Christian bookstores – once a haven of rest for my thirsty soul – have begun to irritate me like a splinter in the eye. Here’s why:
Christian bookstores have become to me an awkward symbol of our artificially divided thinking:
- We have the “Lord’s” day, and then we have (other) days.
- We speak of the “Lord’s” work, and then our (secular) work.
- We refer to our “Christian” life, and – presumably – our regular life
- We value “Christian” art, and devalue every other kind of art.
- And we bathe ourselves in “Spiritual” music while eschewing pop, classical, country, and jazz music.
It’s almost as if we live in two completely different worlds: The “Christian world”, and the actual world!
Which brings us to “Christian” bookstores: The ultimate expression of a divided world, where each book is sanctified, certified and bona fide. Our local stores in Florence offer Christianized teddy bears, scripturized school supplies, sanctified jewelry, religified trinkets, and ultra-sanitized fiction.
But here’s the honest truth: There is only one world. And there are only books. Some, written by believers, are rich with truth. Others, written by non-believers, contain rich truths as well. Sometimes believers get things wrong, and sometimes unbelievers get things right, because believers do not own the copyright on truth. Rather the Truth holds a copyright on us. And the Truth, (who is a person), is well able to teach us along the way. At this point I’m becoming convinced that the drivel in our Christian bookshops can be as spiritually damaging as the worst of Barnes and Nobel.
The answer is simple: strip away the arbitrary titles and embrace discernment. Drink deeply from books, art, and music which reflect the glory of God regardless of categories. The important question is not “Did a Christian write this, paint this, sing this, but rather does this thing reflect the glory of our beautiful God?
4 thoughts on “Christian bookstores and the real world”
Welcome back stateside. I know it must be so confusing and maddening. Truly Christians are not of this world – and yet we inherit so much from every culture that we swim in!
I feel conflicted about the bookstores as well. I remember 1983 my early amazement at the “Jesus Junk” corner of every store. Why do we have erasers and springy stuff with God’s name on it?!?
But, I also applaud these stores and people for their heart to provide the best they can. You – Don – my friend have a VERY well developed world view grounded in scripture. Many people in America are not even confused that Kanye West can sing “Jesus Walks” and then have strippers in his next video. Is he a christian, is he not? So many people don’t even how to begin to discover answers. Or even if there is a question.
Today – so many assume all people are in God’s kingdom and following his will . . . because they seem nice enough. And that’s enough.
How do we develope scriptural awareness, wrestle with precepts, and attach worldviews? Thanks to the bookstores that get us started. Do they do it all? No. Are they supposed to? No.
That’s what you and I (the church) do.
So I agree with you! But don’t get discouraged!!!
Thanks Oeland! Well stated, and with so much grace. See? That’s the way I think Jesus might have assessed the situation.
I read your blog about the Christian bookstore and your friend’s comment. Your friend is right. You certainly do have a good grasp of the Kingdom. I desperately need to be taught about it. For example, this past summer I went on a 5-day hike across the Grand Canyon with my family. I took this book with me entitled “Into the Wild” about a young man who died in the Alaskan wilderness. The book captivated me and the Lord really spoke to me about how I refuse to ACCEPT help from other people. What God spoke to me through that book (which had no real “spiritual” component) has changed the way I react to the help He puts in my life through others. The kicker is… the entire time I was reading it, I had to fight off guilt because I felt should have been reading some more spiritual devotion-type book. I have so little time, therefore, I feel guilty when I spend the little free time I have on “worldly” things. I need to have my eyes opened to the kingdom and have my heart focused on what God is saying to me through his world. I need to be told its okay to branch out and enjoy.
So, you might be a gasbag, but I appreciate you.
I think Christian book stores serve a purpose — like a parent who keeps children safe, it offers a new believer a place where the possibility of picking up a damaging book is limited. A more mature believer, one who knows God well enough to recognize the Spirit’s prompting and thus tell truth from falsehood can read with less human guidance.
But you make another point that struck a responsive cord for me, and that is the tendency of Christians to separate things into that which is “the Lord’s” and that which is not. For the Christian, everything he or she does should be “Christian work.” It reminded me of something I read many years ago, in The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (and this is also an example of finding truth in non-Christian sources): “Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations? Who can spread his hours before him, saying, ‘This for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?'”