If Necessary, Use T-Shirts

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St. Francis of Assissi is known for a famous quote, which for all I know may be apocryphal: "Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." I was at the Jesuit college I teach at today, and I saw someone in the little snack bar on campus wearing a t-shirt that had the above quote on the back, in large enough letters that it would be visible from a pretty good distance.

Why was someone wearing this particular t-shirt in an environment littered with people who don't believe the gospel? What were those who made the t-shirt thinking it was supposed to accomplish to begin with? It involves words clearly connected with the gospel. The quote is supposed to be encouraging words related to the gospel but only in certain circumstances, presumably not ones involving casual anonymous contact with someone's back. It's not an outright contradiction, because the message isn't technically the gospel, and I suppose there might be a few extremely unlikely but possible situations in which it would be necessary to wear such a t-shirt, but doesn't it undermine the shirt's own message to wear it in a context when one will encounter nonbelievers (at least in a visible way not covered by some outer garment)?

7 Comments

I only once succumbed to a Christian T-shirt, while I was at 6th form college. It read in large capital letters "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes". People would stop me to read the caption as they assumed it would be a joke. It wasn't long though before I became ashamed of the T-shirt even though I wasn't ashamed of the gospel.

As for St Francis quote - it has almost achieved canonical status. Many people seem to view it as the bit Jesus forgot to say when he gave the great comission. I have a Phil Keaggy CD that bears the quote in its inside cover. The guitar playing is very good, but I wouldn't consider it to be preaching anything at all.

...and maybe it was just the nearest clean thing to wear? Reminds me of the joke:

Two psychiatrists pass in the hall. The first says, "Hello." The other thinks, "I wonder what he meant by that."
Grabbed easily from one of my recent posts- all in the name of convenience :)

Reminds me of a T-shirt I saw I guy wearing that said, "They will know they are your disciples by what it says on their T-shirt" I later regretted that I didn't ask him if he were a non-beliver trying to say that Christians were hypocrites, or if he was a believer trying to get his brethren to think a little about their lifestyles.

Seems odd that you work off the condition that the T-shirt was intended for nonbelievers. Seems more likely it was meant to inspire believers.

And why is a Jesuit college littered with nonbelievers? Why wouldn't a quote attributed to a famous Roman Catholic friar be welcomed there? I know non-Christians go to Jesuit colleges, but isn't it safe to assume that at least a portion of the student body is Roman Catholic? Maybe that little snack bar is a pocket of pure heathenism that the T-shirt wearer managed to infiltrate.

If it was intended for believers, it was the wrong environment. Jesuit colleges have no expectation of students in terms of what they believe. Most of the faculty have no affiliation with Christianity. The Catholic students, as far as I can tell, tend to see it as just a local college that has roots in the church that their parents raised them in. They probably have propositional belief in God, but it probably means little to most of them. I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of the students are pretty much secular and treat it as a secular school.

Jesuit colleges have no expectations of students? I had always wondered why George Washington was such a flop after his Jesuit education.

I see your point. I don't think it's the point you intended.

Jesuit college have no expectations of students in terms of what they believe, i.e. there is no religious test for admission, and many of the students there are not Catholic or even Christian. I don't see any connection between that and George Washington, except that he probably wasn't an orthodox Christian.

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