Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Western Christianity

I've got a bit of a rant coming, so be warned:

I recently went into a Christian Bookstore. Normally I avoid those places like the plague, as in order to get to anything of value (ie Bibles, good Christian authors, Classics, Reference, perhaps even some music) you have to wade through endless shelves, rows and piles of Christian stuff.

So I went in, looking for an NRSV Bible to pricecheck. My old NIV fell apart in Cambodia (I'm missing all of my reference material, and parts of Revalation - which to me, is not much of loss. I don't like that book much anyway, except in parts. Caused me endless nightmares at a child.) and one of our speakers read from NRSV and I like the translation.

As I walked through trying, first, to located the Bibles (Grievance one: shouldn't that be THE MOST obvious thing in the store? Right up front where one might walk in and steal one because it's so accessible - and more power to them if they did, might be useful to them, in the end) I passed the statues, the plaques, the coffee cups and wall art. The streamers and banners and greeting cards. The glossy self-help books and End times fiction, movies, cds, stickers, pins, pens, bookends, christmas ornaments, placards. And I finally found the Bibles. But not "regular" ones. There were commemorative ones, shortened ones, paraphrased, for Dads, for Grads, for Moms, for Army and Navy men and women.

I'm not a translation snob. There are some I like better than others, and some I don't like at all (The message kills me, but I wouldn't hesitate to buy it for someone who wants a fresh revision or will get lost by all the historical and cultural references). I love that we have some options, and can understand what we're reading better by reading another translation and getting something new out of it. But all of these special editions were superfluous.

I didn't find what I was looking for, and I made a hasty exit before I started to cry - which is my reaction to a lot of Christian crap.

Christian Bookstores are deeply antithetical to the teachings of Christ.

There is nothing wrong with 'Christian Enrichment' per se. We are very very lucky to have such a wealth of Christian authors and the freedom to read them. In Cambodia the only Christian authors that have been translated for them are the ones going through doing crusades and faith healing movements, and some of their books are less than orthodox.

We have no business to be spending our excess in this fashion. We are very wealthy. We have lots of money to spend, but we should be putting it to better use than filling our houses, cars, and bodies will themed decorations. With all of the people lacking in our world; the 30,000 children who die every day from preventable and treatable diseases; the many natural disasters and unnatural ones; the children lacking basic education and sanitation; the girls subjected to slavery and rape by their parents and villages; and the billions who will never know that there is a God who loves them; we have no business to be supporting an industry of producing crap for our own display.

With all the privileges we have - and being wealthy is a great privilege. On a worldwide scale, even those of us who consider ourselves just barely making it are in the top 10% of living. If you own two cars for your family you just jumped to the top 5%. God gives us this incredible opportunity to use our money to do such good in this world, and we squander it. Giving money away isn't a burden, it's a joy to have the excess to spread around and do good. Many Christians in this world would love to have what we have, and would use it far better.

What are we thinking?