Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity


The Business of Christianity

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Reading is not, nor should be, a mindless activity. The more we read, so it should be, the deeper we think. Of course, this depends upon what we are reading. Provincial Afternoon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

I was in the big city, waiting to pick up air travelers who were three hours late starting a three-hour flight, and I had time in my hands. There’s only so long you can sit in Starbucks without a digital device, so I wandered into the bookstore. Twice.

Eventually, after reading every knitting book on the shelf, I made my way to the Christian section, but not because I wanted to peruse any product promoted by huge, Christian publishers (most owned by secular companies) with an agenda that has less to do with strengthening the saints as it does with bringing in money, money, and more mammon.

I See You

A man’s toothy grin beckoned from the jacket, inviting me to empower my life with Jesus. His face was everywhere —  front view, slightly side view from the right, honing in from the left, blue suit, black suit, dark heather sports jacket, same smile, same haircut. I felt as if I were in some mother’s living room, looking at the wall of her son.

Several women gazed at me — compassionately, strongly, solicitously — their names on the book jackets more prominent than the title, their unspoken assurance that they’ll walk through this with me, they know how hard it is to be a woman, and most especially a woman of God, and they will teach me how to be that person. They have a devotional just for me. And a special Bible, with their comments and commentary in text boxes throughout, and pretty flowers on the cover. Oh, how they care about me. They have for years and years.

Still Churning ‘Em out, Eh?

Familiar names clamored from the shelves — some of these people, at one time, wrote a decent book, and have basically been re-writing it ever since. It gets shorter, spunkier, sassier, modernized, and it’s aimed at teens, tweens, divorced women, twice-married men, college students, or high school drop-outs. Whatever your life situation, there is a book, and an accompanying study guide, to get you through it.

Christians look and act different, because we follow God, not human beings. Eyrie, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas and iCanvasART.

If the familiar names are dead or retired, not to worry — their sons and daughters carry on the dynasty.

There were books about raising children, improving my self esteem, managing money, and submitting to the professional tutelage and guidance of others. There were treatises on being radical, man; resting in His blessed arms; and getting out there and kicking butt for Christ.

In a section that was 20 times the size of the knitting category, there was very little to read.

One Name, above All the Rest

It’s not that there’s nothing out there, it’s that there’s too much of little import, little meaning, little actual teaching — even the Bibles can’t stand on their own without the NAME of somebody (not I Am Who I Am) driving the sale. The whole reason I’d wandered there, actually, was to find a a Hebrew/Greek study Bible, but there wasn’t one.

Are we really so dependent upon a particular human being, and his or her thoughts on everything about our life, to live that life?

When I was younger, I used to roll my eyes when people said, “The Bible tells you everything you need to know.”

“Yeah, right,” I thought. “What about managing money, and finding a job, and teaching kids, and baking bread?”

My problem, however, was that I never really read the Bible — like many Christians, I managed with a once weekly church visit, listening to the pastor explain his chosen passage. Quite fortunately, unlike many Christians, I avoided Christian “how-t0″ books — I never could understand how people who lived a lifestyle far beyond any I could imagine could tell me how to cope with daily worries they knew nothing about.

The Best Thing That Happened, Was Bad

But the best thing that happened to me was when my life fell apart, and everything I had depended upon crumbled, and so many people I thought were friends, were nothing more than once-a-week, Christian acquaintances, about as deep as the sermons. In my quest to figure out just who I Am Who I Am was and is, I threw myself into the Book He wrote — and I read, and read, and read.

And I began to realize that yes, the Bible really does tell us how to live, far better than 40-feet of shelf-space in the Christian books section, and we don’t need to depend upon the words and counsel and directives of people who are better known for their names than their wisdom. We have the true Word, and the ultimate Counselor.

“Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ” ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'” (Matthew 21: 13)

You don’t have to avoid all Christian books. But read the Real One, first, and learn to discern which of the marketplace products are worth your time.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where my goal is to wake up the sleepers, and encourage the seekers.

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  • Carolyn Henderson

    An excellent analogy, Scale Lily! We literally throw ourselves into the latest fad or folly, constantly looking for some way to achieve “spirituality” that doesn’t include the inconvenience of God.

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Very true, Katelyn — increasingly, many are out of touch, because they’re not chosen to write the books because they have anything spiritual to say, but because they have the “right credentials” and the name to go behind it — just like in the secular world. Increasingly, the Christian world is embracing the values and ways of its secular counterpart, and ordinary, individual, regular Christians need to be aware. The Bible is there for many of us, and if we spent as much time reading it as we do reading what others say about it, we would be wiser, stronger, and more mature.

  • Katelyn Fagan

    Thanks for commenting on my blog so I could check out your site! Love your thoughts! And this one especially. I generally don’t read a lot of Christian bible study guides and things. I like reading self-help books with a Christian author, but I’m not reading it to be taught spiritually by that author on my relationship with Christ, and some are just so out of touch.

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  • Scale Lily

    We so underestimate the power of God’s word. Everyone wants a guru, but the majority of teachers are either caught up in the mystical or psychology. It feels good like alcohol till you taste it coming up.

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Excellent thoughts, Janet. Like you, I look for much of what I want online, but I would think that even there, the shallow books of mock-Christianity outsell and outperform anything that encourages study or thought.

    I am glad that the Spirit led you, drove you, prodded you, guided you by the right hand, to seek out His truth and wisdom — and I will concede you the how-to books, because it sounds like He guided you away from the ones provide little and produce bad fruit. Isn’t it amazing how, when we give up ourselves into His hands, He protects us from so much?

    I look back to years of false doctrine and teaching creeping gently in here and there, snuggled in the back pew whispering, not so loud that anyone said, “Hey! You’ve got some weird thinking there!” but just enough to affect, subtly, the way people think and do things. Where before I lamented that I never “fit in,” now I say, “Thank you, God, that I didn’t. There’s so much less to unlearn!”

  • Janet

    Interesting post. It is a business, but not necessarily the business of Christianity, but the business of business. Secular and secular Christian bookstores don’t carry the Hebrew dictionaries, the Lexicons, the Hebrew, Greek study Bibles. But certain Christian bookstores, and those online Christian bookstores and amazon, and most used bookstores like Alibris do carry everything that a Christian needs to study to their heart’s content.
    It isn’t that Christian scholars are not creating the books we need, it is just that secular bookstores won’t carry them, because they do not sell. This is business.
    It is more of a business model issue – what sells, than a Christian writing issue. But you do have to seek for, search out the deeper books – I stopped going to bookstores long ago, and only buy online.

    I agree with you it is strange to see someone’s name on a bible – stating it is “so and so’s” bible. Very strange. But I have to say that the ‘how to’ books have their place. As a Christian who was saved later in life at age 33, I basically had to learn almost everything all over again. And when there wasn’t the teaching at a church, when other Christians said they were too busy, the Holy Spirit led me to many ‘how to’ books, and other basic books that helped me to understand. But then one needs to graduate and move on from those, I agree.
    But they do have their place. Not all of us grow up in a long time Christian home.

    I too long for people to study more Scripture. I went to seminary in order to be with other Christians who wanted to study in depth. But is this what we all have to do? Can’t we have deep bible study in our home churches? Some pastors and teachers would say, “people don’t want to study the bible, too hard, too much”. Yes, I see this. The world and their concerns overwhelm them, and they don’t have time. They rely on the pastors and teachers to teach them. But what happens when the pastors are not studying? when they say, “I don’t need to know Hebrew, etc, etc.”
    It is a conundrum.
    great post – made me think.

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