Christian Concerts and Memorabilia Finds its Way in Youth Culture

At the Creation East Festival, reports of the marketing of Christian products shape the trend and images of Christian youth culture.
( [email protected] ) Jul 06, 2004 10:40 PM EDT

With the rise of different genres of Christian rock, concerts and festivals, trends, and icons, even everyday Christian products find room to market to concert-goers and rock fans.

Merchandise ranging from hats, CD's, skateboard stickers, and different memorabilia found growing popularity among teens and fans of the new Christian culture.

For Dave Lula, selling merchandise that he designed, such as a $12 T-shirts saying "I'll Mosh for Jesus," was an encouraging ministry which he felt was spreading the Gospel message to young adults.

Since the summer began, Mr. Lula, 36, traveled attending multiple concerts with his merchandise, such as the renown "Creation Fest East," which concluded towards the end of last month. At this year's Creation East festival, 50,000 people gathered over four days, with the price for each four-day ticket at $73. Families, youth ministries and church groups camped on the hilly grounds and skateboarders thrashed over ramps.

Along with his booth, 91 other vendors spread their wares of mostly Christian CD's, T-shirts and hats, in a expansive market.

One shirt declared, "Body Piercing Saved My Life," and showed a hand with a nail through it. Other brisk-sellers said "Jesus Freak" or mimicked the Mountain Dew advertising logo, reading "Do the Jew,'' meaning to live like Jesus. Booths promoted Christian colleges, foreign missions and a DVD player that skips over racy material in movies.

Through faith-encouraging products, the market served as both a mall and an opportunity to witness.

"It's kind of a business-slash-ministry," said Mr. Lula, whose home is in Los Angeles when he is not concert-jumping. According to Lula, in a summer he can sell around 3,000 shirts. He said he was not simply selling concert souvenirs. "I feel I'm getting the word of God out," he said.

"I travel to all the festivals, dozens of them, all summer long, then I do smaller events in California during winter," Mr. Lula said, standing over T-shirts that read, "Hardcore Christian," "Hetero-Boy" and "Religion Is Dead. Jesus Is Not."

Before the trend rose for Christian merchandise, such T-shirts were held at a minimal selection in local Christian bookstores whose aggregate revenues amounted to $2.4 billion, according to the CBA, formerly the Christian Booksellers Association. However, the limited stock in Christians products have changed as festivals and tours have multiplied, and draw younger evangelicals who find who express their faith through different methods such as alternative music, tattoos and skateboards.

The trend opened a new opened a new market for products that do not fit easily into more decorous Christian bookstores.

Bill Anderson, president of the Christian Booksellers Association, noted that the products which "have really stood the test of time" sell in Christian stores whereas at an event, "it could tend towards the impulse side" - more flashy, less wary of giving offense, he said.

As the festivals have become their own world, and as young Christians have been attracted to more extreme expressions of their faith, the merchandise has followed suit.