Venturing Out

A very good friend of mine suggested I read Rob Bell’s Love Wins and write about it for my blog. So I did, and I will. I got half-way through the book and decided that I wanted to buy a copy for my in-laws (my copy is from the local library). I thought that this would be the perfect excuse to visit the Family Christian Store in my town. I hadn’t been in one in over a decade. I remember buying devotionals and bibles and books for bible study groups there when I was in college. Even then the aesthetics and selection were off-putting.

As I walked around I reminded myself that this was no different than boring and badly designed ‘occult,’ pagan and/or New Age bookstores. Plenty of those have bad art, bland books, and silly tchotckes of their own (my own personal hell is riddled with half-naked porcelain fairies). Even though I visually fit more with the Family Christian Store clientele, I am more at ease in a goth-style shop. It was good to remember that no one demographic has the market on bad taste.

Today I noticed just how few books they sold. One corner was made up of items for churches: collection plates, stoles, etc. The back half was dominated by a wide array of Christian music. Christian music isn’t always awful, but mostly is, especially the stuff that was piped in over the speakers. One wall – and it was a big wall – was displaying ugly framed art and shelf after shelf of hideous porcelain tchotckes. A few shelves in the middle sold books.

Much of the books were the same stuff that was sold 15 years ago: ‘inspirational’ books by Max Lucado, parenting books by James Dobson, books trying to look cool and hip and preach to the teenagers, and novels with dewy white girls on the cover looking lovely and ….. Amish. Yes, Amish. There seems to be a fascination with Amish values and culture in current Evangelical Christian culture. I noticed about ten novels with Amish characters and/or dress (white ladies with white bonnets and pinafore aprons) and about three non-fiction books discussing Amish family values and ways we can learn from the Amish to live more simply. I can support that last one, for sure.

I also noticed that the few books on politics were by Mike Huckabee, George Bush, Michelle Bachmann (although her’s might have been a memoir), and other politically and socially conservative folk. As far as I could tell, they didn’t have any politically or theologically liberal authors there.

And they didn’t have books by Rob Bell. Just books that clearly wanted to be his.


6 responses to “Venturing Out

  1. Ah, Christian bookstores. It’s like they think good taste is of the Devil or something, isn’t it? It seems like they’ll release any old trash in terms of books or music or movies, and so long as it’s “Christian”, people will buy it. It doesn’t have to be good. I’m sure some of it is, but it gets lost in the shuffle.

    As far as decent Christian books go, I do like Bodie Thoene’s “Chronicles of Zion” series. They have an obvious pro-Israel bias, but they are very well-written historical fiction, and very compelling reads.

    I also like Martin Bell, but he’s harder to find since his books were mostly published in the 70’s and 80’s. He’s an Episcopal priest who writes short stories, parables, poems and songs. I’ve had my copy of “The Way of the Wolf” since middle school.

  2. They know their customers, they know their customers don’t like to be challenged theologically, and they know their customers believe anyone who doesn’t think like them is doing the devil’s work. The money they’d make selling Rob Bell’s books to people like you and me isn’t worth the grief they’d catch for “promoting an unbiblical worldview.”

    I read “Love Wins” and liked it ( As a Pagan, I don’t share Bell’s story, but I do share his vision of what the world could be if we stopped worrying about who’s going to heaven and instead concentrated on building the Kingdom of God here and now.

    • I believe I read that review. I’ll read again – after I’ve written mine. I’m looking forward to writing it. It’s nice to have something about Christianity to get genuinely excited about.

  3. I feel your pain. I’m no longer Christian, but when I was, I devoured Frank Peretti’s books. I was a fantasy nut (which tends to be a no-no in Christian circles because of magic and the various creatures in fantasy).

    However, Frank Peretti was able to craft an exciting story about a host of angels who try to save a town from being taken over by demons. It gives a lot of weight to the idea of prayer being a power that can help turn the tides of an invisible war being fought around us constantly.

    I’d highly recommend three of his books: This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness, and The Oath.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • I read ‘This Present Darkness’ and ‘Piercing the Darkness’ …. possibly in high school? I don’t think I could read it again. I noticed today Peretti has several more books out. It’s funny that fantasy is such a no-go genre in many Christian circles given CS Lewis’s and Tolkein’s gifts to the genre!

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