I was in Leeds today on one of my occasional trips into the city centre. As usual, I just had to have a quick look in the Christian bookshop. Whilst browsing I was struck (and not for the first time) as to how the larger Christian bookshops are beginning to appear more and more like any other bookshop. The musak playing away (one couldn’t say ‘in the background’ as its volume demands attention) sounds identical to that playing in Borders or any other bookshop. The popular books and best sellers look the same as those in Borders too, with fancy artwork covers and titles such as Ten Ways to Improve Your Life…. How to Find Your Destiny and other ‘self-help’ type titles; books which largely seem to tell us how we can feel comfortable with ourselves and find wealth, health and happiness.
Rummaging deeper, I find an assortment of bibles. Some of these look okay, but I notice that the more recent ‘serious’ translations (e.g., ESV) take a back seat behind the ‘tu-tone’ orange and lemon covered NLTs; metal covered versions of The Message and some huge, strange looking things with titles such as the Woman, Thou Art Loosed Bible (which I must confess did elicit from me a stifled chuckle).
The music department is filled CDs and DVDs which are mainly pop music of one kind or another (R&B, Hip-Hop etc), with young female/male bands adorning the CD covers looking virtually identical to Girls Aloud, Westlife etc.
These industries are clearly driven by large marketing machines and one assumes they operate in exactly the same way as their ‘secular’ counterparts. Indeed, I’ve found by personal experience that some of the Christian music companies are as hard nosed (and sometimes less polite) in their dealings than many of the bigger companies in the mainstream pop world.
Is there anything wrong with all this? I don’t know. All I do know is that the older I get, the more of a stranger I feel in the world. As I stood in the bookshop today, I had the distinct feeling that as far as this world is concerned, I’m just kind of ‘passing through’. And in a way of course, I am. Another thought occurs to me; perhaps I’m just getting into the wrong Christian bookshops?