Sunday, May 11, 2008

selling god

My buddy Jack and I hiked out to Short Pump Town Center this afternoon for a bit of retail roaming. Short Pump TC is one of the local examples of the reinvention of malls as "lifestyle centers" — an evolution that can inspire more than a few diatribes itself. Short Pump TC is also home to our local Apple store, and I'm in the market for a new MacBook Pro. (The Air calls, but I will not answer that call yet.)

Anyway, as we're roaming around and on our way to having a beer at one of the mall restaurants, or "concepts" in the lingo of mid- to high-end corporate chain restaurants, we stuble across a store that is having its grand opening. It takes nothing more than the words "Christian Fashion" to stop me.

The store is named Not Of This World—"NOTW" in rakish and grunge-cool typography. Very hip of them. The clothes from what I could see all followed the example of the mannequins in the window. The styles and look of the store fall somewhere between Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters. This is a long way from Thomas Kinkade and Zondervan Bookstores. This is hip, downtown cool like the church near my house which bills itself more as a worship lifestyle center than as a "traditional" church.

Leaving alone my belief that spirituality is should be quietly revered rather than crassly commercialized, this strikes me as one more effort to foist a brand—and it really is a brand in this case—of Christianity on society. The religion (specifically Christian) section at Barnes & Noble continues to expand while a whole subculture of films and music continues to build and creep in around the edges of popular culture. Our political discourse, international relations and military actions begin to take on the rhetoric of faith (again, a very specific faith). What I want to know is this: at what point do secularism and plurality begin to push back?