h: Christian retail. Did you know this is my favorite subject of them allincluding baptism and the inevitable “Iron Man vs. War Machine” blog-battles with iMonk? It’s my favorite because it is so misunderstood by most people, including those who are actually “doing” it, and it leads to so many problematic reactions.
Because, let’s face it: in spite of my half-hearted defense of the industry, the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) is a problematic industry at best. Now, why is that?
Let me give a real-life example, and then I’ll be excited to move on to my real beef this morning. The real life example is the WAL*MART Supercenter in Springdale, AR. Let me tell you that there are no facilities busier than this thing, but it is distinguished in the WAL*MART (WMT) chain by one significant detail: it has a fairly-amazing book department.
Seriously: their book department is about the size of an airport bookstore (~1000 sq ft), and it has a LOT of books. Interestingly, it has a long side counter of “inspirational” titles, which run the gamut from Joyce Meyer to Joel Osteen to Rick Warren (which, of course is not much of a spectrum, but I’ll get back to that). They also have a very cheap assortment of Thomas Nelson KJV and NKJV bibles – “cheap” meaning “the binding is complete junk”.
Now, here’s where the example actually starts kicking in: immediately next to the “Inspirational” section is two 8-foot sections with the header card:
What has happened in WMT, of course, is the logical end of trying to supply spiritual truth using retail discernment. What sells “best” is what gets shelf space, and suddenly what you are left with is not content at all but marketing. And in those terms, the LDS gospel and the Joyce Meyer “ministry” and the Joel Osteen “best life” and the Rick Warren “method and message” all turn out to get the front of the shelf.
When your objective is selling the most copies, or snatching the most readers, inexorably you must be turning over the stones to find the next sizable group of people with a common interest to draw them in and frankly pander to their self-assessed needs.
So what does that have to do with CBA? WMT is not the CBA channelCBA sees WMT as the big bad wolf, far more damaging than the internet channels. But not doctrinally damagingsales at the register damaging.
Isn’t that ironic? Because WMT can cherry-pick the things from CBA and then get the publishers to cheap-down the bindings, and then create franchises around personalities, CBA sees that as a threat to sales.
What CBA ought to see it as is a threat to doctrinebecause I promise you that even in the most personally-ignorant common CBA store, there is a lot of revulsion against selling things like statues of St. Joseph to bury in your yard. In the mind of the WMT buyer, no such revulsion exists.
So the problem with CBA is not that, store by store, there isn’t some nebulous sense that we ought to be teaching “what the Bible teaches”. The problem is that the guidepost CBA uses to measure success is the same guidepost that WMT uses to measure success. It’s the guidepost that gets LDS literature on the shelf next to Rick Warren, and Rick Warren next to Osteen, and Osteen next to Mrs. Meyer.
In case you haven’t noticed, that’s not the guidepost we use here at TeamPyro.
I’ll have more on this as it relates to the new T-Shirt design in a bit.