Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Another Country, Part II

I started this as a response to Julie's comment on the last post, but it grew until it just seemed smarter to create a whole new post for it.  So here you go.  Visiting the Christian Book Store, Part II.

I try to keep my snarky opinions to myself in these situations, because as much as I think this stuff is ridiculous, the rest of my family has an honest interest in some of it.  (Not the more junky stuff that I made fun of here, but the books, music, and movies are of definite interest to the fam.  My brother and SIL stood around giggling with me at some of the more out there product offerings, so it's not like they hold the scripture covered lolly pops as sacred or anything.)  They've all been amazingly good about not pressuring me to attend church.  I don't want to repay that with even the appearance of ridiculing their beliefs.

Underneath all the eye rolling, I'm kind of disturbed by what stores like this represent.  Christian merchandising is a multi-million dollar enterprise, and to me it just feels really cynical and oily.  I can't shake the idea that the people who make and sell most of this stuff do it only because they know they can sell anything if they can find a way to make it "Christian."  And a whole group of people who are too young in age, too new in their faith, or just gullible are gobbling it up as fast as they can crank out some new piece of crap.

I know that there are New Age stores doing much the same thing.  It's not restricted to the Christian market.  And maybe I'm letting my prejudices show here.  But it just seems so much more overwhelming in the Christian community.  Did you know that churches, especially mega churches (Texas is the land of the mega church, so I have some unfortunate experience of this), have gift shops now.  You can get mugs or tshirts or bottled water with the church's name and logo on them.  And signed copies of the minister's latest book.

The prices on all this stuff are outrageous, too.  My parents joined a Bible study at church, and although there are three Bibles on the bookshelf in the living room right now, none of them are the translation they needed, and they have a couple of expensive study Bibles still packed somewhere, but who knows where they are?  So Mom went to a different Christian store last week and bought two more Bibles, one for each of them.  She lucked out and the store had some on clearance.  She got two copies at 50% off.  She still paid $50 for the pair.  That means each Bible was originally priced at $50.  That's a lotta moolah for a book that's been in print for hundreds of years and could be downloaded as a free ebook from Amazon.  (That's not a judgement on how they choose to spend their money.  That's outrage at greedy publishers and store owners who choose to ask that kind of money.)

I know I made fun of all of this yesterday, but it just makes me sick when I see people being taken advantage of in the name of faith.  I know there are other things my parents could have done with that $50, but they felt they had to spend that money to participate fully in their faith.  The lady in line ahead of me at the store last night bought $90 worth of stuff.  I honestly have no idea what she bought, I was busy goofing off with my brother and SIL at that point and just happened to hear the cashier give her the total.  But she definitely looked like she could have put that $90 elsewhere.  Like maybe shampoo.  (Not that I have a lot of room to talk.  I woke up this morning looking like Helena Bonham Carter at the Golden Globes.)  Again, I'm not judging anyone's choice in how they spend their money.  I'm mad at the church culture that pressures people to have these books to participate in their religion, and the stores and publishers that set the prices so high, knowing that there are people who will pay their prices no matter what.

Are those supposed to be dreads or what?


  1. Anonymous6:23 PM

    I find this stuff amazing, especially given that I come from a country where the locals are, as a general rule, fairly un-religious (in my whole life I have known a total of 3 people that go to church)

  2. Anonymous12:48 AM

    You are right in that New Age followers are just as bad. This is the complaint folks have about psychics as well (and card readers). Any one who is *willfully* charging huge fees that most folks can't afford, for things that their "church" says they MUST have is wrong. No matter what the flavor. I know bartering won't work in most instances (like stores) but it should still be considered.
    On a side note, Helena's dress kinda looks like the cranes I am making! Oooh, magazines DO work for this, as do decoratively printed gift bags (if they aren't too thick), I tried them both. See, we saved money right there.


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