Adventures in the Christian Bookshop

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?

  1. Hi Chris.

    Same thing happens in South Africa. Trendiness and hype seems to drive a lot of what is being sold in the major Christian book stores here. On the Afrikaans (my home language) front, there is also in increasing tendency to bring out these special focus group bibles.

    We have the NLT in Afrikaans, as well as the Message. Both these translations/paraphrases are not simply translations from the English counterparts, but in each case the same philosophy applied and are very popular.

    The shop attendants are mostly there because they are young and portray a certain image. An older lady attending the same church as I used to work for one of these chains, and she was kicked out because she does not fit the profile anymore after their image reconstruction.

    I also heard some shoppers asking advice from these new young attendants, and the answers and recommendations were shockingly uninformed.

    I don’t think most “Christians” out there knows what the difference is between God-centred and man-centred Chrisitanity, and even the difference between a phsycologised faith and a biblical one.

    If the mainline Christian book stores are any indication of what most Christians keep themselves with in terms of reading, it tells a sad tale.

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