Monday, February 23, 2009

Wading Through the Bookstore

The other day we were out shopping, and while Drew and the boys were at Circuit City looking for deals from their store closing sale, Boo and I walked on down a few shops to a Christian bookstore. It has been a very long time since I have visited a Christian bookstore, and can I just tell you that, rightly or wrongly, I was really sad after my visit?

It is not that there weren’t some good things there. There were. I even bought a few things, most notably this:

It’s a modern day retelling of the Pilgrim’s Progress, and it generated some good thinking and discussion with the boys. We’ll be watching it with them again and discussing more, I am sure. So don’t hear me saying that Christian bookstores have nothing to offer. I’m not saying that.

What I am saying is that I walked away from that store a little depressed. What I am saying is that you have to wade through a lot of junk and a lot of questionable stuff before finding a gem among the rubble. So much of what is on display is just not what we are to be about. And so much of what was on display was stuff that I hope people will be discerning enough to just stay away from. There is an awful lot of self-help and financial success and body image and other kinds of things that seem to focus too much on thinly veiled worldly thought and worldly lusts. That’s the bulk of the things I saw. Plus a lot of charismatic emphasis and a lot of big names you would recognize who are either shallow or downright dangerous in their teaching. And a lot of emergent/emerging/ etc. type stuff, too. Pretty much anything with a Christian label is there. Whether it is biblically sound or not. But it’s in the Christian bookstore, so it must be okay, right?

And I won’t even start on the kids’ stuff. Ugh. It’s depressing. Sometimes I wonder if the marketers are laughing at what an easy market we are as they offer us ‘Jesus Junk’ and we gobble it up without realizing that it is actually offensive when you start thinking about the glory and the wonder of who Jesus really is. I used to like the whole Christian subculture, was steeped in it you might say, but I have come to be very, very wary of it. So much of it is just not good.

When complaining about the goofy children’s stuff, Drew told me I should write something good and see what happens. His complete confidence in my ability is sweet and so affirming, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have what it takes to write something anyone would want to read. Maybe I should try it anyway, huh? We’ll see.

And the other day we found a Christian station that was not TBN and we were watching some kids’ show with our children, and Drew made an interesting observation about the commercials. Almost every ad had something to do with exercise, body image, or financial success. Not necessarily bad in and of themselves, but pretty revealing about what the advertisers think the target audience of that station is most interested in, don’t you think? And, no, I’m not saying it is wrong to want to take care of our bodies and to eat right and exercise, nor is it wrong to want to be wise with the finances God has provided. We should be good stewards of all that He gives us. I just think that our main focus shouldn’t be on the externals. And that’s the impression I walked away with, just judging from the sheer volume of the books on the shelves and the ads on the TV station, that we are preoccupied with things that are temporal. There is so much on those shelves that either feed our worldly desires or address our anxieties, hurts, self-esteem using worldly psychological models with a veneer of Christianese painted over them that I found it really depressing.

But maybe it is just me.


Laura said...

It's not just you. Our local store is much the same as what you described, but with a lot of Catholic memorablilia thrown in too. A few gems, but overall a very sad lot of merchandise. Fortunately our church has a great book shop so I'm not without resources. It just somehow demeans the good stuff when it's marketed right alongside the junk, or worse, the endless volumes about how to be a white-washed tomb.

Rebekah said...

"...or worse, the endless volumes about how to be a white-washed tomb."

Wow, Laura. What an accurate description of so much of what is calling itself Christian today. That's exactly what I felt, and you said it in much fewer words!

Lisa writes... said...

It's funny; I wrote an eerily similar post back before Christmas. It is, however, still in the draft pile. I get what you're saying, sister, and it depresses me too.

Heather said...

I think you could write some amazing children's lit...go for it!

Kay said...'s not just you!!! A friend always wants me to go to the bookstore with her and I'm just left thinking YUCK!!!!

You really should try writing....I'd buy it! : )