June 28, 2019

Resources For Christian Living

There do not seem to be nearly as many bookstores as there used to be. That probably reflects some combination of fewer people reading books, the rise of online retail, and the difficulties of making such a business profitable. One unfortunate causality of this trend appears to be the Christian bookstore.

I had to go to the mall recently, one of my least favorite activities, to pick up some new clothes suitable for work. Even if I can't always act professional, I figure I should at least try look the part once in a while. As I was leaving the parking lot, I noticed a Christian store. I cannot recall its name, but what stood out to me was the text of that appeared right under the name in the same lit lettering: "Resources for Christian Living." The whole way home, I found myself wondering what this meant and what sort of resources would be required for "Christian living."

I was ready to leave, so I resisted the urge to investigate. I assume this was a Christian bookstore. The town where I live used to have several of them, and a couple remain. While the subtitle struck me as a bit odd, I suppose their intended audience would know exactly what they meant.

I've been inside a few Christian bookstores and not always unintentionally. I know that most of them sell more than books. The last one I was in was a lot like one of the larger Hallmark stores with a decidedly Christian theme. Perhaps "Resources for Christian Living" is actually more descriptive than calling themselves a bookstore would have been.

Judging by the sort of merchandise I remember being displayed, it seems that the sort of resources they are referring to are those designed to remind one that one is a Christian. More than that, these stores help Christians immerse themselves in the trappings of their religion. They are like combination bookstores and gift shops where everything is about Christianity. Anything one might need to be reminded of one's Christianity and/or to share it with others can be found. I suppose they are also good reminders that Christianity, whatever else it is, is a big business.

Why, you may wonder, would any self-respecting atheist set foot in one of these stores? Initially, it was nothing more than curiosity. There was a large Christian bookstore in the mall of the town where I grew up. That was the first time I'd ever heard of Christian bookstores, and I visited it because I loved bookstores and was interested to learn what sort of things a Christian bookstore might have. It was disappointing to say the least. Years later, I went in one of them a few times with my wife at the time because she was looking for gifts for assorted Christians. This was a huge store in a convenient location, and she always seemed to find something she found worthwhile. I had fun annoying her by trying to find the most absurdly Christian items I could and pretending that I wanted to buy them. Since then, I've wandered into a couple without realizing what they were.

This post initially appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2008. It was revised and expanded in 2019.