I try to be patient with my friends and colleagues in the Christian bookstore business, and I sometimes get a bit defensive when smart and edgy folks dismiss the mom and pop shops that sell the Jesus junk and too little serious literature. Most of them, the “Christian store” owners, are good, good people, working hard with little financial security.
But I do get on my high horse sometimes, and rightfully so. There is so much dumbness, so much that is tacky and weird, in the material culture of the evangelical scene. And, the ethos of the “Christian Booksellers Association” industry, while improving, still allows for such perverse silliness—golf balls with Bible verses sold with the serious claim that they can be evangelistic if lost ones are found, the new line of Christian breath mints (yes, once again, they are called Testa-Mints; I couldn’t make that up), tee shirts which rip off well known ad campaigns (as if that is oh-so-clever) and more bad books than even our most jaded cynic can imagine. We were considering stocking the laminated Bible that you can take in a Christian hot tub, though, but decided to pass…
Sometimes I write letters, scold sales reps (why, oh why, would anybody publish the nonsense in that Stephen Baldwin book, where he affirms anti-intellectualism? And why would an otherwise reliable publisher allow him to do a forward for a book for college students?) I had a protest piece published in our trade journal not too long ago when they awarded the Left Behind novels (less than stellar writing lined with even less than stellar theology) for their significant cultural impact. Yes, they’ve made an impact all right, with cultural creatives and literary critics mocking us worse than our captors in Psalm 137. God’s people at least didn’t deserve that taunting.
But I digress, with my little CBA industry rant. My point today is, well, my point is that you can fight back. A case of colossal stupidity has once again emerged from the belly of the CBA beast. I’ll tell you about it shortly.
First, this great news: the brand new book by u2 frontman, Bono, published by the nervy folks at Nelson-Word (perhaps atoning for some really dumb books in their publishing past) has just been released. It is called On The Move (W Publishing Group; $12.99) and it is a significant collection of photographs of Bono’s first trip to Ethiopia, and a brief chronical of his later work in Africa. These black and white photos, some not seen before, were taken by Bono himself (with shots of him by Kevin Davies.) The text of this small gift book is the much-publicized National Prayer Breakfast speech which Bono delivered last January. It has been widely circulated, and is a powerful, passionate, obviously Christian and serious call to faith, action, obedience and justice. The speech is accentuated with these powerful pictures, giving it an edgy, pomo artsy feel. For more traditional readers, the speech text is reproduced in the back in straight-line paragraphs. It really is worth reading, and this book is really worth having. You could use it nearly as a lectio devino meditation, using the pictures of gloriously human African kids as icons. And you can read the speech in one sitting, using the full edition in the back pages.
Here’s the thing that irks me. Some stores are refusing to carry it. Sales representatives are being criticized, the W publishing group being chastised, for daring to carry a book by this renegade Christian rock star. Forget that the book carries a glowing endorsement by Billy Graham! Forget that all the proceeds go to fight AIDS in Africa! You know what Stephen Baldwin says about that nonsense.
So, my sales rep thanked me for buying a bundle. To hear that some stores haven’t taken any, that some are mad about it, that some sales reps in some parts of the country have not only found the product ignored, but condemned, well, that just makes me wanna holler.
My plan? Let’s sell a bunch of these. Let’s show ’em that we care, that some stores are happy to support this (supposedly controversial) project, and will do well by them. Let’s make sure that the next publisher that wants to do something like this doesn’t back off because CBA stores didn’t sell enough of On The Move. I went out on a limb and ordered more than I should have. I believe in this little book and I believe that our circle of friends and customers will know what to do with it.
You can keep one, give one as a gift to a friend, and donate one to a library, resource center, youth group, coffee shop, beauty salon, or other give-away spot. What do you say?
The speech is worth reading and pondering. It is worth sharing and discussing. The pictures are excellent, the project very cool, the packaging exciting and artistically moving, DATA and the ONE campaign very reliable. Mostly, it is about showing God’s love in compassionate and just ways. It is about a man who leverages his celebrity for the poor, and a publisher willing to get the evangelical community on board. I want to move these, and will give some away. You’ve got to help us, though. Buy two, get one free.
AND: while supplies last, I will do this. Buy two, get one free, AND I will include a book about Christain faith and poverty, some kind of pro-justice, faith-based paperback. I’ve got tons of this stuff around here, and will give some away, to anybody who takes us up on this offer. Just let us know you want the blog special. We offer some free stuff and you can take it from there.
On the Move Bono (W) $12.99
Get one free
and another free, related book, too.