Virtual Voices

Pot, meet kettle

Culture

An Israeli-born U.S. importer has some folks in an uproar with his "Grapes of Galilee" wines, which are made from vineyards near Galilee. The label features two artistic portraits of Christ, and the wines are available in Merlot, Chardonnay, and Cabernet. The Catholic Digest, among other religious publications, intends to carry advertisements for the wines.

The Director of LifeWay Research is one of those unhappy about this entrepreneurial venture. "Jesus chased people out of the temple for selling products in God's name," Ed Stetzer argues. "He did not put his name on the label to pump up sales."

That's a powerful indictment, especially when one peruses LifeWay's online catalog, where you can buy a "Jesus IMs" t-shirt. If you can't find your size, there's always the "Evangecube keychain," featuring a picture of Jesus' hand grasping the hand of someone lost. If that's too pedestrian, I recommend the "Story of Christ" bracelet, available for $54.00. And don't forget, if you overload on Lifeway's God gear, you can store it all in a "Triumphant Faith Toile Bag," which features a big cross on the side and comes "complete with coordinating lining and ribbon trim on the handle," yours for $29.99. Feel free to visit one of LifeWay's 140 stores nationwide if their website doesn't yield the Jesus tchotchke you're looking for.

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My problem with Jesus paraphernalia has always been more a matter of taste than theology. That bookmark featuring a picture of a cat, with the slogan, "God's Love is Purrrr-fect," which is sold at my local Christian bookstore, isn't a sin because it uses God to sell itself, it's a sin because it's mindless. I happen to like my azurite cross worn around my neck every day from a thin silver chain; other people like their doormats that read: "Let's All Praise the Lord!" To each his own.

So I don't know, perhaps there is something wrong with selling wine from the Galilee region that has a picture of Jesus on the bottle. Maybe it boils down to a matter of individual conscience. In LifeWay's case, I suspect opposition turns more on the Baptist injunction against drinking (LifeWay is connected to the Southern Baptist Convention) than some revealed theology about marketing. Regardless, it seems that those of us who buy products because they have God's name on them -- and certainly those of us who sell products in God's name -- have to be careful about which stones we throw, lest we crack something in our own stained-glass houses.

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