Seems like every store I go into these days has some trinket, t-shirt or token touting the line “I am blessed.” If Capitalism and Calvinism mated they would produce the illegitimate child known as Christian Consumerism.
While on book tour last October, I was unnerved by the number of stores in a certain community on the outskirts of Atlanta that plugged into the local K-Love channel. These were stores selling “I am blessed” t-shirts for $125 and flip-flops for $89. (You can pick up a pair at your local pharmacy for around $10).
Now I have nothing against K-Love. I’ve been known to tune into it myself on occasion, although less of an occasion since Mama died. It’s because I associate her dying with that music since it was always playing on the car radio whenever we drove up to the Cancer Center in Seattle.
Still, I can’t help but wonder: If you aren’t a Christian, does hearing K-Love over the speaker system make you less likely to shop at those stores? Me? I’m unlikely to shop in a store that has a loop of Monks chanting. There’s something incongruent about the aesthetic of Monks and spending money for stuff I don’t need. Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything in the stores with Christian tunes on repeat.
Imagine walking into the same store over and over again. You keep trying to get out but the revolving door continues to dump you into the same store with its sickly citrus smells and sparkling chains dangling from fake tree branches and t-shirts splayed across the walls declaring “I am Blessed” in 15 different fonts.
Yeah. There’s that.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all about gratitude. Being thankful. Appreciating the little things. Being cognizant that even in the midst of want, we have great abundance. The gift of a difficult childhood can be a thankful adulthood.
I am grateful every single day that I have choices. Kids rarely have choices. They grow up in violent households because they have no means to escape the violence. They grow up being abused because they lack the physical or mental capacity to stop it. They grow up being bullied because they are too little and too compliant to fight back.
But being thankful, that’s not the same thing as bragging about how blessed you are. Wearing a t-shirt that declares, “I am grateful” is a whole different theological statement than wearing a t-shirt that declares “I am blessed.”
It may very well sum up the chasm in the Republican party right now. The Republican party of yore embraced gratitude. The belief that they owed it to Creator God to do right by their fellow humans because “to those for whom much has been given, much is expected.” Doing right by others was their way of expressing gratitude for all the good that had come their way in life. Whereas, this new Republican party, the one that elected Donald Trump, well, their motto is “I am blessed”:
I am blessed because I am white. Sucks that you are not.
I am blessed because I am rich. Sucks that you are poor.
I am blessed because I can do what I want and get away with it. Sucks that you get arrested for your minor violations.
I am blessed to be an American. Sucks that you were born in Haiti. Too bad. So sad.
I am blessed because I attend a mega-church. Sucks that your congregation is lacking in men with money and influence.
I am blessed because I have great health insurance. Looks like you are gonna die sooner than me, Sucker.
I am blessed because I can fly first-class on your tax dollar. Good God I love Capitalism, don’t you? What a boon to Christianity.
I am blessed because I have my choice of living in three different really beautiful homes while you have to make due in the tiny camp trailer. Sucks to be you.
I am blessed because I had the benefit of private schools whereas you had to attend public schools in poor neighborhoods. God, poverty is really such a drag. Somebody ought to really do something about that. Oh, I’ll get the ladies at Bible Study to pray for you.
I am blessed because I have made better choices in my life than you. I chose my friends carefully, wisely, always thinking about how much money and influence they had and how all that could benefit me in my life and my career. I didn’t waste time on people who I considered less than, people unable to advance me in any way. Whereas you? You spent too much time with people of color. Poor people. Jobless people. Lazy people. Sucks to be you, girl. You really should have chosen better.
“I am blessed” is Wall Street’s subliminal finger to the masses.
You might as well wear a t-shirt that reads: “Sucks to be you.”
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of WILL JESUS BUY ME A DOUBLEWIDE? ‘Cause I need more room for my plasma TV. (Zondervan).