Saturday, July 31, 2004

How Much Money Can We Make Off Christ's Death - And Does He Want a Cut of the Profits?

Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ just won't go away. For those of you completely out of touch with reality, The Passion is the film that is supposed to save humanity from itself and turn us into anti-Semite. I like to call it the film that made Protestants realize Catholics might in fact be Christians.

Well, the DVD of the film is coming out on August 31, so our store is rolling out the merchandise in eager anticipation. This means the reincarnation of The Passion of the Christ jewelry. My favorite is the Nail Lapel Pin. It's a solid pewter pin fashioned like a nail with the biblical reference Isaiah 53:5 carved into it.

You should really see all these officially licensed products. It's one of the most frightening things I've ever seen. Who comes up with all this? And will a lapel pin really make someone become a Christian? If you ask me, it will just make people more cynical. Heck, I'm cynical about this, and I'm a Christian.

Luckily, many of my coworkers feel the same way. We decided to come up with more appropriate uses of these pins. There's the obvious golf tee. I thought it would be a cool nose ring. It would seem reminiscent of the bones you see in the noses of various National Geographic centerfolds. One person suggested using them to make a studded belt, but that idea seemed a little too labor intensive.

Now, if I could only figure out a better use for my Left Behind trading cards.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Going on Vacation

I'm going "Up North," as the natives in Minnesota call it. I'll be in the middle of the woods with my in-laws for a week. Hilarity will ensue. With no access to the world of Christian retail, there will be no new posts for about a week.

Christian Books I Don't Mind Selling

As my first week in the world of Christian retail comes to a close, I feel I should at least try to put a positive spin on the industry. While those who love me call me a cynic, especially when it concerns all things related to the Christian subculture, I do believe there are authors, musicians, artists, etc. within this subculture who are doing some good things. Instead of always bashing the pathetic aspects of the culture, I think I'll try highlighting some things I like. (Note: I'll keep bashing the bad things of Christian retail. It's just way too fun.)

I recently read a book by Donald Miller called Blue Like Jazz. I actually loved it. The book is a very easy read. It is very much a stream-of-consciousness account of the author's spiritual journey. It's not a perfect book, but I found myself unwilling to put it down. It was just too honest, and I have to respect that. This book won't change the world, but it could make you realize there are Christians who care about the world. I would recommend it for high school or college students who grew up in the stereotypical whitebread Christian youth group.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

It's [Really] All About the Benjamins

We got a large shipment of books in the other day. Opening a box I noticed it was a book entitled The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning (who is probably most famous for his book The Ragamuffin Gospel.) I asked my supervisor if this was a new book by Manning.
"No, it's an old book. They just put a new cover on it, and the sad thing is that a lot of people will see the new cover, think it's a book of Manning's they haven't read and buy it."
"That sounds a little sneaky for the Christian publishing world," I countered.
She laughed. And she kept laughing. Eventually, she stopped. "So young and so naive," she said.
This is what makes me mad about Christian publishing - they are all a bunch of liars. They claim to be about something bigger than themselves (or as Manning's publisher says, "That's why we're here -- to change lives for the glory of His kingdom."), and yet they are all about the money. They even stoop to re-covering books so the idiot public will buy them a second time.
I'm not saying being in business to make money is wrong. But when you represent yourself as someone working for the glory of God, using underhanded tactics to turn a buck seems highly inappropriate. It's not like they're televangelists.

Living in Fear

This crazy customer got me thinking earlier this week. She was an old woman with a hokey Minnesota accent. She came into the store looking for a children's Bible to give to her new grandson. She had no idea what the name of this particular Bible was, and of course, every Bible I showed her was completely the wrong. She would try to describe it. "It has a white cover." That does me a lot of good. And she kept saying, "You know what I'm talking about." No, lady, I don't have any clue what you're talking about. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if somebody didn't take their medicine this morning and wandered away from the home.
But I digress.
After about half an hour of looking, she finally finds a Bible - with a yellow cover. We go up front to check-out. While waiting to pay, our friend discovers the wall of wood planks with inscriptions. These have Bible verses, patriotic sayings, etc. She finds one that quotes Psalm 33:12a, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." (NIV) She proceeds to read the inscription out loud followed by a desperate exclamation of, "Yes, we are so blessed; we are so blessed, Lord. Please don't leave us, Lord. Please don't leave us. Don't leave us."
It was the way she said it as she looked at the wall. There was genuine fear in both her voice and the way she looked. It was actually very sad. And I wondered, how often do we do things out of fear? Maybe it's fear that God will leave us or that a spouse will stop loving us, but we do or don't do things motivated simply by fear.
I don't want to sound like a pastor giving a sermon, but it was just all very sad. And I can't seem to forget her or the way she almost cried at the thought of God retreating. A thought that was all too tangible for her. And I soon realized there wasn't a whole lot separating me from her at that moment. And that's the really sad part.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The First Day

The first day of work is always fun. You learn the lay of the land, meet new people and try to figure out if you've just made the biggest mistake of your life. All of my co-workers seem like very nice, very cool people. They all seem to enjoy gently mocking certain items in our inventory. Take my surpervisor as an example. On my tour of the store we stopped in the gift section (think Hallmark figurines with a Bible verse). She told me, "If you happen to break any of the ugly things in this section, oh well -- we can't sell them. Not that I'm advocating randomly breaking store merchandise, but some of this stuff is ugly as sin."

I think my favorite thing of the day was a kids t-shirt. Imagine the Mt. Dew logo, but instead mentioning soda it reads, "Jesus: He Died For You." Do you get it? It sounds like "Do the Dew." Oh my freaking gosh, that is so cool. Move over Billy Graham; this t-shirt will save millions of angry suburban teens from their sins. Honestly, this shirt did not make me want to repent. It did make me want a Mt. Dew slushy. Of course, I would have probably gotten a brain freeze as some sort of cosmic punishment for mocking this divinely inspired cotton billboard for Christ.

What have I gotten myself into?