What’s With the Shirt?

For those of you who might be interested I wanted to provide a relatively brief sketch of the genesis of the slogan, the business name and goals (as of 2/26/2021).

The genesis of the slogan developed over the past fifteen years or so as I became more acutely aware of the glaring blind spot that characterized so much of American Christianity whether it be Evangelical, Mainline Protestant or Catholic. Too many American Christians seem to be unaware of how much their Christian faith is influenced by being an American citizen. I could expand on this with many examples but one will suffice for illustration’s sake. Every American patriotic holiday, primarily Memorial Day and the Fourth of July were celebrated in the churches I was raised in and attended until we started attending our current church, East End Fellowship in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond VA in the fall of 2016. A pretty customary Sunday growing up included singing the Star Spangled Banner, God Bless America, Battle Hymn of the Republic or America the Beautiful. As I aged the presentations began to include emotional videos, customarily linking the sacrifice of American soldiers to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. I began to question how could a faith in Jesus that recognizes no boundaries and worships Jesus honor American patriotic holidays that glorify America. How would non-Americans process sitting in this worship service especially if their country of origin was the victim of American military power? So all my questioning regarding the intertwining of American Christianity and American civil religion was the genesis for my t-shirt slogan: I pledge allegiance to kingdom not county.

The business slogan is pretty basic. Being a Melin, a dominant trait in our family humor is a play on words. Also since much of my theological education, formally and self-directed has been immersed in the Hebrew Scriptures I could not help but think of the Hebrew word pair found throughout: justice and righteousness. Here again I will resist the temptation to venture into a detailed discussion of these two words. Suffice it to say these two words form much of the heart of how Israel understood the essential character and actions of God. Since Israel’s existence was supposed to exalt the reputation of their God, Yahweh, the collective life of the nation was supposed to be characterized by a social structure based on justice and righteousness. I had been thinking for years about getting my slogan onto a t-shirt so why not call my business JusTees and Righteousness. It communicates how I desire to use all the profits the business generates and well as communicate the limited scope I desire for the business: Just Tees, not coffee mugs, key chains, caps etc., Just Tees!

The goal of my business is to funnel all profits to people in organizations here in the east end of Richmond and elsewhere who are living out the complete good news of Jesus’ kingdom message: forgiveness from sin and lives formed by the pursuit of justice and righteousness. As of today I have identified two organizations in the east end of Richmond that I have close personal connections with as well as one in Kibera, Kenya. All profits the shirts generate will be split between these three. So if you love the message of the shirt and are willing to purchase this is where the profits go. The other goal of the business was to make sure my supplier for the t-shirts reflected these values as well. The t-shirt supplier is a fair trade shirt company that has all their shirts made by women trapped in the sex trade in India.


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