Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Easter Shirts and Lenton Practices

Written by: on April 1, 2023

Your Easter Shirt

Finding the right outfit for Easter can be challenging [1]. You want to look good in the pictures and rightly convey the meaning of the day, but, no worries, I received an email from my favorite t-shirt company with the perfect shirt – marketed in a timely manner, of course. In fact, I am hard-pressed to find a better representation of consumerism and religion and all the ways they seamlessly align. You can check out the picture below. I am tempted to buy this shirt just to engage in the conversations. Will I encounter uncritical acceptance or complete distain for the comedic and modern amalgam of religious belief and culture?

The commodification of religion in a consumerist culture is the subject of the book, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture by Vincent J. Miller and the thesis, Evangelism and Capitalism: A Reparative and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship by Dr. Jason Paul Clark. Both works offer observations of the ways in which consumerism has communized religion, while offering ways that Christian religion can speak to consumeristic culture through practices that offer a competing narrative. I will explore these thoughts, particularity in regards to how desires can be redirected through Lenton disciplines in my own experience of giving up Facebook for Lent. 

Consumption and Desire

It is not unusual to hear critiques of the modern church being “commercial,” what is rare is offering an observational perspective that values religious belief within the ubiquitous culture of capitalism, while considering practices to engage, rather than escape, the culture. That is what is found in the writings of Miller and Clark. In fact, Miller’s thesis is focused toward, “how the habits of consumption transform our relationship to the religious beliefs we profess”[2]. Clark enters into the tension of how faithful Christians navigate the complexities of a consumeristic culture when we writes, “…we understand Christianity as neither renouncing the world, nor leaving it to its relentless drive to consumption”[3]. 

One of the collision points of faith and consumerism is desire. While often regarded as an impulse that must be stifled, Miller observes that desire is more nuanced expression of “the joy of desiring itself” not just the possession of things [4]. Further, desire can easily consume the deepest religious desires in consumeristic ways that become difficult to separate a desire for things that transcend and a desire for more stuff [5]. 

Practice Rather Than Beliefs

Where the arguments of Miller and Clark are most compelling is the engagement of consumerism, not with better theological arguments, but with embodied behaviors that create sustainable change for people of faith. Observing that theology is often commodified and not able to offer lasting change, Miller suggested that, “It can do so by engaging consumer culture on the level of practices and structures rather than meanings and beliefs” [6]. Clark argues in a similar way when he states, “In other words, the reception of the signs and symbols for cultural production, be that of Christian faith or capitalism, do not start with the head, but with the heart and the body. It is the training and habituation of desires that shapes us, not our theories of desire”[7]. 

This made me think of a practice I took up for Lent. Traditionally, Lent is a time of “taking up” or “giving up” something for forty-days of preparation to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. While people may choose a variety of practices, the point is to find a new rhythm during the forty-days of preparation. I chose to give up Facebook for Lent. It has been an interesting practice for a number of reasons, but one in particular is how I was not subject to added desire through posts or targeted advertisements. I have found that I am more emotionally present to the people around me during this season. While I did not consider it at first, giving up Facebook was a way that I removed myself from the constant barrage of consumerist culture. 


The commodification of religion is a daunting subject with no easy answers. The work of inviting Christian belief and practice out of the untangling of capitalist culture is an impossible task, yet targeted practices within a religious community seem like a good start, even if the results are not guaranteed. While it will not produce quick results, it will invite critical, lasting engagement with practices that will lead to individual and community transformation. It is a task worthy of our attention. Until then, let’s go buy new shirts and see where the conversation goes. 

  1. To be fair, I could wear it to create conversations around the delay of the parousia. 
  2. Miller, Vincent Jude. Consuming Religion : Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. New York; London: Bloomsbury, 2013, 11. 
  3. Clark, Jason Paul, “Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship” (2018). Faculty Publications – Portland Seminary. 132. https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/gfes/132. p. 202
  4. Miller, 144. 
  5. Ibid. 
  6. Ibid., 180. 
  7. Clark, 215. 

About the Author


Chad McSwain

Chad is a systematic creative serving in pastoral ministry for nearly 20 years, Chad is a professional question-asker and white-board enthusiast, who enjoys helping people discover their own passions and purpose. A life-long learner, he has a B.A, Philosophy - Univ. Central Oklahoma, M.A Theology - Fuller Seminary, M.Div. Perkins School of Theology at SMU and is pursuing a Doctor of Leadership - George Fox University. He is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, currently serving as Lead Pastor of Whitesboro UMC. Chad and his wife, Brandi live in Prosper, Texas along with their three children, two pugs and a chameleon.

4 responses to “Easter Shirts and Lenton Practices”

  1. Tonette Kellett says:


    Your shirt idea is a funny one. I would certainly start a conversation with you if you wore it to my church on Easter Sunday. 🙂

  2. Michael O'Neill says:

    If the Jesus in the shirt had a cape on it, I’m sure you wouldn’t be able to resist. I appreciate your thoughts on consumerism and the commodification of religion. You’re right, there are no easy answers and I think this is a subject we will always have to face. I think it is important that we stay in tune with what God wants in our lives and then we can spend less time worrying about the blessings he provides.

    The amalgam of consumerism and religion in the shirt is funny. I run into stuff like that too and I sometimes think it’s good humor and sometimes offended if they mock Jesus. I remember some old good classics like “Air Jesus.” I think we had a poster in our youth group room when I was a kid. Anyway, great post and thoughts. I think you have a good grip on what is and what is not appropriate for your flock.

  3. mm Becca Hald says:

    Chad, you need to get that shirt! If for no other reason than the comic aspect of it. I wonder what conversations it would start and would they be with other Christians (either laughing with you or berating you?), or would they be with non Christians? What would either party say? Interesting thoughts.

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