She headed to the mirror for a final check, tousled her hair, and draped just-so her tunic-length tank tee blazoned with an oversized open tube of lipstick, a pouty "mwah!" kiss print and girly script reading "Don't Be Tempted." Satisfied with her reflection, she grabbed her Bible and headed out the door to … where? The mall? A party?

Not this morning. She was heading to church in her brand-new OMG wear.

OMG has created a line of casual tanks and tees designed for Saturday night parties and Sunday morning worship. Founded in 2010, the California company's website features teen models giving the camera their best PG-13 "come hither" looks, often wearing little more than tees and tanks splashed with slogans like "A Date With J.C.", "God Knows My Secrets," and "Worship Crew." Who knows? Perhaps the "come hither" is intended to be a non-verbal evangelistic tool.

There have been at least two generations of the Christian T-Shirt—the derivative-yet-earnest variety and the darkly ironic—but OMG has created a brand-new category: Sexy 'n Spiritual. Christians have a long, ignoble history of trading in all manner of religious tchotchkes, but OMG, with its Second Commandment-bending name, takes this bad habit of ours in a new direction, with its products' odd syncretism between pop religion and hyper-sexualized pop culture.

OMG's website explains the mission: "We believe in sharing our faith & love through fashion while embracing our fun & characteristic lifestyle as well as giving back to the community." The message I received from a tour of the website was that this fun and characteristic lifestyle is overtly sensual in nature. The imprinted messages splashed across the front of the tees baptize that sensuality in churchy language. It's casual wear for the hot Christian woman!

If expressing our faith is akin to rooting for our home team, a "Princess of Peace" tee is nothing more than an especially tasteless expression of our status as brand loyalists, not unlike wearing a Viking helmet to one's own wedding. However, purchasing Jesus-y fan swag isn't too far removed from more familiar consumer expressions of Christian team loyalty: boycotting retailers who say "Season's Greetings" instead of "Merry Christmas," or lining up around the block to buy deep-fried chicken sandwiches as a sign of solidarity with a Christian business owner. All of these decisions share an underlying assumption: The world will know us by our consumer purchases.

Kyle Idleman, in his 2011 book Not A Fan: Becoming A Completely Committed Follower of Jesus (Zondervan), said, "Many have made a decision to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow Jesus. The gospel allows for no such distinction … [Jesus] is looking for more than words of belief; he's looking to see how those words are lived out in your life."

Idleman echoes Bonhoeffer's classic The Cost of Discipleship: "Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth which has a place for the Fatherhood of God, but omits Christ as the living Son …. There is trust in God, but no following of Christ."

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus refused to ally himself with cliques and clans. Had he chose to do so, he would have consolidated a solid fan base from which to build his ministry. Instead, he reached into cliques and clans, inviting working-class people, prostitutes, religious and government elites to follow him. These "called out ones" had nothing in common with one another except Jesus.

This relationship with Jesus forced new questions into the lives of these first followers:

Who can be saved? , How often must I forgive someone who has hurt me?, Who is this man asking me to give up my entire life in order to follow him? Those are not the kinds of questions with which fans grapple. Instead, fans of Jesus asked questions like, "When are you going to take out these oppressive Romans so we can be winners?"

Today's fans might ask, "Does that OMG 'Worship Crew' tee come in a small?"

I'd suggest that a follower will have a different set of questions: Does this T-shirt trivialize Jesus' message? Has it been manufactured in an ethical manner? Is this a wise use of the money I've been given? It is modest?

After the recent election, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, wrote about our penchant for fan-style behavior, noting, "While symbols can be important, we have focused perhaps too much on them instead of the underlying reality they reflect."

I doubt that the Christians who are suiting up for this year's round of court battles on behalf of their local town hall's manger scene see themselves as kindred spirits with companies like OMG. I think they have one thing in common: They both appeal to the fans of Team Jesus. It might just be time to quit the team, and follow the captain instead.

Tags: