Jesus Christ® Is a Registered Trademark

June 25, 2012

What kind of company tries to keep people from talking about them?

What kind of celebrity doesn’t want people to tweet about them?

What kind of blogger doesn’t want people to share their content?

Whether you’re a business owner, or you’re just building your own little platform, no one wants to stop people from talking about them.

Seth Godin had a great blog last week, sharply criticizing the Olympic® committee for protecting its registered trademark by going after Facebook users, knitters, and stand-up comedians and other people who are actually giving positive publicity to their brand.  You can read his post here.

The problem is that whoever is in charge of Jesus’ public relations is doing the same thing.

It’s not that anyone is stopping us from talking about faith.  It’s not that anyone is ignoring or marginalizing or discriminating against us.  It’s that we’ve made it nearly impossible to talk about Jesus.  We’ve done it to ourselves.

Mom Always Taught Us to Share

Remember Napster?

Napster was great.  It came out when I was in high school.  It was amazing, suddenly being able to download all the music we wanted, and sharing with friends, without the hassle of going to the store and buying an entire CD.  We didn’t think we were doing anything wrong.

And then the bands got their collective undies in a twist.  When they discovered that people were actually sharing their music, they threw a fit, because of course, they weren’t getting paid for all that free publicity.

I understood it when the music industry moved to shut down Napster and other file sharing sites.  But it became scary when the reports started flying around that bands were starting to go after their fans who had stolen their music.  We wondered if Big Brother was going to come to our door, to the tune of Metallica, and take us away in handcuffs, unless we destroyed the evidence of our crimes.

The whole episode did nothing to endear people to the music industry.  It made it easy to justify stealing from them, since they were acting like a huge, greedy corporation.

Stop Giving Us Free Publicity!

In the case of Napster, and now with the Olympics®, you have massively well-known, hugely valuable brands, being protected by massive corporate interests.  The corporations became more interested in protecting their trademarks than getting free word-of-mouth publicity.  They made it harder for people to talk about their products or share it with friends, and that means their precious brands lost value.

It’s easy for Christians to blame the world.  We tell ourselves that people are so mean, and they won’t listen to us!  They are discriminating against our faith, making us look like idiots on TV, and destroying our Christian heritage.  Boo hooooo!

It’s just not true though.

We’ve done the same thing to Jesus.  We’ve made it next to impossible to talk about him.

A Jesus Moratorium

The problem is everyone thinks they have a trademark on Jesus Christ®.  And everyone with a Jesus trademark ties their little cultural issue or political fight to Jesus’ neck.  Jesus is practically drowning with everything we’ve weighed him down with.

Try talking about Jesus, and suddenly you’re liable to get stuck in an argument about health care, gay rights, Muslim relations, the immigration, Constitution, capitalism, recycling, and hundreds of other things that take our attention off of him.  It’s becoming impossible to mention his name and keep things civil, because apparently, Jesus has thousands of contradictory and extremely controversial opinions that he insists everyone agrees with.  It’s almost as if Jesus has forgotten that his kingdom is not of this world.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to have a five year moratorium on Jesus talk.  Let his image get a little rehab.  Let us figure out that most of our little political and culture wars have nothing to do with Jesus.  Wouldn’t it be great if people talked about Jesus when they wanted to discuss something not controversial?

What say you?  Would it be better if we just let Jesus be himself, and left him out of our little arguments?  Are we making it harder on ourselves to talk about just Jesus?

19 responses to Jesus Christ® Is a Registered Trademark

  1. Jesus told his disciples people would hate them because of him. So, in a way, shouldn’t his name always be controversial? Not the way we made it, though. I do think dropping our favorite hot topics and focusing on the stuff he actually said and did will get us on the right track to the controversy he was talking about. Like that turn the other cheek stuff. Aren’t you supposed to stand up for yourself? We don’t want people thinking Christians are pushovers, right?

    It’s like Mark Twain said. It’s not the parts I don’t understand that bother me. It’s the parts I do.

  2. I know your post wasn’t really about music piracy, but here’s a different perspective on that issue: http://shaungroves.com/2012/06/response-emily-white-npr-music-piracy/

  3. There are lots of issues at hand. I will try to make a brief list.

    – Not everyone that calls themselves a Christian really is – well unless you are Rob Bell, than every that breaths is on the list. Maybe we need certificates of authenticity?

    – Christians align themselves with political parties. Pretty much all Americans do. If we would just if we wold just decide where we stand on the moral and social issues, we’d be better off. I believe God is pro environment, Capitalism, and the death penalty. You can’t pick a party for that combination.

    – We box God up all day long with religious practice that is apart from knowing and hearing God.

    Back to authenticity. Jesus said that Christian would be known for their love, not just for on another, but for those in the world around them. He said His word (rhema, not logos) would be followed by signs and wonders.

    I enjoyed watching a young man (with tats and piercings galore) come to Christ at our service yesterday. “I prayed that little prayer and I felt this burning in my chest.” he said. “I have never felt that before.” Then one of the regular old members asked if he could pray for him. Without anyone touching him, God healed a back problem that only he knew about. “I had back injury when I was 4, and this is the first time I can remember that I have had no pain at all!” “Jesus Christ, I have to tell my friends about this place.” he exclaimed, and then sort of looked sheepish about what he just said.

    I would say that he has an authentic certificate. But that is just my opinion about what Jesus did.

    • Isn’t it a weird combination that we’re not supposed to love the world – just the people in it?

      • It depends on the verse. In Greek ‘anos’ = age, as opposed to ‘oikoumene’ the inhabited globe.

        Mostly we are not of this age is better in some circumstances. It speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven in us which Jesus said was at hand. It’s like a FastPass at Disney.

        But yeah, loving people is a tall order.

  4. I love those pictures, Matt! I would love to have a T-shirt with the Republican picture on one side and the Democrat picture on the other. 😀

    Trademark is all about control, and people creating the illusion of control. I watched the diving trials yesterday and the US Olympic team had ads every time asking for money to support our athletes. I guess that if they can’t cajole people to pay, then they will strong arm them. Sounds like the mob, doesn’t it? I am getting a little jaded with the Olympics because it has occurred to me that the chief end of the Olympics is to glorify man, not God. But it is still fun to watch, even if NBC is doing a hack job on covering it.

    If we are supposed to live for Jesus and make disciples, then we need to talk about him to others, but we shouldn’t argue about him, especially over inconsequential details like his political leanings (which were non-existent, unless you consider that his work set the stage for God eventually establishing a theocracy :-D). There are so many Bible verse that support this–James says that we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry; Jesus tells us not to argue if people don’t want to hear His message of salvation, but to walk away and wipe the dust from our feet; Paul tells in Titus that if someone insists on arguing over petty details, walk away and have nothing to do with him (or her); he also said somewhere else that as Christians, we should not argue over “debatable matters.” What we need to do is remember as Christians is that God has the trademark on Jesus and its up to Him to correct any “errors in Biblical thinking.” He is more than capable of doing that ;-).

    I say these things and yet, I am not good at doing them and my kids are living proof. My in-laws, whose views in the political spectrum are about as far from mine as possible, but who are still wonderful people, have done a great job of teaching me to hold my tongue and are gracious when I fail to do so. It is a character trait on which I will be focusing my efforts on with me and my kids for a while until we get good at it.

    • I think there are some fine lines here that may be semantics. I agree that you shouldn’t argue with non-believers over petty doctrinal disputes. But we’re told that we’re to be like “iron sharpening iron” with other believers. Iron can’t sharpen iron without a few sparks. If we can’t discuss controversial topics with each other, then how will we learn and develop our understanding of things? How will we be able to give an answer when asked by a non-believer? Absolutely don’t needlessly stir up conflict over trivial things (and especially with non-believers), but don’t run from it with believers. We need to sharpen our minds and our understandings and that is best done in a community of believers.

  5. “It’s almost as if Jesus has forgotten that his kingdom is not of this world.” <– That made me LOL. :-)

    THANK YOU for writing this. I sincerely wish people would stop using Jesus against His will to support their own personal political beliefs. When He was here, He resisted being made an earthly leader, and He spoke so little about earthly politics. Let's not cram our own words into His mouth and pretend He said them.

    • I think this is the true meaning of taking the Lord’s name in vain. I don’t think Jesus cares half as much about people blurting his name out carelessly as he cares about people willfully using his name as a pawn in their political games.

    • Jason Cormier July 2, 2012 at 9:09 am

      Agreed. We should also quit cramming our doctrines into his mouth.

  6. You totally missed the mark on Napster and music piracy. Napster was not great. It was about thievery — not sharing.
    Sorry that teenagers don’t have the energy or money to go to a store and buy a CD. But that doesn’t give them a license to steal.

    Your argument about paying for “free publicity” is flawed. It’s not about publicity. It’s about earning a living.

    The music industry is a business. People producing a product deserve to be compensated. They have earned it. A person sitting in his/her room with a computer has not earnied the right to copy the product.

    Musicians/writers/film makers, etc. spend months/years creating something. If you expect them to give it away for free, they can’t survive.

    Everyone has to eat — including artists. If they can’t afford food because no one is buying their wares, they will engage in a different endeavor. That’s the law of basic survival.

    If an unfettered Napster (and other “sharing” technologies) had been allowed to continue, it would have destroyed the music industry. There would be no new recorded music to feed the souls of the masses because a bunch of the true greedy people in this scenario wanted something for nothing.

    Also, your argument that if corporations protect their brands, they “make it harder for people to talk about their products or share it with friends” isn’t cogent. Why? Your lips freeze together because you don’t get freebies? In the world of commerce, something has value because it costs money. Free stuff equates to junk.

    As far as the record companies suing the “fans,” there were very few cases that were actually prosecuted. And those were people who downloaded many thousands of songs without paying one penny of royalties. Now who’s the greedy party here?

    No one knocked on your door with handcuffs. No one went to jail. A message was sent: pay for your music.

    For me, when I like a group or singers’ music, I talk about it/blog about it. But more important, a true “fan” doesn’t begrudge a band the right to earn a living providing me with something I enjoy. I WANT to pay bands for the price of a CD because I want them to produce more music that I like.

    I think the Napster thing is an example of entitlement thinking. If “sharing is what friends do,” then get a job and share your paycheck. Share the efforts of YOUR hard work. Not someone else’s.

    • Sorry you think I “missed the mark.”

      It was great at the time. Like I said, we weren’t thinking about the moral implications. The point is that a new tech came along – direct downloads. The music industry had a choice how to respond. They could use this great new tech and harness it for their own benefit. They chose to go after their fans. It took Apple and the iPod to correct the situation and make everyone happy.

  7. I think your comment in the comments about the true meaning of taking the Lord’s name in vain is exactly right.

  8. Jason Cormier July 2, 2012 at 9:22 am

    One thing about this crying about Napster. Why doesn’t the music industry go after the blank cassette industry and people who use them to record songs off the radio? Or go after companies for making the cassette recorders? Same question for blank cd’s and computers with burner capabilities? Are not these examples the same as Napster? Did they kill the music industry?

    Quit drinking the cool-aid and know a little more about the history of these things. Bands in the sixties and early seventies used to provide outlets for people to be able to hook up their 8-tracks so people could record boot legs. Because they knew the truth. Bands do not make a ton of money off their records, the companies do. They make their money from touring and radio play. I mean yes they make “some” money from record sales, but 20-40 percent split 4-5 ways is not a lot. It gets worse if you are not selling a lot of records.

  9. Somehow I missed that Seth Goin post. Thank you for sharing.

    The moratorium you suggest is very interesting. Very @JesusNeedsNewPR of you.

    Unfortunately, I think you’re right. It’s nearly impossible to bring up the name of Jesus w/out tempers and voices rising in a death match debate.

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