O Me of Little Faith

Yesterday I immersed myself in the bizarre world of Christian parody t-shirts. You know the game: 1) take a well-known, mainstream, corporate logo… 2) tweak it by somehow changing the words so it’s about Jesus…and 3) sell it to well-meaning Christians who want a cool shirt that looks like other cool shirts but is actually about God.

I was investigating these shirts for a sermon illustration — I’m helping my pastor introduce a message about “Selling Christianity” with some funny stuff about the dumbness of Jesus Junk. But now I’m just annoyed. Annoyed enough to start making lists about parody t-shirts.

For instance…

The top four things that are wrong with Christian parody tees:

1) They are not cool.

2) They are borderline trademark infringement.

3) They are uncreative (parody is possibly the most efficient but least creative way to be funny).

4) Christians are supposed to be unlike the world. Not very, very similar to the world except for the part where we remove the “L” in “GOLD’S GYM” to make it about God.


Three possible reasons a person might wear a Christian parody shirt:

1) Evangelism. Let’s say you wear this “Lost” parody shirt. You meet a guy on the subway. He glances at your shirt. He is a fan of the ABC series. He says, “Dude! I can’t wait for the new season of ‘Lost’ to start. What did you think about the disappearing island thing? Freaky, right?”

And you say, “Oh, I don’t really watch that show.”

Then he says, “Then why are you wearing that shirt?”

Your heart starts racing as you recognize a possible soul-winning opportunity, so you say, “Look closer.” So the guy does, and he sees the three crosses, and the little line that says “Someone Is Searching For You,” and he’s intrigued. He then replies, “Oh…interesting. Someone is searching for me? Who exactly IS searching for me? Please explain your shirt, because I am strangely moved by it.”

That’s the best case scenario, of course. Worst case scenario is he looks at you funny, mutters “dork” under his breath, and adds one more reason to his growing list of why Christians are weird.

2) Proclamations of Faith. Never mind that Jesus said the world would know we are Christians by our love. Like, you know, caring about people and doing good things for people. That takes work! I’d rather let people know I’m a believer by wearing a retroish t-shirt that kinda looks like it’s about Mountain Dew but really says Jesus “Meant to Die.” Because, best-case, people will see me wearing that shirt and think, “That dude loves Jesus and wants me to know about His love for me and plan for my life.”

Or, worst-case: “That dude is so not as cool as he thinks with his fake Mountain Dew + Jesus shirt. Who wears a Mountain Dew shirt anyway?”

3) To Make People Think. The intent of a good parody shirt will catch the attention of its viewer and, by nature of its subtle twist on a familiar logo, cause that person to ponder the sinfulness of this world, the fallen nature of his soul, and the wonderful gospel of grace. Of course, bad parody shirts, like this one, just make you furrow your brow in confusion and dismay.

Seriously. “A Breadcrumb & Fish”? First of all, to make those words sound anything like the phonetic emphasis of Abercrombie & Fitch, you have to say it in a completely nonsensical, too-fast cadence: “a-breadcrumb and FISH.” I can’t say it without giggling because it sounds so stupid. Secondly, it wasn’t a breadcrumb used when Jesus fed the 5,000. It was three loaves of bread. It’s already a miracle, t-shirt-making person. You don’t have to make it more miraculous by telling people Jesus fed the 5,000 with just a bread crumb. Also, who wears A&F t-shirts anymore? Didn’t that brand jump the shark when LFO did that song about it?

This shirt is a spiritual failure all the way around.


(Disclaimer: When I was 16, I had a shirt that looked like a credit card on it. But instead of “American Express,” it said “Heavenly Express.” Pot? This is Kettle: You’re black.)

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