Today I went to a place I hadn’t been to in several years – the local Christian Bookstore. Since I’ve been officially out of the Professional Christian Business for about 7 years, I haven’t really needed to go in there. And even before I left the Professional Christian Business, I was going into the Christian Bookstore less and less, since I found Amazon or even Borders to be more convenient and more likely to have what I was looking for.
**To clarify, I said I left the Professional Christian Business, not Christianity. I’m still one of those people. I just left the world of working in and for a church and became a regular person. Since becoming a regular person, I tend to shop for books in regular person book outlets, like Amazon. Where, by the way, you can get my book if you want. But I digress.
I needed to find a particular Christian book today, an older classic one. One that I thought I already had but couldn’t find. After searching through boxes in my garage, boxes from the Professional Christian Business days, I decided I either didn’t have it or if I did, it wasn’t going to show up and I could probably just go buy one and save the effort. And so I went to Barnes & Noble where I found one copy of the book, but I thought it was too pricey. So I figured, Hey – the Christian Bookstore down the street is likely to have more copies of this (i.e., in cheap paperback), because they specialize in these kinds of books. I’ll go there. (Sometimes when I think, it’s actually in italics).
As soon as I went into the Christian Bookstore, it all came back to me. I remembered why I stopped going in there. If you want to find a serious, thoughtful Christian book (and those books do exist, so don’t throw your sarcasm at me, my agnostic friends) – if you want a worthwhile Christian book, stay out of your local Christian Bookstore. The only reason to go into your local Christian Bookstore is to buy lightweight, fluffy, pop-psychology-with-Christian-words-thrown-in books, and cheesy Christian stickers, jewelry and poorly-done art. And maybe Thomas Kinkade prints, but since that whole scandal came out right after he died about his mistress and all, I’m thinking you might not find his work there anymore.
Maybe I’m being a little petty and mean. Actually, I’m being a little mean, but not petty. It’s not petty to expect that a bookstore specializing in Christian material would in fact have A) a lot of Christian books, and B) a fair amount of thoughtful, deeper, well-written books. I’ll give them a handful of the fluff books, but the reality is, 99% of the books there are the fluff books, and maybe if you’re lucky, you might find one or two of the more thoughtful, well-written Christian books. Usually placed on the wrong shelf, since most of the workers there won’t know what it is and where it belongs.
And one more interesting fact I noticed today… The amount of Christian books (not just the good ones, but the bad ones as well) in Barnes & Noble was more than the amount of books in the Christian Bookstore. Did you get that? The regular bookstore had more shelf space devoted to Christian books than the Christian Bookstore had. And the Christian Bookstore wasn’t small; it’s just that most of its space was filled with worthless junk.
I realize Amazon as well as places like Barnes & Noble (and Borders until they went under) have had a bad name among some book fans. Those horrible places put a lot of small, cool bookstores out of business. I get that, and I sort of sympathize. Sort of.
But if an occasional fluff-carrying Christian Bookstore goes out of business, I’m not sure it’s a great loss. Amazon carries a much better selection of well-written Christian books by skilled Christian writers (and those books do exist, so don’t throw your sarcasm at me, my agnostic friends). And if you really need the Christian Fluff Books, Amazon even carries those as well.
I’ve had the exact same experience. I go into a Christian bookstore looking for any classics, and it’s impossible to find them. Augustine, Aquinas, etc. But it’s easy to find a five-foot long shelf of Charles Swindoll (nothing against him, but he’s not Augustine). By the way, if you’re looking for a great online resource, CCEL.org (Christian Classics Ethereal Library).
Oh Charley I agree. A sad state of affairs. They really should change the names of these places to “Gifts ‘N’ Chotskies For Christians From Christians.”
It’s not just the stores, it’s the publishers, as well.
If you ever want to find a book or card for someone who ISN’T a Christian and doesn’t know all the latest Christianese, you’re up a crick. They have Bibles for New Believers that actually have, in big letters across the back and cover, “New Believer’s Bible.” Is that something you’d be proud to carry or pull out at work and read if you were a brand new, shy Christian?
Of course, you could find a nice doily covered Bible Cover, over there…where the books used to be. Next to the statuette of the Proverbs 31 woman.