Christians: Stop Making Crap

Alright, I try to keep a positive tone around here as a general rule, but I’m all flustered right now, so I might get a little…grrr…  Here’s why:

This afternoon I got home and opened my mailbox to be faced mostly with junk mail.  As I was tossing it in the trash, something caught my eye.  It was this little advertisement here:

If you know me, then you know that I’m a self-described technophile.  I have a particular fondness for Google’s Android operating system and its ecosystem.  So you’ll understand my surprise when I saw that this advertisement claimed that the MYeebo Christian Tablet E-reader was using Android 9.0.  Why would this surprise me, you ask?  Because at present, the latest version of Android is 4.2.  There is no such thing as Android 9.0.  In fact, if Google continues on its current trajectory, Android 9.0 will probably be available sometime around 2017.  I understand that this flub could be the result of a number of things ranging from a gross misunderstanding of the product, to a simple uncorrected typing error.  But that isn’t really the issue I’m concerned about.

Here’s what I’m concerned about: why does the world need a MYeebo Christian Table E-reader?  Are the existing tablets and e-readers not “Christian” enough?  Is it sinful to buy a tablet that doesn’t come pre-loaded with the Bible?  Is it better to patronize an explicitly “Christian” technology company even when they sell clearly inferior products? Why do Christians continue to make and do things that by all objective standards…suck?

Ok, calm down Timbo…let’s not say anything we’ll regret here…

 It would be easy for me to use this as a launching pad for a tirade against the Church and how we should all live in Jesus-centered communes eschewing corporations and consumerism thereby decommodifying Jesus.  And, I don’t know, maybe we should do all of that.  But let’s start with a simpler question.

Why does the MYeebo Christian Tablet E-reader exist?  Does it do something a “non-Christian” tablet or e-reader can’t do?  Are the iPad or the Nexus 7 somehow lacking because of their “unChrislikeness”?  If I buy a Christian tablet, what else do I need to make sure is “Christian”?  Do I need “Christian” headphones to plug into my “Christian” tablet?  Should I get a “Christian” case for my tablet?  Do they even make those?  (Answer: yes they do).  If I use my “Christian” tablet in my living room, should I be sure I’m sitting on a “Christian” sofa?  Ok, maybe the sofa is “Christian,” but I’m pretty sure the ottoman is Muslim!  What do I do now?!

We Christians seem to feel much safer when we take someone else’s idea and make it “Christian,” (which, unfortunately, almost always seems to mean making it worse somehow.)

What if we (the Church) stopped making second-rate imitations of what the world already has and then slapping the word “Christian” on it?  This happens all the time.  “Christian” musicians and filmmakers are probably the worst offenders.  “Christian” record labels and film companies make a business out of vampirically sucking the creative juices out of the world, sterilizing them, and then repackaging them as if they are authentic creations of those in communion with God.  And the worst part is that when we imitate what the world is doing, we almost always get it wrong (i.e. Android 9.0).

Genesis 1 accounts for us the fact that God is creative in nature.  He imagines things that once weren’t, and He calls them into being.  When Adam shows up on the scene, God gives him some creative tasks (create more people and name the animals; both creative in nature.)  And because Adam is in relationship with a creative God, he is able to achieve these tasks.

Where now exists this creativity in God’s Church?  Why have we settled for so much less?  Why have we become hucksters of cheap and shoddy imitations of the world’s goods and entertainment?  Where is the creativity?  If we find that we have trouble being genuinely creative, we must ask ourselves whether or not we are in communion with the most creative Being in existence.  Are the beauty of the Gospel and the wonder of grace bereft of their ability to stir up genuinely new creations?  Does Christ make us into “new creations” or simply repackaged goods?  If Christ is capable of new creations, and we know Christ, then why are we incapable of creating anything genuinely new?

Will I live to see the Church recapture its capacity for creativity?  I hope so.  Dear Lord, I do hope so.  In the meantime, I find myself unable to support those who make an industry out of plastering the name of Christ on someone else’s creation, and doing a poor job at it.


16 thoughts on “Christians: Stop Making Crap

  1. Derek says:

    I get what you’re saying here, I really do and I do agree with your frustration regarding slapping the word Christian on someone else’s idea. It is all too often cheesy. But when you include all Christian musicians and film makers, I wonder if you’re out of touch. In some ways Christians are producing music that is on the cutting edge of the industry. While I agree that most Christian film makers have a long way to go. I encourage you to look into David Cunningham’s work. Not to mention the hundreds of young Christians working in the movie industry who are contributing in big ways. Maybe some research would be due before venting about everything across the board. Just saying.

    • That’s fair. You make a good point. I wouldn’t (and didn’t) say that ALL Christian musicians and flimmakers are guilty of this. But I stand by my statement that by and large they are the worst offenders. I will look into David Cunningham, and I’d add Derek Webb and Listener to the short list of notable Christian artists who I would argue are genuinely and creatively innovating.

    • Grrr Power says:

      When you mention “the hundreds of young Christians working in the movie industry”, I’m sure that they are not slapping labels on themselves and marketing themselves as “Christian grips” or “Christian light technicians”. I think that was the point that was being made. I’m sure they are all contributing in big ways, have a smattering of intelligence, and are secure enough in their faith not to want to bolt the word “Christian” in front of everything associated with their career, just in order to make themselves stand apart from the crowd, and somehow appeal to “fellow Christians”.

  2. schoonerz says:

    You make extremely valid points here, Tim. As a Christian and music lover, the things I love about each couldn’t be further apart. I think a big part of the problem is that an entire Christian media industry has sprung up and now we get bands and artists who work within that very predictable paradigm. Art and creativity involves risk-taking, and the business side of Christianity, in its extremely conservative state, won’t necessarily reward its apostates.

    This reminds me a bit of a very good blog post by Shane Claiborne some time ago:

  3. Mark says:

    Well stated.
    Thank you!

  4. would it be inproper to assume that christian e-reader was only produced using labor that would be inline with christian standards, (ie a reasonable days pay, and other non exploitive labor conditions). I have no idea who made this but is probably a pretty cheap device which probably means some pretty unaceptable labor was used along the way.

  5. DeltaDawn says:

    Who is to say a Christian company has made the product? The manufacturer may be taking advantage of a group of people in order to sell the product.

  6. Patrick says:

    I think that a big part of it is the lack of respect of the Christian consumer. The people that market to Christians think that they will purchase any two bit piece of junk that has a verse slapped onto it (think Oriental Trading Co.). This actually works because most people are just using these as VBS giveaways or prizes for Sunday school attendance. I would put the knock-off stuff where they replace a popular logo with Jesus (Kerusso shirts produce a strong gag reflex in me) or cookie cutter, cheesy entertainment such as music, movies, or video games in the same category.

    Christians that market to Christians are perhaps even worse. First, they charge prices that are ridiculous! If you’ve ever been in a Christian book store and seen the “NEW BRANDON HEATH” or “JEREMY CAMP RELEASES HIS SAME 4 SONGS YET AGAIN!” that are marked down to $17.95 you understand. Second, like the movies or T-shirts mentioned before, marketers think that we should like their stuff simply because it’s Christian. Perhaps this is targeted at the families that won’t let their kids watch anything mainstream because HOLLYWOOD IS THE DEVIL. They can easily reuse ideas because they’ll never watch Batman, but they’ll definitely see the newest Bibleman. There is no creativity or excellence because it is not needed to make a product that sells.

    Perhaps they are making horrible things because some Christians think that those attributes that make mainstream products or entertainment good are, in fact, inherently bad? Actually, this is an interesting thought… perhaps the Christian economy is more like the Hipster economy than I thought. They refuse to use mainstream things and thus make their own products that are obviously bad (listen to some of the music rated 8.0+ on pitchfork) simply to make them different from the mainstream… ipso facto, Family Christian Bookstores are the new Urban Outfitters.

  7. Tim says:

    I bought one, my first tablet and I’m impressed. Probably not Apple or Samsung quality but it has a solid feel and seems to work well. Actually bought it because it is a Christian product, I guess that makes me weak somehow but it also supports my local Bible bookstore if I buy through the company store. I didn’t see anyone who has actually used one so it’s hard to swallow all the criticism.

  8. This tablet is not a bad tablet. It is comparably priced to the Acer tab A110 with a slightly worse processor (dual core vs. Tegra 3). Having a tablet that supports Christian media is perfect for those who buy mostly Christian media. I am a former pastor who has his own Acer Tablet. My wife has a Nexus 7 and a Note 2. We really try to stay up on the new devices and love the Android OS. While I would have preferred that the tablet is running the Tegra 3 processor, it is not “crap” and has a solid price point. To be honest, the general tone of this review make me have very little respect for the author.

  9. Vin B says:

    I purchase this tablet because it in comparison to other tables in its class it had the latest Andriod OS 4.1.1 and like extra inputs like HDMI, USB, and MicroSD card storage( I purchased it for my spouse. She does not use it now as the only issue I’m having with this tablet is that it does not play any Youtube videos well. If freezes or pauses after a minute or couple of minutes of the video, then plays for a few seconds then pauses again. I tested it on different wifi connections but it does the same thing. So it’s a very frustrating experience trying to watch anything using the youtube app or a browser. Their support has responded that there was a fix and that a tech would assist me but no one has contacted me since one week. I should have invested in a Nexus 7 tablet. Maybe its unchristian of me to watch a youtube video on this tablet.

  10. Chris says:

    I can understand Tim’s rant here. I actually own a Christian Bookstore and sell these “christian” tablets. I have one on display and have sold a few. I have had really good reviews so far. I have been dealing with this company for years. The tablet is not the basis for the real reason for selling it. They were looking for a way to bring attention to the All Christian Media website The site is user friendly in its search function making it easier to narrow your search. You can get some bizarre and frustrating results from other sites. The idea is to offer all Christian Media with proceeds going to Christian Charities. They are now launching a way for churches to link the site to the churches website. Whenever anyone uses the myeebo link the church gets a rebate for what is purchased. The idea is to funnel money back to the body of Christ. If you have seen recent in your face Kindle commercials you can reason why this is a pretty neat idea. When you sign up at myeebo you recieve regular emails with great discounts on Christian ebooks. The site has license to most Christian artists as well. We used to carry tons of accompianment CDs for our customers but now burn cds from a Kiosk in our store from the same company. We have been very succesful with this feature as many people are still not savvy when it comes to buying online. This company makes it a regular practice to send us encouraging cards informing us that their staff takes time to pray for us as a store and our employees. No other company we deal with does this. Just want to add to the conversation so everyone has a more information before having a knee jerk reaction to things labeled “Christian”. Sometimes it is the real deal.

    • That I actually really cool to hear. And the more I think about it, the more I regret writing this post. It was pretty thoughtless and I didn’t do any research before reaching my conclusion. Maybe I’m the jerk in all of this. Thanks for the food for thought!

  11. Dave Garcia says:

    Glad to see a bit of contrition in your last reply. It would appear to be even more genuine if you put your March 24th reply at the top of your blog post…Just sayin brother.

    By-the-way – i purchased a refurbished ipad-1 last year so that I could use a great music chart making app called Onsong. I researched and narrowed my choice down to either Onsong or another good app called 4 Score. I chose Onsong because it had a very easy function for transposing keys with just the click of my mouse.

    I am almost afraid to say that Onsong is a Christian owned company, but I don’t think that Apple is Christian yet…but we can work on that 😉

  12. Some one says:

    Well you make an interesting statement here, but, i believe they meant “for Christians” not that it “was Christian”. I might be saying this because I have one but there is an My Eebo app. I think they put this Tablet out so you could get a good device for the app for less than the regular price most companies would do. It happens to be a vary good device having a micro SD card slot, a HDMI plug and a USB drive. So I’ll say it is a vary good tablet, better than an Ipad or other Idevices, not because it is Christian, but that it is good for the price. Now the cases…that is another story…trust me.

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