The church where I grew up regularly hosted visiting musical groups. They’d always have their LPs (yes, LPs) and other stuff—their “merch”—to sell, but at our church they weren’t allowed to do this. At least not in the foyer where most people entered.

The rationale came from John 2:13-22 when Jesus cleansed the temple. Jesus clearly didn’t like it when folks hawked their wares around the temple, and therefore we shouldn’t sell stuff around the sanctuary.

To be sure, the place of worship in first-century Israel and the auditorium of a conservative Baptist church in Southern California don’t exactly correspond, but true to Jesus’s words, my church didn’t want the place of worship to be co-opted as a place of commerce. And that much is right.

But is merch in church really the heart of the issue...or is it something more invisible and insidious?