Are souvenir socks a good way of celebrating one of the move pivotal points in human history? That’s right, stockings. Socks emblazoned with one of the most famous statements of Christian faith made during the past millennium.
“Hier stehe ich!” “Here I stand” (on the clear message of God’s word). This was Martin Luther’s steadfast defense where his salvation on the teaching that we are saved by God’s grace and mercy, not by our own efforts.
“Ich kann nicht anders.” I can do no other, Luther continued. He invited his adversaries to correct him if they could show him in error, according to the Scriptures.
We are beginning a season when many people are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation of the Church. Some of the commemorations are quite noteworthy. Others . . . less so.
On the positive side, I rank near the top The Wittenberg Project, the restoration of the Old Latin School in the city where Luther preached the Gospel.
Near the other extreme, I have to place the “Here I Stand” socks. While I briefly considered purchasing a pair for one of my sons, my admittedly plebian sense of fashion saved me from doing so. (If you, on the other hand, find them tasteful or suitable for an acquaintance, you’ll find a link to the footwear below.)*
In his essay, “What Christmas Means to Me,” C.S. Lewis describes this sort of product. In his description of the “commercial racket” associated with the season, he writes:
I condemn it on the following grounds. . . . Things are given as presents which no mortal ever bought for himself – gaudy and useless gadgets, ‘novelties’ because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before.
Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish?
I understand that one person’s “rubbish,” though, can be another’s treasure. Still, as Edward Veith writes in The State of the Arts:
The problem with religious kitsch is that its cuteness and self-gratifying nature can domesticate and thereby distort Biblical faith. Christianity is not a sickly, sweet religion . . . The anemic figurines of Jesus Christ are poor testimony to His deity and His lordship.
Viewing It All in (a Humorous) Perspective
While surfing the net researching this peculiar item, I encountered an entertaining website where we see how the Catholic—Reformer struggle lives on today.
A Roman Catholic website comments on the same sort of socks—tastefully offered in the original German. The author of The Ironic Catholic writes:
With all due apologies to my Lutheran brothers and sisters: while this catapults you into a real race with the Catholics for kitsch, we will crush you like grapes in this arena.
It’s all good-natured, of course. I haven’t bothered to research Catholic variations on the footings quotations front, but I imagine they are equally pithy.
I did, however, find one prolific Roman Catholic author whose following statement might be just as suitable for a hat as for stockings.
“It is because we are standing on our heads that Christ’s philosophy seems upside-down.” (G.K. Chesterton)
* You can order your own pair of “Here I Stand” socks here.
** The Ironic Catholic post is here.
8 thoughts on “Religious Kitsch”
We will crush you like grapes…….most amusing, but also saddening that they claim excellence in this area. Many Christian bookshops are stocking more and more of this type of stuff….unfortunately.
I actually have a fairly high toleration level for stuff of this sort. What troubles me is when it acts as a substitute for true art. That is very sad, indeed.
Awesome! And, of course, there is the WWJD panties. Kitsch can go badly.
Don’t tell anyone, though: I like some Christian rock music.
Yikes. I hope that underwear doesn’t actually exist, but I fear it does.
I enjoy lots of Christian rock–which often has extremely deep and biblical lyrics–but I don’t care all that much for a lot of contemporary religious choruses which are, how shall I say it, both shallow and repetitive.
So you can meditate each morning when you put on your socks?
Great suggestion, but it means we’ll need at least seven pair!
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