This weekend our church is having a picnic for the three high school graduates. As one of the youth leaders, it fell to me to purchase a gift for each of them on behalf of the youth group. Last year we gave each grad a Bible, a contemporary translation designed to catch the increasingly elusive attention of the young. This year's recipients are not the studious type, so it seemed important to pick something that they would not toss aside without a look. I searched and searched a giant bookseller online but couldn't find a Bible or devotional that seemed just right.
This week, upon realizing that an online order would not arrive by Sunday, I finally decided to patronize the local Christian bookstore. After a thorough inspection, I concluded that the selection was disappointing, so I bought three greeting cards and went over to the nearby behemoth chain bookstore.
There I found shelf after shelf of Bibles (not to mention rows of "Christian Living"). It was overwhelming: metal Bibles, leather Bibles, Bibles for students and women and men and children and soldiers and athletes and students. Eventually I found two good options: a devotional and a Bible similar to the version of last year (this time, hard cover and more expensive). Only one copy of the devotional was in stock. Three copies of this particular Bible were available, but one had a torn dust jacket. In the end I accepted a 10% discount on that one and bought the three Bibles for nearly $70 total.
At the Christian bookstore (in which a third of the space was devoted to religious kitsch, and the rest to music and books obviously designed to appeal to folks of a very specific cultural/political stripe) I felt vaguely uncomfortable, as if a slick line of products was being marketed under a thin guise of Christianity. In fact, my experience in "Christian" aisle of the big, secular store was similar. I can't help wondering how Jesus would feel if he were to walk into these bookstores in search of the Holy Bible.