Over at Religion in American History, Charity Carney has just finished her series about working in Christian retail. Now Darren Grem is responding, starting off by looking at what we mean when we say that something is “Christian”:
I certainly have my own opinions about the “Christianness” of various companies. But asking if a company is actually a “Christian” business usually ends up obscuring more than it reveals. Let’s be honest – as with anything else, where you start your line of inquiry will shape the questions you will ask and the answers you will probably get. Asking about a company’s “Christianness” will also — more than likely — lead you back to yourself and your own definition of what “Christianness” entails.
It seems so easy, right? Sprinkle a little God here, a little Jesus there and suddenly everything’s purified. Never mind the violence and language in The Book of Eli. Eli is on a journey to save the world’s last Bible! He’s a Christian! Can you say “Church movie night”?
Peele seems mainly interested in the way that members of the evangelical sub-culture defend the media that they enjoy against fellow members. But it does lead back to the tricky question of what makes something “Christian.”
As Grem points out, the question of whether something is Christian – be it company or cultural product – is a tricky one. Does having Christian markers – crosses, bibles, ichthys – make something a Christian work? The anime Neon Genesis Evangelion famously appropriated many Christian symbols and phrases without being a Christian work. Does using Christian themes or Christian morality make a work Christian? First we’d have to define what themes and morality are exclusively Christian. So how do you know when something is Christian?