Friday, March 2, 2007

Where are the Books?

By now you should have been teachers, but once again you need to be taught the simplest things about what God has said. You need milk instead of solid food. People who live on milk are like babies who don't really know what is right. Solid food is for mature people who have been trained to know right from wrong.
(Heb 5:12-14)

Yesterday was payday. It's sort of a special day for me. It's my day out on the town. I pay bills, have a nice dinner at a better restaurant. And I browse in bookstores. It's one of my favorite activities. Well, I went to a local Christian bookstore yesterday, and my first question was "Where are the books?" I saw a few magazines on a rack in a corner and a small display of relationship books, but the rest of the entire front of the store was filled with T-Shirts, wall decorations, curios, games, videos, greeting cards, home decorations. I even saw a pack of playing cards featuring Biblical characters.

Over half the floor space of the "book" store was devoted to everything except books. The books were clear in the back of the store.

I don't condemn the store for this layout. They are just responding to the marketplace, I'm afraid. It's easier to take your theology in a cute saying on a wall hanging or T-shirt than to read a commentary or Bible study. The irony of this is that across the street was a secular book superstore, and books are the featured item, even the non-book items are mostly book related like book lights and book marks.

I hope I'm not reading too much into this, but I fear that many Christians are falling into a shallow Christianity. I had a minister friend years ago, commenting on a late night inspirational feature on TV, said, "Sermonettes make for Christianettes." He meant that if all we got were ear-tickling devotional "thoughts," that we would not delve into the depths of the glories of God's Word.

I wonder if in the intervening 30 years since I first heard that statement that we have a generation of Christianettes. We are more likely, if we buy a book at all, to buy the latest "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book than a Bible study, commentary, or study Bible. I even heard about one book which called itself something like "Mint Candy for the Soul." At least Chicken Soup has some nutritional value. Many Christians have become spiritual junk food junkies. They will wave a banner at an anti-abortion rally, but won't spend 10 minutes praying with a pregnant teen thrown out of her home, abandoned by her boyfriend, feeling hopeless and helpless in the big world. Of course, to do the first doesn't take much spiritual strength. The second does. You can't do that on a Chicken soup and Mint Candy diet.

So, what can we do? Several things.

1. Don't confuse a Christian decorated home with a Christian home. It's not the scripture verse wall hanging that is going to make a difference in your family. It will be doing the hard work of loving one another as God loved you, and delving into the word of God to find out what that looks like in daily practice.

2. Buy books that make you think as well as feel. You don't always need a warm, fuzzy feeling at the end of the book for it to be a good book. Some books may even be hard to read, because they require you to think and reason. Those are the books you wrestle with like Jacob with the angel not letting go until you get your blessing of enlightenment.

3. Be a critical consumer of products sold in "Christian" stores. Some stores are simply money-making venues for their owners. Some "Christian" imprints don't even have Christians in charge of deciding what is printed. I saw a book advertised the other day called Christian Yoga. Yoga is a religious practice of the Hindu Religion. Whatever else it is, it is not Christian. Yet, there it is sitting on many Christian bookstore shelves. I don't believe you should boycott the bookstore like some are advising. But don't assume everything sold in a Christian bookstore is doctrinally sound. Read your books with a Bible open next to them.

4. Start and End with the Bible. If books are more important than wall hanging, the Bible is more important than books in your daily diet. You need to be reading the Word regularly and committing parts of it to memory. You need to learn Biblical principles for daily living and understand the moral and ethical code of the Bible. Then filter everything you read elsewhere, even if you got it from a Christian bookstore, though the lens of the Bible.

There's nothing wrong with a wall hanging, some chicken soup or mint candy, but put first things first. Don't forget the main course - the strong meat of the Word of God.

Lord, remind me once again of my priorities in terms of what I feed my spirit with today. Amen


Blogger Frank Creed said...

Christian bookstores are like Christian publishers. It's all about profit, not content. Case and point, a big house dropped one of my favorite novelists because her first books did not sell well enough. Perhaps they should print T-shirts and bumper-stickers. Welcome to free-market Chrisendom.

March 2, 2007 at 3:23 AM  
Blogger Becky said...

Good post, Terri. Ironically I launched my blog with a semi rant about no books in book stores. It was a piece for a contest about pet peeves. I was happy to comply--but didn't limit it to Christian stores.

Your spiritual applications are excellent.


March 2, 2007 at 11:17 AM  

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