Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Coo Coo for Christ

I had a great idea: making Christian T-shirts that aren't stupid. This idea stemmed from my experience as a Christian in high school. After I had "found Jesus" I began accumulating a rather "Christiany" wardrobe; T-shirts mostly (although at one point I did have some bright orange "Jesus loves you" shoelaces as well), which I'd wear to school every day, like the one that said "Megalife through Prayer" imitating the logos of the bands Megadeth and Slayer. The idea was that, if I wear that shirt, I can show the metalheads that a person can be a Christian and still be cool. Yeah. Fortunately I was a black belt in Karate; otherwise, the stoners would have stuffed me in a locker for being an idiot.

I've frequented Christian bookstores, and I have never failed to see at least one shirt (usually several) with cheesy, tacky slogans on them: "Jesus Junk," much of it nothing more than a rip-off of some well-known logo or slogan. A friend of mine once owned a green T-shirt that said "Spirit" which was an imitation of the Sprite logo. He and I laugh about it to this day.

My past experience with "T-shirt witnessing" was one of the reasons I started a T-shirt business. I wanted to stay far away from anything resembling Jesus Junk. I wanted to create shirts that would get conversations started and get people to think. More importantly, I wanted to encourage Christians to think critically. I saw a severe lack of clear, concise thinking (and a lot of wild, blind irrationalism) in the Christian community, and, being a Christian at the time, I wanted to do something about it.

Perhaps a few of my shirt designs foreshadowed my eventual departure from Christian theism. Of all my designs, this one is my favorite:

So my business partner and I became an official T-shirt company called Revolve180, created an inventory of shirts and attended a number of summer Christian music events around the country.

At the event we attended in Orlando, Florida, we were one of the first vendors on the scene, and we set up early. Then we sat back and watched everyone else set up their wares. We had a few laughs at a guy sporting a shirt with a logo imitating Gatorade that said "Christade - the ULTIMATE thirst quencher." Later we found out that he was the guy who made that shirt, and was at the event selling "Christade" and other shirts.

Note the key word: selling. He was actually doing it. People would come to his booth, check out his selection, give him money and walk away with one or more of his shirts. That's how it's supposed to work, right? Well, we at the Revolve180 booth were not so much selling shirts as we were just standing around like morons while people looking for the Christade booth passed us by. He succeeded by being everything we were trying our best not to be: cheesy, corny, dumb. Apparently Christians in the market for a new shirt like cheesy and stupid slogans. Jesus Junk sells. We sold a few shirts (not even coming close to covering our expenses), but most of the time the people who paid attention to us either didn't like our designs or were looking for one of those stupid shirts the other vendor was selling. One woman came up to us hoping we were the guys who make the "Your mother was pro-life" T-shirt (I won't even get into how stupid that phrase is).

A month later I had a booth set up at an event in Ohio - this time without my partner. "Captain Christade" (as we called him) was there too. It was Orlando all over again. Of course, as I once heard someone say, "You can drag a Christian to logic, but you can't make him think." Perhaps the continued success of Jesus Junk is inevitable, Captain Christade will still sail successfully on the sea of supply and demand, and Christians will continue to purchase shirts that say things like:

Coo coo indeed.


Lee said...

I must admit to having owned some pretty corny christian shirts back in the day. I even had a muscle shirt that said "God's Gym - His pain Your gain." On it was a depiction of a rather muscular Jesus like doing a push-up or something with the cross on his back.

Good grief...what the hell was I thinking?! I wasn't thinking, that was the problem.

Bud said...

I can't help but get a little nostalgic when I think of all the Christian T-shirts I used to wear. Then I get a little embarrassed. Then I can't help but laugh at myself.

Same thing happens when I think about all the hairstyles I attempted in the 90s.

Lee said...

Ha, I can relate to that! I'm 40 now and still attempting different hair styles! :-)

Laura said...

Oh, I remember that shirt, Lee! I didn't own one because it was too masculine, but I knew people who did.

I like the questions/answers quote, Bud.