Christmas and the art of commodifying Jesus

Every December, the act of cultural consumption ascends new heights of Himalayan grandeur while the other eleven months of the year are simply spent climbing to base camp. Some critics of the contemporary Americanized version of Christmas proclaim unease with the lack of Christian morality conjoined with the “reason for the season.” I share these concerns and state without a doubt that the only way many people enjoy the holiday season is through the creation of new and exciting ways to consume the season’s greetings.
Where I think these critics go wrong, however, is that they don’t recognize the extreme earnings potential of Jesus. My modest proposal, as a response, is the full, dead-on money-shot embrace of Jesus Christ as an extremely marketable consumer item. Lawn ornament depictions of the holy birth are simply not good enough anymore in the world of global capital.
I am not, despite what the reader might think, about to disparage conspicuous consumption during the holiday season. Telling people that crass consumerism pervades the Yule season is beyond stating the obvious. A person need only attend the nightly Holidazzle parade in downtown Minneapolis to witness the day-glow absurdity of seeing a spotlight shone on the glories of shopping. The act of consumption becomes the holiday season for many people, and I’m not being cynical or bellowing bah-humbug from the rooftops. Even Ebenezer Scrooge is worth at least a million dollars in our local culture industry; just ask the Guthrie Theater.
My goal this week is to demonstrate how the son of God and his friends can be employed to make big money for everyday investors. I would like to suggest that contemporary America re-examine the foundations of the Christmas season and ask how far we have strayed from those days of Wise Men, gold, frankincense and myrrh.
What those three Kings of the European-construct-of-the-Orient did was something quite remarkable and given the current market value of their gifts, rather generous. In our Western cultural rush to keep everything in neatly packaged groups of three, the history books do not represent the presence of the Fourth Wise Man, Rufus King, who brought the receipts for the gifts. It was the Fourth Wise Man’s job to make sure the newly born youngster approved of his gifts.
As it turns out, the gold, frankincense and myrrh industries hired the Fourth Wise Man as a lobbyist for their companies. After various artists of the period were able to quickly paint portraits of the new family enjoying their gifts, thereby securing product placement in all subsequent historical re-enactments, the sales of all three items went through the manger roof. From day one, or year zero (depending on how it looks to the reader), Jesus was understood to be a potent marketing asset.
It is in the tradition of recognizing the commodity value of the sacred Bambino that I’d like to suggest the following ways to make Jesus Christ even more profitable for the Christmas season. I’m sticking to Jesus Christ at the risk of excluding other major religions, but I only have so much paper space. Given more time I have plenty of ideas on how to make Hanukkah, Kwanza and the Druids’ winter solstice a lot more profitable through a series of specialty niche items for each occasion. The Druids could really use some venture capital if anyone is looking to invest in the shortest day of the year.
My suggestions build upon work done by marketing guru Equus Pente and his “Four Horsemen Consumer Group.” A foundational idea behind Pente’s work is the understanding that contemporary America has not embraced the labor of holiday shopping deeply enough. We must all go deeper into the abyss, so to speak.
The first idea for making the season even more profitable is to add some consumerist wisdom to the already interesting rhetorical, Zen koan-esque notion — “What Would Jesus Do” (WWJD). The new marketing strategy is to ask “What Would Jesus Do While Shopping?” WWJDWS is a much more interesting question to probe because I really wonder — what would the big JC do in the Mall of America while waiting in line to visit Father Christmas at Santa’s Village? Would Jesus Christ shop for extravagant items with little practical value or would he purchase gift certificates, thereby allowing the gift recipient free will on how the money is spent?
Companies all over the world (and on the Internet, let’s not forget) could really demonstrate with a little WWJDWS how the son of the God prefers their product to the competitors. Talk about a universally recognized stamp of approval. Let us just imagine the advertisements on television as announcers proclaim: “Ladies and gentleman, our eggnog is the best one on the holiday market. Just ask our new spokesman, Jesus Christ.”
The strategy also avoids the ugly situation of paying Mr. Christ for his product endorsement services. Given the exorbitant pay rates mere mortals demand for their services, Jesus could fetch a mighty large endorsement fee. But since we know making money hasn’t historically been important to Jesus — the preachers of his Gospel being a different story — no corporation will have to go bankrupt. Thank God for that. The problem of fraudulent product advertising would also be eliminated because we all know that lies make the baby Jesus cry.
Beyond these steps, however, I think the key to cashing in on the current shopping season is a more in-depth revenue-producing plan for Jesus. The first goal of the plan is to increase Jesus’ guilty-conscience rebate value so the ordinary shopper can feel good about those high-end purchases. By simply reworking the Gospel to say, “Costliness is next to Godliness” many people would not feel the heat of a Sharper Image purgatory.
The next step is to reduce the cost of salvation. Simply stated, the cost of salvation is too high for many consumers, especially the plethora of dot-coms struggling to make a buck by any means required. Sometimes that kind of economic survival requires selling company souls at rates that exceed the equity of salvation. Satan and his brood are taking advantage of the bullish economy by cornering the market in venture capitalist souls. Check it out at and if the reader mentions reading this column, Starbucks will mail out a gift certificate for a free cup of coffee.
By reducing the overhead cost of salvation, the net value of an individual’s soul is bound to increase over time and perhaps a leveraged buyout of Hell could occur. Also, by combining lower cost salvation and increased guilty-conscience rebate values with a free gift certificate to Saint Joan of Arc’s candle stick emporium — the sheep are certain to flock. All of these steps will help produce a holiday season that embraces new traditions, new customs and new Christmas carols like, “A Lay-away in the Manger” and “O Consume, All Ye Faithful.”
The Christmas holiday season is upon us like stink on a monkey. With only 24 days left to shop, I think we’d all better reassess our desire to half-heartedly embrace consumerism. Follow the above steps towards a guilt-free consumption of the “reason and the season.”
As my driver’s education instructor used to say about left turns at busy intersections: “If you hesitate, you lose.” Don’t be a loser — get in the SUV and drive to the Mall of America for a strong dose of debt building, expensive gift purchasing, and Americanized Christmas fun. Pile the neighbor kids into the minivan — the more the merrier. Take some time and hang out in the food court at any local shopping center and watch everybody having a good time.
Finally, if someone asks how those bills will get paid, a person need only close their eyes and say with an angels we have heard on high clarity, “I’m investing in Jesus.”
John Troyer’s column appears on alternate Fridays. He welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]