As an Asian Christian, there is something that I find particularly troubling–and that is the commercializing of these two identities. Sitting here at Seattle’s Best, I read a sign advertising their new tea lattes, “Sip serenity.” This is not the first time that I’ve run into this sort of zen-inducing marketing. As a Chinese person, I drink tea to cut through the grease in my Chinese food; I drink it to stay awake when I study; I drink it to relax after a long day; I drink it cold for refreshment; I drink it hot when I don’t want to turn on the heater. But NEVER do I drink it as part of a holistic regimen; NEVER do I drink it to quiet my inner self.
I’m not naive, though. I know that most people who will buy the drink won’t demand a refund if upon returning home they still kick the dog. But it feels weird to have my culture commercialized, packaged, and marketed. I wouldn’t say its particularly racist because this is what is done in America all the time (e.g., “Home-made” gravy that is sold in jars). But it is troubling nonetheless.
The most troubling of all is the marketization of the Christian population in America. Music, books, clothing, television shows, and now even big screen films are crafted to target this lucrative multi-billion dollar Christian market. And somehow, along the way, we bought into the marketization and have subjected ourselves to its homogenizing forces. As marketers try to sell to our lowest common denominator, we absorb these things into our identity. Morever, patronage and purchases become identified with Christian fidelity (“Oh, you didn’t want Chronicles of Narnia…You don’t listen like Third Day…why not?”).
The reason why I am most troubled by this is that once we have been “figured out” by commercial interests; once we have absorbed a certain consumerism into the mass of Christian practices–then I believe we have lost our saltiness and compromised our other-worldly light. If we can be simply catered to by retailers (or political parties), then we become just another market segment, another self-interest group. If we continue spending more money on ourselves in order to bolster a (false) Christian identity, then we lose our relevance to the world and more importantly, our grounding in Christ.
I don’t believe that we need to dismantle our entire economic market. Worse, I’m probably just blogging like a whiny little brat who only knows what he doesn’t like but has no idea how to fix it. But I know that the current commercial reality is waging war on our souls–and we seem to think it is a massage.