Happy belated 4th of July! Hope you had a good one. My own family celebrated in style, on our butts, transfixed by the kaleidoscope of imported explosive devices that screamed and flashed and with any luck, helped to feed many underprivileged Chinese families for another few months. But sitting there, pondering the freedom we so often take for granted in this country, it got me thinking about our role as the privileged recipients of liberty and what specifically we should be doing as participants in and contributors to this Christian book industry. Sure, it seems like a bit of a jump from the House of Congress in 1776 to the trade show floor at the first CBA convention in 1950, but if you look hard, there are similarities.
Today, there are all sorts of abuses of our liberty that undermine the original rewards our progenitors won for us. It’s the natural order for systems to decline—governments and industies alike. In CBA today we see artifice being rewarded and books being judged by their covers. Polished stage manner will get you much further with publishers than a well-written sample, and well-known speakers outsell little-known geniuses.
But those little realities are no big offense in the end. That’s just the world system. Sure But looking closer, you realize how strange it is for Christian authors to be forced to become public figures who claim Christ as Lord and Savior in one breath and ensure a massively appealing, calculated brand image in the next. In scripture we’re told things like, “Man looks upon the outward things, but God looks upon the heart.” “Do not be concerned with the things of this earth, but set your mind on the things above.” “Blessed are the poor for they will inherit the kingdom.” Jesus denounced the idea of seeking man’s approval and surely creating a personal (self-focused) public image is dangerous work. And I’m still every bit as concerned by the apparent complicity of our Christian book industry–from authors to editors to publishers to sellers to bookstores to buyers to readers—in promoting the very values of the world system which God himself says he detests. We claim, “Valuable!” and God sits up on his throne and shakes his holy head. Sure, we’re only human. And sure, the system is designed to allow us to absolve ourselves of all blame (“That’s what the buyers want.”/“That’s what other publishers are producing.”). But in fact, I’m afraid—terrified—of what this will mean for us as participants in and contributors to this industry.
It makes me wonder where we’re headed. If we’re responsible for our country as members of it, we’re certainly responsible as Christian book readers, writers, and editors. The commodification of Christianity currently taking place in our free country encourages it more every day. Christian products sell to the tune of $4 billion per year, and many of them, by promising a better life and favor with God and happiness of a kinds and all assortment of unbelievable things if you’ll just pray a prayer / read your Bible / go to church / believe and recite the words that unlock the secrets. It’s all to give Christians something worthwhile to spend their money on, but some of it seems pretty far from what Jesus intended.
Our country was founded on the principles of freedom and liberty of all to practice whatever ideas about business and religion they might choose. We can mix them and mash them all we like because that is our right as citizens of America. And we may not have to answer in this lifetime for our participation in the less than honorable elements of this industry. But I'm very grateful for those who agree with me that the price of my eternal freedom is no match for this world’s cheap copy.
Anyway, fireworks are illegal in my city, but that didn’t stop our entire neighborhood from calling a civil mutiny to light off hundreds of noisy rockets to honor our freedom from oppression of all kinds. Including our own laws. That probably says something about our relative respect for these sorts of thoughts. But it was still a pretty sweet show.