What I am not going to defend is Jesus Junk™ -- you know, the ubiquitous spinner covered with semi-Christian taunts (not even well-written ones) and plastic froofroo with Bible verses on it which all sells for under a $5 and makes a ton of margin dollars. That's not actually "Christian" stuff: that's stuff people buy to make themselves feel somewhat giddy about being a Christian. You have a keychain? I have a Christian keychain – Jesus loves even me, baby.
I am also not going to defend CCM. Steve Camp has that covered, and I like Steve, and while I enjoy some CCM music I cringe when I hear "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs. Not talking about CCM today – go back to your Third Day CDs without much guilt.
What I am talking about is the avalanche of books that the Christian Booksellers Association sells on an annual basis. As a point of reference, here's a link:
You'll get a color-coded table of the current CBA/ECPA best-selling books, and the color code is this:
WHITE = Non-toxic; no problems the bookseller should worry about
GREEN = Fiction; generally, non-problematic because it's fiction. It's make-believe
YELLOW = Controversial; either the content or author is controversial and the bookseller should have some method of communicating that to his customers
RED = Problematic; either the author or the specific content has doctrinal issues that the bookseller ought to be aware of and communicate in some way to his customer
If you have nothing to do with your day, you can count the books by class, but for those of you who have better things to do, the quick count looks like this:
Now, the right reason to complain about this list and all the books under this list is that there should be no REDS at all on this list. If you ask me – and you didn't, so forgive my audacity – the ECPA/CBA supply chain is wickedly shamed by the fact that there is even one "no-go" author or book on its list of top sellers. Seven is a complete travesty. And to take that premise one step further, the fact that any of these yellows are there when they could have been fixed in order to avoid being yellow is also a terrible shame.
But the other side of the coin is this: 60% of the top 50 is in the worst case harmless. And if we de-classify the power of a praying franchise and the diet books from "yellow" to "white" as the controversy surrounding these titles is more like "scope of project" rather than "offense to the Gospel", we wind up with something akin to 70% of the books in the top 50 being in the worst case harmless.
Some of it may be pap or filler, but let's be honest: most of my blog is pap and filler. It may amuse; it may set one brain cog to turn one-quarter revolution. But it's filler and not crisis-important stuff.
So when we come out and bash CBA, let's first keep in mind that someplace between 60% and 70% of its "stuff" is pretty much non-offensive. I will be the first one to stand in line to say, "it should all be inoffensive," but to whom? For example, I would say that there should be no Roman Catholic books in a Christian bookstore (sorry, Phil: that one's gonna hurt I am sure), but I am certain that many people – like Catholics, for example – would strenuously disagree with me. James Dobson and Chuck Colson would disagree with me. But then what do you do with C.S. Lewis who studiously avoided that topic, or someone like Chesterton?
Some of what's left is strictly a judgment call by the retailer. And hear me clearly: he has to make that judgment call. He has to or else he is complicitous in the degradation of orthodoxy and the erosion of the life of the church. But at the other end of the cash register, when we walk into a chain Christian retailer or a local guy who thinks he has a ministry to the church, let's remember that the retailer is going to make that decision in part because of how we spend our money.
I have a lot more on this re: the responsibility of the retailer, but the next time you feel the need to bash CBA, keep in mind that it is not any more or less slack in its duties than most local churches are today. I might go so far as to say that if 70% of all sermons preached today were at least not offensive, we'd be a big step forward from where we are, but that's an undocumented statement. CBA certainly has some major problems, but most of those problems have one foot in the local church, and the other foot in the local church. If we are going to be angry and not take it anymore, let's start at home where we can actually impact some change for the Gospel.