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Conventional Thinking: What not to buy

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and that means most Americans are busy doing what we do best: shopping! With Black Friday come and gone, many are scrambling to buy Christmas gifts.

A quick survey of showed that some of the hottest items for 2012 include a yoga meditation bench, a beer-of-the-month club and a combo hat-beard warmer (for Oklahoma City Thunder fans still upset at the James Harden trade, that last gift might be almost as offensive as the other two.)

While the world promotes gifts like these that are wrong or plain silly, Christians are faced each year with the decision of what to buy. While no Baptist would be tempted to give out a beer-of-the-month club membership, there are some popular gifts that may be dangerous in more subtle ways. Here are two that come to mind:

Joel Osteen’s new book: He has been called “America’s pastor” by a leading news publication. The megachurch pastor and best-selling author  has a new book out called I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life, which is flying off bookstore shelves this year.

Here is a telling passage: “There have been plenty of times where I’ve thought something negative, and I’m just about to say it, but I’ll catch myself and think, ‘No. I’ll zip it up. I’m not speaking defeat into my future. I’m not speaking failure over my life. I will turn it around and speak favor into my future. I will declare, ‘I’m blessed. I’m strong. I’m healthy. This will be a great year.’ When you do that, you are blessing your future.”

To reinforce his ideas, Osteen quotes Eph. 2:7 (the amplified version). “He said that we would see ‘the unlimited, immeasurable, surpassing greatness of God’s favor.’”

God’s grace is truly limitless, but God does not promise life without struggle. Osteen forgets to mention that the same Apostle Paul who penned the words of Ephesians also lived one of the most persecuted lives after becoming a Christian. In the end, Osteen’s advice is more akin to name-it-and-claim-it Christianity than the true Gospel, and he makes the same mistake that so many prosperity preachers do: promising Heaven too soon, to quote John Piper.

Twilight Movies/Books: While no Christian in their right mind would contemplate giving the “50 Shades of Grey” pornographic novels for Christmas, the Twilight movies and books may find their way under some Christmas trees. Yet Twilight is also destructive, albeit it in subtle ways. If you are not familiar with the introductory plot of the saga, a teenage girl (“Bella”) is in love with a chivalrous suitor (“Edward”) who happens to be a vampire. While Mormon author Stephanie Meyer may be quick to point out that the main characters do not have extramarital sex, the saga perpetuates the false notion that romantic intimacy before marriage can be expected without things escalating. Since the first novel, the plots have taken odd turns that adequate space here does not allow description.

The Twilight saga creates an unrealistic expectation in the minds of women as to how men will act. Further, the novel gets the bad guys and good guys reversed. It pits the parents and the community against the vampire, making the latter the good guy. In all correctly written, classic horror novels, such as Frankenstein, the community is the protagonist while the villain is the antagonist. All of this adds up to a problematic story that is too mature for teens and too alluring for faithful Christians, as writer Stephen Ross has pointed out.

It goes without saying that the Baptist Messenger is not here to draw up your Christmas list. We are here, though, to say that with each gift we give, we should be reminded of God’s greatest gift, His Son, Jesus, Whose blood was shed for sinners like you and me. The more a gift can turn someone’s mind to that truth, the better. So this Christmas, let’s each consider how what we buy for others can point to Him.


Brian Hobbs

Author: Brian Hobbs

Brian is editor of The Baptist Messenger.

View more articles by Brian Hobbs.

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  • Gary Capshaw

    Something else to notice while doing your Christmas shopping doesn’t have any spiritual implications, but is something to consider: Place of origin. American-made products ought to be on our shopping list and not Chinese or other foreign made stuff.

    But, that’s a problem when it comes to our own LifeWay Book Stores! Last year, I attempted to buy 4 different little Bible story books for my younger grandkids at LifeWay and could not find 4 different titles not printed in China!

    I did not buy them and, instead, gave them all condensed versions of great classics printed in the United States that I bought somewhere else.

  • Sarah Chisolm

    I mean no disrespect, so please do not hear that in my question. I’m wondering how many of the Twilight books you have read? I wonder this because in the story the parents and community are actually fighting alongside the vampires from the town; not against them. To me, its seems a good message to send young ladies that a man would love and respect you enough to wait for marriage until engaging in sexual activity. If this picture of abstinence is too mature for teens growing in the hyper-sexualized American culture, what would be a better picture to show them as a good example of abstinence?

  • Brian Hobbs

    Hi Sarah

    Thank you for reading my column and posting a comment. You picked up on the fact that I am not an avid read of the Twilight books (or attendee of the movies). I would not therefore venture to write a full book or movie review. I meant, rather, to comment on the series as a whole and what it means for our culture.

    As a columnist, I am sometimes put in an uncomfortable position of having limited reading time and yet a need to comment on what people are talking about. That being said, you point actually underscores mine.

    While shows like MTV’s Jersey Shore (I have never seen an episode but know enough to comment) are pervasive, the danger for parents and teens is obvious. The Twilight series is more subtle. It is the skin of the truth stuffed with a lie. That lie is that teens can foster romantic intimacy safely apart from parents and without physical contact escalating. How many young ladies in the church are there that would never do anything brazen, but might be put in a compromising situation with their boyfriend, who reminds them of “Edward”?

    In the end, there may be some redeeming value to the series that people could highlight, but the overall problems outweigh those, I surmise. Glorifying darkness, even with good outcomes in mind, is never a safe path.

    Again, thank you for your thoughtful response.

    In Christ,

    Brian Hobbs

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