Not everything is beneficial: 7 Christian products which probably shouldn't exist

There's nothing new under the sun, according to the writer of Ecclesiastes. It's that kind of thinking that is probably responsible for the size and scope of the Christian product industry, which seems to be endlessly expanding into previously charted territories, and recreating old ideas as new 'Christian' versions. Often that works harmlessly, and even well. Christian clothing provokes faith-centred discussion (often thanks to slogans based on existing marketing imagery); while there are at least 12 different Christian books called 'Fifty Shades of Grace.'

In some cases however, the attempts of manufacturers to insert a faith message into other product lines produces much less wholesome or appropriate results. As these examples prove, it turns out that while it's usually possible to create a Christian version of just about anything, sometimes you just shouldn't.

1. Christian poker chips

There are various legitimate Christian perspectives on gambling, and only the most puritanical would argue against a bit of poker for fun. But perhaps 'Faith Chips', poker chips which bear a Christian slogan, are a little bit ill-conceived as a concept. The chips, which say things like "Jesus went ALL IN for you" and "Take the SURE BET: Jesus", could of course be a fun and vaguely evangelistic addition to say, First Baptist's Men's Poker and Pizza Evenings. But what happens when things get out of hand, and the worship pastor ends up losing his house? That "Jesus knows how to HOLD 'EM" chip is going to feel a lot less amusing when it represents the last of your worldly possessions...

2. 'Armour of God' Kids' dress up

I love the armour of God metaphor. It's a brilliant way of describing, to adults and children alike, how God and our faith in him completely surrounds us, and gets us ready for the – again metaphorical – battle of life. The problems with selling a 'full armour of God' dressing up kit are twofold: first, you're turning the metaphor into a militaristic message to children which sees Christianity as an aggressive, warrior religion, and second, you're making kids dress up as 12th century Crusaders. It's not a moment in the church's history which deserves to be celebrated, especially by under-10s.

3. 'Answer me Jesus'

Of course, this one is intended as a bit of a joke. A Christ-statuette version of the old Magic 8-Ball toy which dispenses advice is clearly not meant to be taken seriously, and almost certainly isn't intended to appeal to genuine believers. The problem is that this could easily fall into the wrong hands. Removed from the context of the comic packaging, there is a danger that someone might pick this up and genuinely believe it's a way of discerning God's will. And when it only says a few stock phrases, like "Let Me Ask My Dad", that's fairly unlikely.

4. Jesus Rubber Duck

There's a thin line between comedy and blasphemy at times, and this one probably just trips over the line. The problem with a Jesus rubber duck is that it subtly undermines the challenge of Jesus as the most important figure in human history, by making him a little bit... silly. It's also part of a range called 'CelebriDucks', and if there's one surefire way to reduce Jesus to irrelevant status, it's to label him a celebrity.

5. "I will wait for my beloved" purity ring

I appreciate I'm opening rather a can of worms here. But I throw this into the list because of the massive amount of damage that can be – and has been – caused by purity rings. Of course, God's ideal for marriage is two people who've 'waited' for each other; but what happens when you make a mistake, or when you meet the woman or man of your dreams, then discover that they've not 'waited'? The psychological effects of feeling either that you've messed up, or that your partner has, can be devastating. The aspiration to sexual purity is a commendable thing, but we're also part of a movement which prioritises grace over religious law.

6. Patriotic Christian t-shirts

You can wear patriotic t-shirts which express your deep love for your country. You can wear religious t-shirts (especially to church) which declare your love for God. The problem comes when you try to combine both messages on a single item of clothing; and it turns out there are dozens of popular designs which do just that. The popular phrase might ask God to bless America, but a slogan or imagery which suggests that Christianity (a middle-eastern religion, popular in South America, Asia, Europe and everywhere else) is somehow American is somewhere between tasteless and ignorant.

And here's one that was thankfully pulled from the shelves...

7. Christian Toilet Paper

I'm not sure which creative bright spark came up with this idea, but clearly they weren't thinking it all the way through. Bible verse toilet paper was an innovation of the Finnish company Metsa Tissue, who printed rolls of double-quilted tissue emblazoned with scripture verses. And you can kind of see what they were thinking... people like to read on the toilet, and a sheet of loo roll is just the right size for a decent length verse. Unfortunately, toilet roll also has a very er... practical use which could be deemed blasphemous in the circumstances, and soon after release the product was pulled thanks to a co-ordinated protest campaign from horrified Scandinavian clergy.

I'm a sucker for Christian subculture kitch, but even I have limits. Turns out there's a few Christian products out there which don't quite prove as righteous as their creators might have thought. After all, as Paul wrote, everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial...

Martin Saunders is a Contributing Editor for Christian Today and the Deputy CEO of Youthscape. You can follow him on Twitter: @martinsaunders