. (I would not ask others to follow my thinking on this, by the way.) It's just to keep myself honest.

I believe the holy spirit gives us the ability to speak to people in their “native tongues about the wonders of God." We should all believe that, and we should do it. We should believe that the Kingdom call of Jesus has a unique power all its own, and we should all experience it.

Why? Because that is the teaching of Jesus, and because every Christian has already experienced it for themselves anyway.

“The time is coming, and already is, when the dead will hear the voice of the son of God and live”

I am not ashamed of the gospel of christ, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes...
--St. Paul

I guess I don't have faith to walk on water or raise the dead. Not yet. But if I can talk with Adam or fiber_tech about Jesus, then I can talk with anyone else the exact same way. And I do not need a gospel tract or a wristband to do it. I need to care enough about individual people that I wind up in meaningful conversations with them.

Garry said...

"Kryptonite to the Kingdom" is a good analogy, I think.
What you were saying reminded me of the teachings of our Lord about praying, fasting and doing good deeds, if we do these things so that we will be noticed in the public square, "before men," we have our reward already. Others will see us and think we are "good people."
Again, it all boils down to this in my view, "why are you doing what you do?" It all stems from the motivation of the heart. If I wear the braclet or t-shirt or the sad face while fasting to draw attention to ME and not to make Jesus more attractive, it is for the wrong reason.
If I do these things for the reason you mention, to remind myself to remain true to my faith and as a result it causes some one to ask what I believe (nod to Fiber_tech), then, great, I have a way to share my faith with someone who may not know about the goodness of God.
"I need to care enough about individual people that I wind up in meaningful conversations with them." Joe B.
That's what I'm talkin' about.

Redacticus said...

"Why are you doing what you do?" is just a huge issue.

The matter of garbled messages and why we do what we do in evangelism are continued in the specTACular new March 16 post by Joe B.

See you there!