When you see a Christian icon on a shirt, bag, or other piece of clothing, don’t feel compelled to buy it.
And while you might think that it would be a sign of disrespect, wearing a Jesus or other faith symbol doesn’t necessarily offend anyone.
The fact that a Christian’s name is on a piece of apparel does not necessarily mean it represents a religious affiliation, says Dr. Brian Withers, a professor of Christian theology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“A lot of people have questions about what it means, and what it’s about, and that’s where the debate about wearing a faith symbol begins,” he says.
Withers is a scholar of religion and ethics in American culture.
He is also a member of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
But, he adds, he believes that the Christian faith should not be seen as a signifier of religious affiliation.
Withering points to the Christian belief in Jesus Christ, and its emphasis on the resurrection of the dead.
Wilt’s research suggests that when Christians dress in clothing with symbols that are familiar to them, they may feel compelled, even ashamed, to make a statement of faith.
“We’re not saying to put a Christian name on a garment, or that it’s a sign that you’re Christian,” Wither, who is also director of the Institute for the Study of Religion at Emory University, says.
Instead, he says, the Christian icon is a reflection of what a person would feel about wearing something associated with the faith.
“We want to make sure that we’re talking about what is being done by the wearer,” Wilt says.
For example, a shirt that says, “Jesus Christ is my savior,” may be a reflection on the idea that Jesus is the savior.
Wielders of a shirt with a cross on it may be reflecting on their faith in a way that suggests they are not alone in the faith, Wither says.
A woman wearing a shirt emblazoned with the Christian motto, “Be a Son,” also might feel like she is not alone, Wilt adds.
Wethers says that if people wear Christian faith symbols on clothing that are unfamiliar to them and that also include a message that says “Jesus is my Savior,” then the wearer may feel like they are part of the group.
Wirths says the best way to avoid that type of thinking is to consider whether wearing a symbol that is familiar to you or that has a similar meaning to what you are saying is a sign you should not feel pressured to wear the symbol.
“There are ways of looking at it that are respectful of the symbols and the people who wear them, and the messages they carry,” he adds.
“If a person is wearing a cross, it’s not the same as saying, ‘I’m going to be a Christian,’ ” Wither explains.
“But a cross is the same symbol, and people who don’t have a particular connection with Christianity will interpret it in a different way than someone who does.”
The New York Times ran an article in 2013 about a woman in Florida who was told by her boss that she had to change her clothes because the symbol was offensive.
The article was written by Jessica Miller, an assistant professor at St. Thomas University.
Miller’s article detailed a discussion she had with her boss about a shirt she wore.
Miller writes that she asked the employee why she had chosen to wear a shirt adorned with the phrase, “We Love Jesus,” which she says is a Christian symbol.
The employee said that she was wearing the shirt because she had a family member who was a Catholic, Miller writes.
The manager said that there was nothing offensive about the symbol on the shirt, Miller wrote.
Miller writes in the article that she felt that the manager had misunderstood her and that she wanted to be clear about what the shirt was about.
But she felt she needed to explain the symbolism of the shirt to the manager.
She felt that she could not say anything about the shirt and would be giving away her job to the employee.
The company told Miller that she would have to change the shirt.
Miller says she told her boss she was going to give the company a call to make an official complaint about the issue.
She then asked the manager if she could remove the symbol from the shirt but not the name on it.
Miller also says that when she confronted the manager, she was told that she needed a supervisor to remove the offending symbol.
Miller says she spoke to the supervisor and told her that she did not have a problem with the symbol, but that she understood that the name of the company on the piece of cloth would have some meaning to her.
Miller wrote in her article that the supervisor said that the employee would have the choice to wear another shirt with the same name or that she should change her shirt.
Miller writes that the shirt that she received did not