Encouraging the church not to be a copycat is a popular topic around here. The subject landed a spot in our top 10 posts of 2009 and was your pick for third best advice we offered in 2009. Even today I came across a blog called Stuff Christian Culture Likes, which kind of reminds me of Stuff Christians Like (the book comes out April 1, no joke), which probably reminds you of Stuff White People Like (the book is available now). Let’s give Stuff Christians Like founder Jonathan Acuff some credit though–he gives a quiet nod to Stuff White People Like in his very first post.
OK, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. There can be room to take inspiration and even do parody and make something new, creative and interesting. Sometimes the best jokes are simply references to more pop culture. But it gets old at some point, right? Let’s not start Stuff Churches Like.
Whatever happened to originality? Our own Brad Abare talked with the Associated Press about “Jesus junk” recently:
“We think it’s just dumb. It’s not a true reflection of creativity.” …
Abare wishes that Christians paid more attention to the “Thou shall not steal” commandment. “The whole claim for Christians in general is that God is the source of all creativity. I think there’s something to being original that will speak to people in a way that we don’t have to copy.”
Brad was talking about logo ripoffs and not blog parodies of parodies, but I think originality and creativity (not the dumb part) apply: Christians (and churches) who don’t have to copy. Now there’s a concept.
For what it’s worth, the article implies that some of the logo-spoofing Jesus junk is illegal, and quotes a trademark lawyer who says religious parodies generally don’t fall under First Amendment protection. So keep that in mind the next time you think the Facebook logo and the line “Jesus wants to be your friend” is hilarious. Because it’s not. And it could be illegal. (Says the lawyer. Get your own lawyer. Don’t mooch the one we mooched from an article.)
Update: As a most-telling irony, Stuff Christian Culture Likes recently riffed on church marketing. The jist of the post? Too often church marketing copies culture instead of Jesus. Amen.