When I was in Catholic school (which was a LONG time ago), we used to run through scenarios in our religion class where we would be confronted with someone sinning.
“WHAT,” the religion teacher would ask earnestly, “If you saw someone stealing candy at the store.” We would gasp in horror–that’s a COMMANDMENT. “What should you do?” she would prompt–looking across our upturned faces “what is the right thing?”
Some kids would be confrontational about the situation.
“Tell them to not steal!” a particularly judgmental child would yell.
“Tell an adult!” would offer another (a known snitch).
Others were more spiritual.
“I would pray for them, that they would make the right decision,” one of the more annoying girls would say, putting her hands in a prayerful position
A few were pragmatic.
“Let them, they’re the ones sinning. If they go to hell it’s their fault.”
“Why make a scene? Just tell security.”
I never answered. Partially because I felt like it was a dumb question. We all knew the rules, and we all knew that there were consequences for getting caught (either here or in the next life), and free will was free will. But mostly it was because I had learned over time that being confrontational with people breaking the rules was generally frowned upon. It was another, unwritten rule that all children seemed to understand after a few missteps. I was never going to be the girl yelling at people trying to get them to change their mind about something. I was not meant for evangelism.
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And yet… I found myself feeling very strongly about things. I would attend rallies and protests, but I was never getting in anyone’s face about it. I admired those people, but it was not for me. It felt fake and forced.
Not to say that I wouldn’t get in someone’s face if it was something that I was directly involved in. I would place myself in between people fighting with the ease of someone fully trained in disarming combatants. I would quiz teachers on school policies and our rights as students if I saw them harassing a friend. As I grew older and had children, I would stand toe to toe with teachers, vice-principals and principals and back them up if they so much as breathed wrong on either of my children. Letters and emails to superintendents and school board were commonplace. And God help them if they insinuated I was incorrect, because I always kept receipts.
But ultimately, I was not made to be someone who argues with people on the internet. So I came up with another plan…. tee-shirt ministry.
See, there are many spiritual gifts — and every person has different gifts. And while the list I know comes from the Christian bible, and there are some gifts specific to those following the Christian path, there certainly seem to be a lot of “common sense” gifts on the list…
Now, I know myself fairly well (I’ve known me my entire life, honestly) and I know for a fact that some of those gifts are NOT for me. Exhortation? Is there a way to do that without actually talking to people? Teaching? Can I do that without dealing with children, or parents? Or adults? Yeah.
BUT… here’s what I know I can do. I can support ministries and missions by giving of my time and money. And the easiest way to do that? buy a tee shirt… and wear it. In public. It started out as a bit of a joke. I would wear slightly controversial shirts to church to see if anyone would ask me what my shirt said, and more importantly, what it meant.
I moved onto adding patches to my purse and jean jacket. Things that I liked, things that I cared about. Mostly benign, but a few more controversial. And people would ask me about where I had gotten the patches, how I might have known about something particularly esoteric… it was a way for my tribe to find me.
As time went on, I started wearing more controversial shirts. I wanted people to ask me about the shirts–I wanted people to see what I supported. It was my way of exhorting about an issue without actually having to necessarily talking to people. And now? I’m known for it. When I walk in, it’s not, “hey, Jenn,” it’s “what does your shirt say today?” And that makes my heart happy. Because maybe that’s the only way that someone may have heard about a particular charity or cause. And yeah, sometimes I go a little passive-aggressive about it, like when I wore my “close the camps” shirt to visit more conservative friends. Or the time someone was guest preaching and I wore a “I didn’t say that –Jesus” shirt. But most of the time, I’m just hoping people will have a conversation about something that I feel strongly about.
So yeah. I have some obnoxious shirts. And yeah, I’m going to keep wearing them to church, and work, and where ever else I feel like doing it. Because it’s my way of evangelizing. And if that makes me like the Virgin Mary, I’m okay with that. She was pretty cool.