The gospel is subtly evolving into a fashion trend in celebrity wardrobes, college campuses, and street corners.
Young and elderly of different religions gladly purchase and wear T-shirts, sweatsuits, hats, tote bags, and buttons with religious scripture and spiritual themes imprinted on them.
The pastor of Washington’s 10th Street Baptist Church, the Rev. A. Michael Charles Durant, said, “According to Second Corinthians, we are ambassadors for Christ.” As His ambassadors, it is our responsibility to share His message, which is now being done in less conventional ways and from pulpits and pews.
The themes vary from the lighthearted to the profound: “Life is delicate, manage with prayer,” “I am Blessed,” “As long as there are examinations, prayer will remain in schools,” “Just say no to sin,” and “Angels can fly because they do not take themselves seriously.”
“The message is how the wearers encourage themselves and others who read it. It is a reflection of where you are in your growth or what you are going through at a particular time in your life,” said Mr. Durant, who has received numerous T-shirts from members of his congregation and has also given some as gifts.
Although not exclusive to black neighborhoods, the tendency is quite noticeable there. Similar T-shirts have been worn on campus by members of the Baptist Student Union at Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as students from Catholic University, Brigham Young University, and other colleges with a religious affiliation. L. I am Blessed Enterprises, which features a line of sportswear sporting the slogan “I am Blessed,” was formed by C. Scott and his wife, Carolyn. They have sold items to celebrities, including Pia Zadora, Tina Marie, and Tony Danza.
We have a sizable Latino customer base, so our products are printed in both English and Spanish, said Mr. Scott, who sells his goods from a kiosk in the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza shopping center in Los Angeles, and it has distributorships in 48 states. Even though some of the Koreans we sold to had a very limited grasp of English, they understood the message.
Some claim that the success of these products is a result of the baby-boom generation’s growing interest in religion and the prevalence of support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Gamblers Anonymous, which all employ inspirational themes to inspire their members. Others view the rising tendency as a method to connect with young people in a manner that they can more readily relate to. Both religious and nonreligious people
The proprietor of His Image Wear, Army of the Lord, a store in the Prince George’s Plaza shopping center outside of Washington, Maryland, Victoria Holmes, stated, “We are trying to communicate to the kids that it is possible to be trendy and yet be a Christian.”
Even people who may not consider themselves very devout are purchasing the goods. Whatever the causes of the craze, it has created a cottage industry of business owners who run their operations from their homes, mall kiosks, and street corners.
Choices — the Recovery Bookshop was established by Miriam Pollack at 220 East 78th Street in Manhattan three years ago. 500 diaries and other items, such as Christian T-shirts for Women FHL, are also available at the shop in addition to books. Seeking to improve oneself.
People who wear the Christian T-shirts I sell are interested in bettering themselves, according to Ms. Pollack. “I have had individuals who are living in shelters come here to buy and people who show up in limos,” the business owner said. “My clientele span every class and color, every religion and nonreligion.”
Many of these inspiring company owners see their enterprises as a calling and provide anecdotes about how their merchandise has rescued clients. Nearly all claim to donate a percentage of their earnings to charitable organizations like churches or community projects.
According to Ms. Holmes, who established her business in 1989, “people have come by my stand, looked at the products, and requested me to pray for them.” “I have seen one person in a month move from passing by my booth to read the words on the shirts to purchasing multiple products, carrying a Bible, and now standing here beside me encouraging consumers who are browsing,” Sweet Inspirations said.
People confide to Ms. Pollack about their troubles and divulge their darkest secrets, according to Ms. Pollack, who started her bookshop as a means to keep caring for people after she quit her work as a nurse. Mr. Scott said that a dream gave him the concept for the message “I am Blessed.” And Andrea Payne, who runs a t-shirt and tote bag business out of her Brooklyn apartment, recalls going to church one Sunday morning when her grandmother’s famous line, “Why worry when you can pray,” caught her attention.
When I left church on that particular Sunday, Ms. Payne recalled thinking about T-shirts. She soon started selling items with her grandmother’s remarks written on them. Cool Christian T-shirt sales allowed our church to raise $1,500, according to Ms. Payne. Malls and yard sales
In 1986, the Scott family of Los Angeles began selling “I am Blessed” T-shirts in their front yard before moving on to shopping centers a year later. The Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Byron Scott, who is not a relative, and the musician Lou Rawls has provided financial support for Mr. Scott. His goods are sold at a Los Angeles J. J. Newberry variety shop.
Many individuals have confided in me that they sleep in my Jesus T-shirts or sweatshirts because it makes them feel more at ease, according to Mr. Scott. Reactions, both positive and negative
However, not all responses are favorable. The response to a T-shirt that New York City fashion designer John McLeow created, in which Christ is shown as a bloodied half-black, half-white figure, has varied from complimentary to pugilistic.
According to Mr. McLeow, who created the shirt to collect money for his church, it asks the question, “Was Christ Black?” “Was Christ White?” and “He was blood red for you.” “One guy had the faith based shirt on, and another hosed him down.”
It is unclear how long the trend will last until it becomes obsolete. For instance, Ms. Pollack is skeptical that her products will do as well at Times Square tourist stores as they do on the Upper East Side. But Mr. Scott wants to take his business abroad. And Ms. Payne, who had been working temporarily, has opted to focus on selling her new Christian clothing line, particularly to churches and community organizations, and is no longer looking for employment.
When we first began, many of the big department shops rejected us, claiming that their consumers did not want what we were offering, according to Mr. Scott. Doors open for you when you serve others and share the gospel, however. Last year, we generated over $200,000 in revenue, and just this week, I had a call from a department shop that had previously rejected us.