One of my first stops in the bookstore was the Religion section. Secular bookstores rarely have Bibles stocked for a "Bible geek", so it didn't take long to exhaust my interest in that book rack. There were three additional racks marked "Christianity", though, so I figured I might find something.
I was saddened and surprised. The racks contained so much of what I would term "pop theology lite". I won't mention names or specific titles, but it was mostly fluffy crap. There as some stuff about the end of the world (it's soon, in case you didn't know), some stuff about how to be really, really happy (complete with pictures of the most lily-white, bright-toothed smiling people you've ever seen), and some stuff about how to get rich...the Jesus way (never mind the fact that Jesus lived a life of itinerant poverty and died seemingly quite poor). Many of the books were from folks of whom I've never heard...apparently self-appointed "experts" out to share their particular version of the gospel.
Is that Christianity? I don't think so; I certainly hope not. Despite my clergy status and love for traditional liturgics, I haven't really been immersed in the "Christian culture" in some time; I almost feel at times that it was a part of my youth which I've since outgrown.
One thing I know for sure is that what I saw on the multitude of racks at the bookstore does not match up well with the Christian faith as taught in the Bible (which, again, had only one rack) or in the writings of the early Church fathers, the Reformers, the Book of Common Prayer, John Wesley, or our hymnody at its best.
Somebody must like this stuff. But I can't imagine who that might be (I watched for a while, but none of those books were purchased while I was there).
It was just bizarre to me that these books and authors represented Christianity. And if I was put off, I can only imagine what non-Church people must think.
A quote came to mind...one which I've carried with me for a year. A friend recommended a book to me which was a good read, and this particular quote has stayed with me...
"Jesus and his teachings will not seem as strange or repellant to non-Christians as will the Christian subculture we have created."- Dan Kimball, The Emerging Church, p. 82.This is what I was witnessing at the bookstore. People think that these books and authors actually represent Christianity. No wonder the mainline Church is in trouble.
I don't have any answers to this dilemma. I'm sure a rack of books including the Book of Common Prayer, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, Resident Aliens, City of God, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, and Against Heresies wouldn't have fared much better, even if the theological depth of the selections would have increased a thousandfold.
My point is that Kimball's indictment is real. And I'm guilty, too; all I bought was the latest issue of "Christianity Today".