by Ben Jones of Missional Generation
This week sees the launch of a new trainer designed by the popular rapper Lil Nas X in collaboration with the streetwear company MSCHF.
There is no doubt that a selling point of these trainers is their shock value!
Everything about the marketing of these trainers has been designed to shock, create controversy and outrage! The advertising tweet for these trainers called ‘Satan Shoes’ is that they contain 60cc of red ink and 1 drop of human blood and the 666 individually numbered pairs will be sold each priced at $1018 dollars! The trainers have a pentagram pendant, an inverted cross and displays Luke 10:18 on the side of the shoe (And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”). Despite the design being on Nike trainers, Nike have distanced themselves from the design. “We do not have a relationship with Little Nas X or MSCHF,”
Nike said in a statement. “Nike did not design or release these shoes and we do not endorse them.”
How should we as Christians respond?
On the start of Holy Week, as we journey towards Easter and the celebration of the resurrected Jesus, our first reflection should be that victory has been won. In 1 Corinthians 15: 57 we are told, “Thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Although we will rightly be angry about these shoes as the concept behind them and the marketing strategy has been designed to offend; we stand knowing that God is love, He is more powerful than any darkness and offers the best eternal gift.
We need to balance this though with the impact that celebrity culture and brand have on culture as a whole and particularly youth culture.
Lil Nas X currently has 12 million subscribers. He has a huge following of young people who will be influenced by his words and what he shares with the world. Alongside the trainers, he released a music video where the content is shocking. This whole marketing campaign has the goal of normalising the satanic. It aims to make the occult appear exciting and it is influencing peoples’ ideas on what is healthy and life giving. It is perhaps designed to mock believers from across faiths, aimed to cause offence to those who hold a view that we should flee from darkness and seek the light and goodness of God.
Our generations are crying out for hope, for joy, for peace and for goodness.
This marketing strategy reminds us of the darkness and despair that is offered to us through the devil. I want to encourage us to be people who rise-up and passionately share the joy of God’s goodness, who refuse to hide our light under a bushel and who show the glorious alternative to what this marketing campaign promotes.
Let’s have those discussions with young people about why we see the need to flee from the devil and about how God’s alternative is a life in communion with the creator of the universe who cherishes us and loves us so much that he collects our tears in a jar and knows how many hairs we have on our heads. Remind those we chat with that the resurrected Christ brings freedom and forgiveness.
Let’s continue to have space in our groups and services to encounter the Holy Spirit and his healing and voice into our lives. What God offers us is much more wonderful than we can ever fathom and the world needs to know this.
It saddens me when I see marketing campaigns such as this that direct people down the wrong path, but let’s rise up in sharing the goodness and wonders of God.
Let’s pray for the transformation of performers such as Lil Nas X and his influence over 12 million YouTube followers – that it would be used for good not evil. Let’s lift up to God all those whose eyes and ears will be impacted by what they see in this marketing campaign. Lord, Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
Sometimes it is difficult to know where to start in having conversations about life influences and light and darkness. I want to encourage you to have confidence in chatting, sharing faith and finding out what brands, trends, celebrities and cultural views are influencing young people and shaping their identity, values and faith perspective.
Perhaps use some of the following questions as discussion starters with young people in your life, youth groups and churches. Use them to start conversation and then go with the flow bringing faith and your experience into the chat:
Who do you think are the current major influencers of your generation? Do you think they influence your views? Why or why not?
In what way do brands and marketing influence you?
If you could tell me one person to follow on social media, who would it be and why?
1 Thessalonians 5: 5 says “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness”. What does this verse mean to you? What do you think the Bible means by darkness?
If young people have seen the advert, you might want to ask them about it:
What do you think of the advert?
What do you think about Little Nas X calling these shoes Satan Shoes?
Should we be offended by this?
What do you think should be a Christian’s response to this?
How might you use this to chat about your faith to your friends?