relevantgirl says, “It’s time for a revolution, but it must begin in our hearts first.” Absolutely. Let’s start. (And no, you aren’t the only one who didn’t “get it” with that book.)
I’d agree that I’m a little confused by those like Warren who claim there’s some great revival going on. If anything, it looks like the same convulsive surges of “Son-sumerism”—like those on the trade floor at the annual CBA conventions—we’ve always seen. And the most disturbing thing to my idealistic, anti-establishment sensibilities is how the sweeping evidences of this so-called revival are so intimately wedded to savvy marketing. Though we do have to keep in mind that there is a cause and effect at work, and it is reciprocal. The great machine is fueled by public demand—and not often the other way around.
And another thing I’ve been meaning to point out is that there’s obviously a problem of semantics here. Revolution is the term I’ve chosen for the resurgence in Christian writing of high literary quality. Revival, reformation, and awakening—even “reformission”—are often used interchangeably, and are not what I’m calling for in Christian writing. I actually think that happens on an individual basis as people realize their need for God. Revival necessitates a state of darkness to awaken from, which is definitely one of the fundamental assumptions of this Christian Writing Revolution. Yet I’m wanting to go beyond revival in the culture, to revival in Christian writers.
One thing the Times article alluded to was that big, warehouse churches are growing—some frighteningly fast, like Osteen’s from the sound of it. Christianity is big business, and I guess, pretty much always has been. The stuff we’re fed, that Christians are the underdogs, never given equal airtime, the only ones maligned and discriminated against in a politically correct culture, makes us think differently. But if there’s one thing that was proven to me this year, it’s that Christians command respect for their sheer numbers. Oh yes, the nondenominational churches are growing. And still the quality of our books is not improving. We’ve got more and more Christians, but less and less commanding artistry.
But maybe another important fact to remember is that revolution is fueled by widespread malcontent. If there isn’t a groundswell of unhappiness, there can’t be no revolution. And I just find it interesting that so many of these insipid popular books, which shall be forgotten, are based on the idea that God wants us to be happy, content, and constantly entertained with sanitized, unchallenging genre fiction and water-down platitudes. I guess I see value in complaining about this. And as part of my year in review, I do see constructive work being done to dismantle the assumptions of the unsuspecting public, challenges to their narrow mindsets, stretching influences like Annie Dillard, Madeline L’Engle, Brett Lott, and Greg Wolfe and the folks that comprise the Literary Christian site. But the fact that Mel Gibson located his Catholic roots, while wonderful, doesn’t equate revival to me. A lot of people, including me, wanted to see what the hype was about with that inflamatory movie. I saw it. (I have no need to ever see it again.) Book marketers have found greater sales through the warehouse booksellers like WalMart, but this doesn’t equal revival either.
I thought it was an interesting point in the article that Christian books make up 11% of the overall market. That’s not nearly as high a percentage as the Christians in America, as census data indicates. Eleven percent accounts for a couple billion dollars, so it’s no slouch, but really, the number is irrelevant. Since when is market share any measurement for Christians? (I seem to remember a verse in 3rd Hezekiah about that…)
Actually, there is a verse about the love of money, about money corrupting, about giving all you have to follow Him. There are parables about stewardship and the proper use of resources, about rejecting what the world values for the things of true value. And I think one of those things of true value conspicuously absent in CBA (like the malls at Christmastime) is the real stuff, the redemptive beauty, the Truth we’re not seeing on the bookshelves drawn with artistic merit and great literary quality. Yet, lo and behold, there are others out here who feel the same way. Professors, editors, writers, philosophers. Christmas-celebrators and old fashioned rabble-rousers. God bless us, Everyone!
This will be my last post until Christmas. We’re traveling tomorrow to California to visit all the family–some 30 very excited people waiting to see Ellie–for a week. But before I flicker out, I’d like to hear from a few of you what you’re wishing for for Christmas this year.
For myself, I’d like to see Bret Lott make the bestseller list…