Has America turned Jesus into just another commodity?
According to a new book released this month, it has.
Brand Jesus: Christianity in a Consumerist Age, written by Tyler Wigg Stevenson, is addressing how consumerism has affected how Americans view Jesus and the Bible and how his message has become distorted by the power of the economy.
"I hope (this book) can serve as a wake-up call for the American church," explains the 29-year-old author, in a statement. "We have turned the lifelong activity of faith into the commodity of belief. And in the marketplaces of our churches, from the humble roadside stands to the gleaming 'Christian lifestyle center' shopping malls, we hock our product: that best-selling, inexpensive, factory-made, lifestyle-enhancing, identity-defining, eternal-life-giving, easy-to-use, soul-stain remover – Brand Jesus."
To start his argument, Wigg Stevenson points readers to the book of Romans written by Apostle Paul. Through Paul's situation in Rome, the author draws parallels to the United States, especially since America now, like Rome then, is a major center of commerce in the world.
In the book, Wigg Stevenson shows how Christians have blurred the boundary between the church and the world – through things such as consumerism, the economy, and politics – into the gospel and turned scripture into a market-driven theology. He even asserts that American interpretation of the scriptures has become idolatrous and wrong.
"Perhaps American Christians have misunderstood what Paul was writing about to the Romans," questioned Wigg Stevenson, who is also an associate minister at Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church in Hamden, Conn. "Perhaps our gospel isn't the gospel at all. And if our good news about Jesus isn't the real good news, then maybe we've got the wrong Jesus, too."
The writer urges readers to stop and take a look at how they live their faith. Despite the trends that have been taking place, he offers answers on how to live a faithful life and follow God clearly.
"The body of the American church has been seized by Brand Jesus, which seeks to kill us," added the Yale Divinity School graduate. "And this evil spirit will not be expelled by our continuing to do church business as usual. Our trusted methods, the old stand-bys – they will fail. It is business as usual that has opened us to such peril.
"No, this kind can come out only by prayer and fasting," Wigg Stevenson concludes.
Brand Jesus: Christianity in a Consumerist Age is published by Seabury Books and can be bought online or at bookstores.