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The World in a Christian Bookstore

March 29, 2013


I was recently in one of the large chain Christian bookstores and was shocked – but maybe not surprised – at what I found there. Mixed in with the solid Christian resources are artifacts of worldly secular influence stamped with a Christian label:

  • Christian fiction nearly as titillating as anything available at Barnes & Noble. The lovers stop at an earlier point on the road, but they are on the same road.
  • Church/family/marriage repair books with only a handful of Bible verses in the entire work – although each verse is attactively highlighted on the page!
  • Books by and about sports heroes (also sold at big box retailers) carefully instructed by their agents to make just a few statements about God.
  • Tight stretchy girls’ T-shirts with Christian slogans on them. Sadly the irony and clash of worldviews escapes most who sell and buy these clothes.
  • Book covers (like the one pictured above) displaying physical intimacy among attractive and mini-skirted singles.
  • Self-help books where Oprah/Dr. Phil “your truth is inside you” philosophy is at least as prevalent as scripture.
  • Bibles marketed to buyers based on their hobbies, age, gender, and every possible life situation. (a NASCAR bible? seriously?)


Before I comment any further on the inventory in these stores, I have to admit that there was a very long period in my own Christian walk when I could very easily have walked through a store carrying these items (and worse!) and not had any insights that what I was seeing wasn’t quite right. I realize that most if not all of the franchisees are God-fearing believers who have made a choice to pursue their living by offering their community Christian merchandise and literature – something that is more uplifting to society than many other professions.

On the other hand, I realize that Christian bookstores are still businesses, and that their bankers want to see how they plan to locate and advertise their business, price and move their products in order to pay back their loan(s). I know that the choice between going it alone (for full control of merchandise) comes with huge trade-offs on pricing and economies of scale vs. what they can get as a national chain franchisee (if they give up that control).

…So I have to be fair to these store owners and to acknowledge that the issue has some complexities. I do not claim these are evil people or evil businesses, or even that I know enough about the issue to know the specific form of changes they should make to their product lines or business models. Having made those points though, I can now make this one:

Discernment is needed at the Christian bookstore. Discernment is needed everywhere.

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” — Philippians 1:9-11

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