Monday, July 5, 2010

Will the World End in 2012?: A Christian Guide to the Question Everyone's Asking

The other day I went into a Lifeway bookstore to rest my eyes from the computer at work and to stretch my legs; to just get out of the office for a few minutes. As I began my browsing jog around the store the first rack of books consisted of the latest and greatest releases, and on the top shelf of the latest and greatest releases was a book with the above title by Raymond Hundley.

The first thing that struck me was that I wasn’t aware everyone was asking “"the Question.” Perhaps the editors at publisher Thomas Nelson failed in their PR campaign?

Can someone tell me what possible motive there is in such a title other than raw money? There is no intellectual or moral or Christian honesty in that title. That is exactly the type of hype I’d expect from Oprah or General Motors, or Abercrombie and Fitch – I’m not sure that Hugh Heffner ever used such hype – though to satisfy your curiosity I’m not speaking from personal experience on that one.

And if raw money is the motive, and I can think of no other motive for the title is indeed a patent lie designed to produce sales – then we have Thomas Nelson engaging in what is sometimes referred to as one of the oldest professions known to man – prostitution. However, this is an insult to prostitutes because I believe it likely that most prostitutes engage in their vocational activity in order to support themselves, Thomas Nelson, on the other hand, isn’t likely to starve or be homeless tomorrow if their executives engage in a modicum of honesty and deportment.

Now gentle reader, if you are offended by my comparison of Thomas Nelson with prostitution (and Thomas Nelson has plenty of company in the world of “Christian” publishing) then may I ask “why”? What is the nature and source of your offense? Is it that I invoke unpleasant images of the type that God uses in Ezekiel Chapter 23? Or is it that there is harlotry in “Christian” (and I use the term in its broadest application) publishing and we ourselves have become too promiscuous to sense anything amiss?

And what of Lifeway bookstore? Is there no discernment and integrity in prominently displaying a title worthy of Oprah, the New Age, or the latest Hollywood release?

How can a publisher publish Bibles on one press run and engage in deceptive titles the next? How can a bookstore have Bibles in one aisle and place – front and center – such nonsense as “The Question Everyone Is Asking” as you walk through its door? (When is the last time you went into a “Christian” bookstore and the first thing you saw were Bibles?)

I suspect that, volume per volume, there is more hype in the form of self-centered and self-help marketing, and in creating “questions that everyone is asking” in “Christian” publishing than in general publishing. I suspect there is more literary integrity in general publishing than in so-called Christian publishing. And I’m pretty certain that the atmosphere in Borders or Barnes and Noble is, by and large, a bit more healthy than it is in Lifeway, Family Christian Bookstore, and their competitors, because at least in Barnes and Noble and Borders the selling of sheep and doves and religious money changing is relegated to one or two aisles – the aisles containing “Christian” books.


  1. This brings up so many good points, and I'd have to largely agree. Of all the Christian book stores I can remember going into, I cannot once remember one store where the first thing I saw was a Bible. It normally is a new self-help book, Tee shirt, or DVD. The Bibles tend to be pushed to the back, or in some corner somewhere. I never really thought about that until just now, but you're right.

    One thing that has always bothered me, is when I go to check out at said stores, I often find "Christian" candy by the register. Something about that has always bothered me.

  2. Ah - and you should be bothered my friend. It does make selling doves and changing money in the First Century Temple look rather mild doesn't it? Merchandising the Gospel - how sad.

  3. One day I was walking to my car and, out of the corner of my eye, noticed a half-sized kernel of popcorn haphazardly bobbling along my driveway. Although I later established that it moved consistently forward, it seemed to hobble a few inches to the left and then ricochet into a new course and trudge towards the right. Like a skier traversing down a steep slope, the piece of popcorn bounced in every compass direction. Peering deeper, I discovered a tiny ant almost hidden under the corn kernel. I quickly assumed that the size and the weight of the popcorn was what caused the ant to crisscross so haphazardly.
    Once I fully focused on the plight of the ant and its trophy meal, I noticed other ants, many with no burdens, traversing in the same manner as the heavily loaded one. Had I stopped at any given moment and taken a snapshot, it would be nearly impossible to establish the actual course or direction of my group of ants. Each would be frozen in a seemingly different direction: some right, others left, some facing one direction and others seemingly opposite. It would not be wise for any ant to measure itself by the specific position of any other ant. I did not witness any ant attempt to correct the direction of its neighbor.
    The further I pulled back from my popcorn laden ant, while still keeping it in perspective, the greater my clarity became. Fully ascended, I now recognized hundreds of ants—each seemingly bouncing its own way along in a sort of frenzied cacophony—moving in a well-organized syncopation. It was easy to determine direction, easy to see that the colony was moving in common purpose. A snapshot from this vantage point would reveal the ants’ true course: indubitably forward.
    The lowly ant has shown me the benefit of an ascended view. The colony was pressing forward along invisible chemical trails left by forerunners. The constant course corrections were the result of each ant’s reassessment of its position along the well-marked route. While chaotic at the single ant level, the route was unmistakable from the ascended vantage point.
    My relationship with my fellow man was changed by this ascended view. God has placed eternity in every heart. Seeking our place within His path is an individual response to the great clouds of witnesses marking His way. We are not called to force others to march in step with our cadence. Being right does not assure an effective life. Be slow to shout that I follow Apollos, or Paul, or Cephas, or the countless excluding schisms of denominationalism. There is, after all, only one church. So choose to bear with and encourage others irrespective of seemingly conflicting directions. Our imperfect tendency is to focus more on what someone does rather than their heart’s motivation—the why.