It just took a short visit to the Christian bookstore to get my mind moving on this subject. Browsing books to buy as gifts, I looked at a lot of stuff that tells me how much Christianity has changed, at least in this country, since I became a Christian about thirty years ago.
My first real Bible was a black King James version on which my Dad had my name engraved in the cover. It didn’t have anyone else’s name on it, though. Now, it’s hard to find a Bible that doesn’t have some celebrity Christian’s name on it, and their own personal notes inside of it. I don’t know why that bothers me, except that selling a Bible for $80 with a celebrity Christian’s name on it, and notes inside it seems to sound an awful lot like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons or another group whose leader has written a book that interprets scripture, and becomes equal to it when taught. I mean, other than the content, isn’t that the same thing?
The only Christian bookstore I’d ever been in, prior to becoming active in ministry, was the Baptist Book Store in Phoenix, Arizona, and one of its sister stores in St. Louis when I served there as a summer missionary. It was pretty much that, a book store with a wall of sheet music in the back, and a small rack of records and tapes on the side. Now, the book section of the Christian store is about half of its space, the rest being taken up by gift items that are generally decorative in nature, with scriptural sayings on them, or not, depending on the item, or t-shirts or other clothing items.
The celebrity stuff is on full display. Name recognition is important, because you don’t just want any old Bible, you want the special edition endorsed by your favorite Christian celebrity, that costs $20 more. Without the name it’s just not the same. Perhaps. But there’s some really mediocre stuff that sells far better than it should because of whose name is on the cover.
I’m just not comfortable with commercial Christianity. I guess someone has to sell Bibles, or other religious items, but the way it’s done right now, well, does walking into a Christian bookstore give you a good impression of Christian faith, especially if you’re paying attention? It doesn’t give me one. Capitalizing on a person’s celebrity status somehow elevates their celebrity over the message Jesus preached. It’s about them. I don’t think that’s enough.