This weekend, The Australian Magazine ran a piece called JC and the Cool Gang. It’s about how Christianity, especially of the Pentecostal variety, might not be that daggy after all. The story features Erica and Jim Bartle:
The almost impossibly beautiful 20-something couple live in Queensland’s Mt Tamborine, in the Gold Coast hinterland, and continue to pursue passions dripping with Gen Y cred and 21st century savvy – Jim promotes his troupe of motocross, skate, surf and BMX enthusiasts through a website replete with hard-rocking YouTube clips, and Erica writes Girl With A Satchel, a popular blog full of sharp observations about fashion, celebrity and the media – but they dedicate their actions and their words to Christ.
Watching this article do the rounds on the internet, some people were excited to see Christians getting positive press. Others wondered, are these guys just sell outs? Are they making Christianity palatable? Have they forgotten what Jesus said about taking up your cross to follow him? How does a Christian fashion blog square with sacrificial living?
I’ve been following Girl With A Satchel for a while and, though I’m not really into fashion, I’m a fan. Let me explain why:
1. There’s an apologetic aspect to GWAS. Christianity isn’t defined by dagginess. Yes, Christianity is for the humble, but the gospel doesn’t exclude beautiful people. Shallow though it may be, some find it hard to listen to a Christian message when the way it’s presented is so daggy. While we don’t want to make the gospel palatable, we also don’t want to unnecessarily erect barriers to people hearing our message.
2. There’s also a theological aspect to it. Fashion and entertainment are not wrong in themselves, but gifts from God. A strong theology of creation means we don’t have to be defensive about that. Sacrificial living is part of being a Christian, but so is celebrating God’s good creation.
3. Missiologically, Christians need to be engaging with the issues that engage others in our society. Acts 17 is a great model of this. Paul goes to the Areopagus, he (arguably) flatters the people there, and he works from their preconceived notions of god to tell his message. Christianity cannot afford not to have a voice in fashion. And if fashion is the ‘hook’ that gets people listening to the gospel, I say go for it!
Who is GWAS for? It’s not primarily an evangelistic site and it’s important to keep that in mind. It’s primarily a fashion site, celebrating that, but attempting to do so as a Christian. Not every aspect of the Christian life is presented there but I think that’s okay.
Of course, Christians need to be distinctive — the well-known line, ‘in the world but not of the world’. Christians need to work out how to embrace what is good and critique or leave what is unhelpful. GWAS’s rating system for gossip magazines is a good example of this. It assumes that there are some things that won’t be good for Christians to look at and which they should stay away from, even if their friends are into it.
GWAS asks how we might enjoy God’s good gifts of fashion and entertainment while also seeking to be distinctive. My own preference is more conservative than GWAS — I’m not into fashion and I find the focus on clothes to be quite shallow. But the question is who GWAS is trying to reach. Whether Christian or non-Christian, there are heaps of girls out there who are trying to negotiate the world of fashion, entertainment, and sexuality, and they need more help than just the ‘stay away’ messages that they often get. By their own admission, GWAS don’t always get it right, but this is part of a missional community attempting to critically engage with their world in a winsome and effective way. So get your satchel on!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.