Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Visit to a Christian Bookstore as a Reflection of Christianity Today

I analyze things... a complete and total understatement actually, because I over analyze everything. For better or worse this is who I am. For example, when I go to buy something I can't bring myself to purchase it unless I've done hours of research, read every cnet and amazon review, compared prices, debated about the instant gratification of purchasing the item in a store or saving money and ordering online, considering what are the odds of it breaking and needing to return it, etc. This can drive some people crazy, but I figure if I'm going to spend my money I want the best possible product for the least amount of money. (As a side note this research process can go on for years, which is funny because by the time I have settled on something, everything has changed and I've got to start the research over.) This translates to the way I see people, the way I handle conversations, and in reality how I pursue my relationship with God. With people I take it all in. The way they dress, the accent they have, their mannerisms, and I'm a huge proponent of the school that posits what you say is almost less important than how you say it. I go even further and take what people say and analyze it closely... what do they really mean, what was that tone, what was that hand gesture (as long as its not a singular centrist finger, which is pretty obvious), etc. Words are important, they carry weight and must be carefully chosen, the failure to do so will result in miscommunication, which defeats the entire purpose of saying anything in the first place, and in all likelihood will result in needless drama. (I reference countless romantic comedies and Shakespeare's plays to enforce this point.)

All of that is to say that I analyze things, which will become a running theme on this blog, just wait for it. I recently walked into a Christian bookstore looking for books on divorce and remarriage. (A subject I won't hit upon just yet, I'm in the process of analyzing the subject and more fully developing my opinions , much like a lawyer prepares for a key argument, hence looking for books on the subject matter.) As soon as I entered I couldn't help but analyze the establishment. Two women "of a certain age" were working. The books on the shelf were in a disheveled state, as if they had just woken from a heavy Sunday afternoon nap. The Chronicles of Narnia movie was playing on several TVs in the back, and I think I heard the faint sound of a guitar riff on the word God in the mix in the background. I looked at the book sections for something pointing me towards a section on divorce. Men's, Women's, Teens, Singles, Pastoral Studies, Biography, Current Events, Marriage, Family....nothing directly on divorce right out of the gate, which, sadly, didn't surprise me. So I settled into looking through the marriage section. Nothing at first glance, I thought that maybe the "singles" section might have something on divorce, so I shifted over. Nope, no such luck; however, I permitted myself to be amused by the fact that 90% of the books in the single section concerned how not to be single any more and how to be able to move on over into the marital guides section. It made me shake my head, obviously the goal of every single person should be to move into marriage, negating Paul's opinion on the subject matter. I wandered through the rest of the sections, finding everything from healthy living guides to every Max Lucado book ever written, but nothing on divorce. I began to get frustrated. One of the biggest numbers that Christians like to throw around is that the divorce rate for Christians is basically the same as it is for nonchristians, about 50% of marriages fail. I'll buy that...so where are the resources for those Christians? I eventually found three books on divorce tucked away in the marriage section. That was a grand total of three books out of several hundreds of other titles concerning marriage.

I have to ask, is this a reflection on how we as Christians treat the discussion of divorce? Tucking it away, pretending it doesn't exist. How can we possibly minister to divorced men and women this way, how does this not cause them to feel ostracized? Now before everyone gets up in arms, I realize that the reason there are so many books on marriage is in attempt to waylay divorce in the first place, and I accept that as important, but that doesn't change the statistic. According to the percentage of books in the bookstore the way that the Christian life works is that we are single and looking to get married, we get married and do all our premarital counseling, then we can move into the "sex" section, then into parenting, then we can die. Now if we throw divorce into the mix it just messes everything else up. I guess we fly through the pain back into singleness, rebound back to the single book section and try again. (This of course negates those books that make the argument that Christians should not remarry after divorce, unless the other spouse has died, etc.; however, how is a Christian supposed to even learn of this argument if there are no books available on the subject.) This glimpse of the Christian life that I got by looking around me at what was offered at the Christian bookstore frustrated me. So I took a step back.

Now I realize how ludicrous this sounds, basing an opinion of how Christianity treats divorce on the number of books on the subject offered by a bookstore. And to be perfectly honest, on some level it is, but where there is a reality there is a truth, and the reality is that there were not that many Christian books available on the subject. I leave it up to you to conclude the truth that could be derived from this reality. I pray that this Christian bookstore does not reflect the current state of churches, but I fear it does. Now see what I mean about how I over analyze everything? Enjoy the ride.

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