T-Shirts & Pop Adultery

I need new t-shirts. T-shirts in my fashion repertoire are used [1] as undershirts for when I wear button downs, [2] as regular shirts during warm weather, and [3] as over-shirts in winter when I pair them with long sleeve thermals. Because they are constantly worn, they are susceptible to rips and tears and being stretched. And also stains. Pit stains. Pit stains that are dark from sweat and also white from deodorant. Gels are gross, sprays are a joke, and so my invisible solid is the go to for protection. While it may indeed be invisible on my pit hair, some type of reaction happens that causes a chemical cocktail to develop. On one shirt, it’s so bad that the outside of the underarms are white. How the heck does that happen?


Like I said, I need new t-shirts. I’m not a fan of names or generic type on my shirts; I prefer graphics. Certain exceptions are made (bands, gifts, participation t-shirts). One year I got three of the exact same shirt. It was a bad year. The shirt said “I put ketchup on my ketchup.” I really like ketchup; I am appreciative towards the friends and family that bought them for me as gifts; I did not want to have part of my displayed identity be about food. Funnily enough, there is another shirt I received that said “smooth like butter” which I enjoyed because of the truth it spoke and the color combination. I wore it one night as I was speaking at a vespers service at church because it wasn’t flashy; just a t-shirt. A young lady game up to me afterwards and said, “I’m sure what you said was good, but I had a hard time concentrating, because I thought your shirt was so great.” That wasn’t exactly what I was going for, but realized then that what we wear says something  whether we want it to or not.

Derek Webb is currently having an end of year sale on all his merch. He has been an icon of sorts for me over the past 15 years in speaking out against Christian consumerism, trying to find beauty in all types of music, living and loving in the Gospel of grace, being creative and biblical and prophetic in his songs.

Naomi and I listen to a talk of his 7 years ago at Calvin College. He spoke about many things including how, at the time, he was tired of the singer/songwriter genre in his own life and was experimenting with electronica and stuff like Gnarles Barkley. The small group laughed thinking it was somewhat of a joke. But it wasn’t. Afterwards, walking through campus, our paths collided and he asked if we were going to his show that night. I said, “No. I’ve already heard all your stuff and you said you don’t have anything new.” He replied with an awkward “Oh. Okay” and our paths diverted. Little tip for you: even if you are nervous when meeting one of your biggest creative influences, don’t be a jackass.

Anyway, all his stuff is $5 right now. I’m going to get a couple deluxe CDs (the vinyl sold out, dang it), maybe a coffee mug, and, wouldn’t you know, a couple t-shirts. But as I consider my purchases, there are some specific ethical considerations that I haven’t had to deal with personally before.

There is a train of thought that your dollars as a consumer influence the products and type of businesses that are out there in the market. By buying a product from a business you are “supporting the business” and in supporting the business you are supporting the way they do business and what they stand for.

I’m a double minded man on this, unstable in what I actually think about it. And not a fan of the quick answers from either side of the fence. Too many scenarios for a general philosophy of purchases… probably too much work to actually find out what money goes too (and where do you stop the dot connecting?). Case by case I suppose.

And here is the case I’m faced with:

Early this year (2014) Derek Webb made an announcement that he and his wife were splitting up after 13 years of marriage. He took the brunt of responsibility for it and later came out that he was having an affair. (Consequently this would have been taking place around the time I “interviewed” him after one of his concerts.)

Pop-Adultery and Pop-Divorce are nasty creatures. The intimate dealings of divorce with friends and family are deeply painful. The pop alternative doesn’t affects us in the same way (I don’t personally know Derek like a friend even if I know his art), but the effect is broader because of the public eye; I would guess even more confusing for those involved because of the myriad of un-needed voices.

Banksy (b. 1975) | In the Event Of A Divorce, Cut Here


One thing that I have been pleased with in regard to this terrible news is that it didn’t blow up on the internet. It made a ripple, as any public figure would, but it was civil for the most part, without a ton of tirades happening. I didn’t even know about it until 3 months after the announcements.

So as a principled consumer, who “does not agree” with Derek’s sin, do I “support his business” and “the way he does business”? (Sorry for all the air quotes, but some of this verbiage doesn’t even make sense at times.)

I could privately buy music and nobody would necessarily know, but what about PDA? Do I buy a t-shirt that has his name on it and in some way identify with him via symbol?


Reason why? Can’t tell you just yet because I’m not exactly sure. I’ll fill you in next year. I know it has to do with King David. David and I have had a hard year together; a mutual disdain. But we’re working through it. For now, though, know I’ll be buying a t-shirt or two from Mr. Webb. That’s what I should do, don’t know if that’s what you should do.

Something else I should do is add to the purchase the Ampersand EP which I never listened to. It’s an album he and his wife did together. And even though I don’t know them, when I listen to it I will intercede for them, knowing how difficult marriage is, knowing I am not exempt from the possibility of a broken marriage, and knowing of the messy hope in Christ’s redemption.

2 thoughts on “T-Shirts & Pop Adultery

  1. I wonder (especially lately) why divorce hits the church so hard. We treat it so . . . strangely. it’s like a curious case of leprosy. Maybe this is something for a future post.

    Anyway, in the space of this season, I think of you buying and wearing Webb’s t-shirts as a reflection of the Incarnation (not that this is what you intend, or that you should see it this way). After all, Jesus took on the trappings of all of us, while we were (and are) wracked by sin of every kind. Did it send a message? Absolutely – way deeper than the expenditure of money; but it certainly wasn’t a message of endorsement of our sins. Simply: “I am; with you.”

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