Letters

"Jesus, I think, would have preferred that we keep our money changing and our worshiping separate." Readers respond to Lynn Harris' article about the Christian business boom.


Salon Staff
August 9, 2005 12:44AM (UTC)

Read "Verily, I Sell Unto You," by Lynn Harris.

Five years ago I moved with my husband from a blue state to a red state to be closer to his family. The cultural differences are enormous, and I still have not adjusted. One of the things I have noticed are crosses and fish symbols next to businesses in the phone book.

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My two experiences with overtly Christian businesses have been as follows: A kitchen remodeling company initially refused to work with us because they thought my husband and I were "living in sin" since I didn't take my husband's last name when we got married (which is a sin in and of itself out here, but that's another article). We also got a lecture on Jesus and were asked if we were Christians, with the implication being that they wouldn't work with us if we weren't (they were an astronomically good deal, so we did the non-Christian thing and lied our asses off; I'm a lapsed Christian and my husband is non-Christian).

The second business was a tiling company. As the worker was tiling a wall he proceeded to berate me for not having children, implying that my decision was an "affront to God." I chose not to have children for medical reasons, none of which are his business.

Why did I put up with this? Well, besides good pricing, I'd be hard pressed not to find a business around here that proselytizes in one form or another. After reading Lynn Harris' article, I'm now more concerned that the "Christian business model" is becoming widespread. Make no mistake, the businesses that I've come into contact with have obviously had no problems with harassment and discrimination. These so-called Christians seem intent on driving non-Christians to second-class citizenry, if they're allowed to be citizens at all. I'm so fearful of the direction this country is headed in, I can hardly stand it. On the bright side though, my husband and I have become excellent do-it-yourselfers over the past few years.

-- G.K.

If Salon writers and other liberals really want to win back Congress and the White House, they need to think long and hard before writing articles like this, or that series on the Exodus organization. If you don't want to seem anti-Christian, then quit targeting Christians in your top stories. Many, many Catholics went red the last two elections because they feel alienated by Democrats. While as a Catholic I would hardly be welcomed at evangelical meetings, I still respect their beliefs and realize that there are much larger problems in this world that Jesus signs on buildings.

I mean, really, what's the deal? Crisis pregnancy centers talking people out of abortions has somehow become a crime to liberals. When did that happen? Putting "Jesus" on your building is somehow bad in the land of free speech and protection of religion?

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If you want the average American to think Salon is an extremist, out-of-touch publication, then keep writing Christian exposé articles. But you are dragging all left-leaning people along with you in the war of public opinion.

I have really started to question my membership in the Democratic Party these days. Instead of writing articles on AIDS orphans and what we can do to help, instead of writing articles on the privatization of water in South America, or the rise in cancer rates in states like Texas -- things that we can gain consensus about within our own party -- our most vocal advocates concentrate their support on every polarizing issue that's available to us.

So you don't believe in Jesus. OK, what do you care if others do? I don't believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny, but I don't write snide stories about little kids that do. Live and let live.

-- Tiffany Lach

Many thanks for Lynn Harris' well-balanced portrait of the increasing visibility of overtly Christian businesses. One word, though, to Ms. Trammel and those like her, who feel potential customers are turned away because "this world is wicked and the name of the Lord sometimes repels people."

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That's not it at all: I myself would be disinclined to enter such a Christian business simply because I don't want to be proselytized when all I'm looking for is a workout or a cup of coffee or an auto tuneup. The evangelicals might argue that we shouldn't separate such daily activities from our faith, but for an awful lot of us, our faith is a very personal, very private thing, and it seems downright distasteful to go shouting to everybody about my level of piety. It's not about what I practice in my daily life; it's about not needing to go around proclaiming it all the time.

-- Robert Toombs

Lynn Harris' roundup of "Christian" marketing failed to mention that real estate professionals who market themselves overtly by religion run the risk of violating the advertising provisions of the Fair Housing Act.

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The act at 42 U.S.C. section 3604(c) makes it illegal to "make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination."

I'd say that "Christian Realtor At Remax Progressive" pretty much screams out a preference for "Christian" customers (or those who wish to be "saved" by their Christian real estate experience). Real estate agents' services are supposed to be available on an equal-opportunity basis, but how welcoming do these companies appear to be to Muslims, atheists, Jews, etc.?

-- Tracey McCartney, Tennessee Fair Housing Council

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Jesus, I think, would have preferred that we keep our money changing and our worshiping separate. What was all that hoo-ha in the temple about, after all? And would a Christian business charge interest or "forgive us our debts"?

-- Pat

I live in a city where religion is a dominant part of absolutely everything, and the "oppressed" Christians have pretty much complete control of the media and government. My experience with companies that aggressively promote their religious ties has largely been that they tend to offer inferior quality and inferior service. I assume that they believe that other Christians will patronize them and are willing to pay more for less in order to support their peers.

While I have had some positive experiences with Christian-labeled businesses, they have been the minority. What's more, I know that many of the businesses I deal with on a daily basis are Christian owned and operated, but they don't feel the need to use it as a marketing tool. And those businesses are always a pleasure to deal with (or at least not a hassle; it's hard to describe spending thousands of dollars to replace a busted furnace as a pleasure).

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-- Matthew Yarbrough

As a progressive (or "liberal") Christian, I am so tired of being characterized as someone who, unlike an evangelical Christian, compartmentalizes my spiritual practice from the rest of my "personal" or "professional" life. Christians of the non-evangelical persuasion spend just as much time and energy living their faith in all facets of life as those who openly advertise theirs. We're just not into taking credit for it.

-- Catherine Penn

Regarding the "Christian" labeling that has become so prevalent these days, I think in the minds of your average consumer there's a perception that "Christian" is somehow "better": more fair, more honest, more honorable, higher quality, etc. Any Christian business owner who doesn't acknowledge they are capitalizing on this is being disingenuous.

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In my own experience, the idea that "Christian" businesses are somehow better is a myth. I worked in Christian and mainstream media for many years as a writer and photographer, and I got seriously ripped off several times. The people I worked with viewed their business as a ministry and therefore felt justified not paying me on time (or at all). A typical example is the time I complained about an issue I was having to a major Christian record company's publicist; she tossed off my concern with the comment, "Yeah, but we're going to be tithing at the label now! Isn't that cool?"

Aside from my negative personal experiences, I would also warn evangelical Christians that in using faith to market their businesses and make purchasing decisions, they seriously run the risk of further ghettoizing themselves from the rest of the culture.

-- Lisa Zhito

The small company that replaced my garage door advertises itself as a Christian business. But I hired them because they have a good product, their estimate was reasonable, and their installer came up with the best technical solution for fitting a door into my odd-size garage. I couldn't have cared less if they were owned by a Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist, Hindu or what have you.

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-- Nancy Ott

I enjoyed Lynn Harris' article on Christian businesses. I was deeply disappointed, however, that she did not include in her brief list of different Christian ventures the greatest and most mind-bogglingly strange Christian enterprise on the market: the Christian Wrestling Federation.

-- Charles Roseman


Salon Staff

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