I made a little visit on the superhighway to the workshop offerings at this year’s CBA International Expo
Here were a few of the classes in 2004:
“Taking Marketing Seriously: Creating Promotional & Merchandising Schedules Using a Hands-on Approach”
“How Christian Retailers Can Leverage eBay to Maximize Revenue and Acquire Customers”
“Growing Your Church Ministry Revenue”
“Successful Selling in a Semi-Service Environment”
“Best Retail Business Practices Revealed”
“Finding New Money: Ten Things You Need to Know Before You Even Think About Supply Chain Management”
“Growing a Strong Business While Enhancing Your Personal Life”
“Five Key Productivity Measures That Will Increase Your Sales and Customer Satisfaction”
Now okay. This probably isn’t saying anything, but I’m distressed by this. I’m also struck by the way this must appear to outsiders. Again, I wonder if we really consider ourselves to be in the world and not of it. What does that mean? And is it wrong to question this? We’ve been discussing how to achieve this balance in our books between being honest about the darkness and not diminishing God’s power to redeem it. Is it not distressing how many people get defensive when you raise this topic? Again I ask, what are we so afraid of?
Here’s what I’m afraid of. There is a play (maybe more properly, a parody) that’s currently being produced called Hollywood Hell House that’s based on a Christian church play so bad, the once dead-serious show has been made into a comedy—without changing much of anything. What I’d like to see is when the CBA says they’re committed to the power of Christ to redeem sinners through Christian books, they’re taking into account the fact that no nonChristians are even reading them. In all likelihood, they’re laughing at them if they even think about them at all. The “religion section” may be the biggest growing section in secular bookstores, but when people get there, they’re being confronted by much of the same thing that’s so repellent about bad church plays: cheesy dialoue, conventional plotting, and predictable characters that tun to salvation by the end of the book. Certainly not all Christian fiction is doing this. Certainly there are bad examples of formulaic fiction in ABA as well. But please don’t try to tell me there isn’t more we should be doing and that writers are being excluded because they write books that are too conservative. That’s simply not true.
Maybe in another five years none of us will be saying this. Maybe our replacements will be the ones complaining that our books aren’t real enough. But the problem exists and our first step is to accept it and stop Kum-ba-yaing ourselves into forgetting our calling to be salt and light.