Sunday, July 15, 2007

THY-Space: oh ye of little brains & too much disposable income

Christian merchandising. Is there any oxymoron more nauseating?

I regularly read the blog of a writer's agent and publisher (Chip McGregor). Chip represents several Christian authors, which is cool. As their agent, he gets to attend the Christian Book Publishers conference annually where he gets to check out (and laugh at) the latest in Christian novelties.

Read this excerpt and gag, laugh or weep as the Spirit leads :) ...

The whole thing is back to back meetings, talking about books, and if you're a book guy like me, you just love it. But, at the same time, each year I try to find the worst, most bile-inducing piece of religious crud at the show. There are always some doozies.

Last year it was the famous "Armor of God Pajamas," which say "Righteousness" across the chest and feature a "Helmet of Salvation" nightcap and "Peace" footies. They were fun, cute, and completely stoopid. (I also hold a warm spot in my heart for the Gospel Golf Balls, which are just normal golf balls except they have Bible verses printed on them -- that way you don't have to fret over losing a ball on the course, because in the immortal words of the sales woman, "You just chalk it up to helping spread the Good News.") The year before it was the "genuine ash from Sodom and Gomorrah" display, which is sure to teach you never to invite your gay friends over unless you've checked the pressure on your fire extinguisher.

This year had some real weiners -- er, I mean "winners." I liked the "New Life Gummie Caterpillars," which teach young children the joys of salvation as well as getting them addicted to sugar. Speaking of sugar, "Scripture Candy" was back, along with their slogan: "Reaching the World...One Piece at a Time." (Nope. I'm not making that up.) For those of a more natural bent, you could just buy holy honey -- "Bee-lieve Honey" was there. The woman running the booth was extremely, um, sweet. Oh, and somebody came up with the notion of doing a Christian version
of MySpace, only they promised it would be cleaned up ("No Britney Spears," the sales guy told me), and of course they gave it the spiritual name "THY Space." Gag.
But it was footwear department that really captured me this year.

First, there was the "Not Of This World Footwear Company," reminding us of that
great truth: "If you want to witness to the world, have religious symbols imbedded on your shoes" (from the Book of Formica 3:13). The shoes were actually of a nice design -- but do we need inspirational sayings on everything? Can't we just have clothing that doesn't say anything? (Answer: "No. You're obviously an idiot. God expects everything from underwear to shoes to have religious slogans on them. That's why He invented 'Praise Panties.'")

Second, there was the company that invented insoles that also have Scripture verses printed on them. Why? So that we can joke about "walking the way of the Lord?" Of course not! It's so that we can all be "Standing On the Promises"! (It's a hymn! One of those insider Christian jokes we all like so well, and that so endear us to those outside the church who sometimes think we've lost our collective minds.) Right now YOU could be standing on the promises (For example, the promise that "thou shalt never have bunions" -- Hez. 3:13) instead of sitting in the chair like a heathen lout. (You never heard anybody read any verses about "sitting on the statutes" did you? I'll bet not -- praise panties or no.) But when it comes to cheesy religious footwear, the champ has got to be the In-Souls company. (In-Souls! Get it?) For years I've made a joke about the demeaning of CBA. As we've moved away from being an industry focused on creating great books, and toward an organization looking to move things like Thomas Kinkade postcards and Jesus soap-on-a-rope, I've said, "If you can get past the gospel ties and the John 3:16 socks...", and of course I meant it as a gag. Faithful readers have heard me use that line (to appropriate laughter) for the last decade. But it was a joke! A laugher! Nobody would really create John 3:16 socks, right? Wrong, oh ye of faithless footwear. For at this convention, some bright boy stole my idea! No kidding. There they were, in all their glory: John 3:16 socks! Footies that have "John 3:16" on the roll and the words on the body of the sock.

Glory! I have seen the light, and it is footwear!

"And lo, the salesclerk appeared in a bright light, singing praise to Bally and saying,
'Espadrille!', which is Greek for 'Glory' or maybe
'rope-sole-with-canvas-uppers.' And suddenly, the clerk was surrounded by a great cloud of clerks, all carrying Prada and Bruno Magli, though they had pumps
and not the loafers I wanted.

And the store did carry Allen Edmonds.
And they did have it in my size. And it was good. And he placed the shoehorn in my hand and said, "Take. Wear." And I took. And I wore. And it was comfortable. In fact,
they gave me no blisters. A miracle."
--The Kiltie Gospel


Markk said...

Oh man, that is either too funny or too depressing, depending on mood.

matjnewton said...

Yep, don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Pete Aldin said...

I told Chip I’m just glad we didn’t get Passion of the Christ action figures with our McDonalds happy meals a few years back...

themolk said...

Oh... my... goodness... has a great section "Gadgets for God" full of all this crap. I can't believe that people think these things are a good idea. Up there with "Jesus Camp" for mine...

As an aside, SoF also has the Mystery Worshipper, which is a great concept. Have a read - there are even Aussie churches "reviewed"!

Pete Aldin said...

Thanks Steve. You're a well of good info as usual. Appreciate the link!

Yvonne said...

I hadn't heard of some of those - the Praise Panties sound awesome though!!! Is it to remind one to be spiritual whilst having sex? or just a reminder to save it till your wedding day?

Here's my contribution to the daft merchandising list (I was going to do a post on awful Pagan tat for balance, but I couldn't find anything quite as hilarious as the Armor of God Pyjamas or the camouflage Bible).

Pete Aldin said...

Yvonne, I can't find any rationale that justifies the development of praise panties. They're just ... wierd...