Every now and then I become dispossessed of all common sense and wander into a Christian bookshop. I don't mean I don't like these places, but simply that it is a financially unsound decision to enter. But also I don't really like them. This dislike is not due to the books - books, all books, any books, are good, even Christian ones (even naff Christian ones). The financial unsoundness is due to the books.
No, the dislike is due to the everything else you find in Christian bookshops, namely, the tat. For those who have never been into such a shop, you may not be aware that Christians are the best producers of tat in the modern world. You name it, we do it. 'Jesus loves me' rubbers? Check. 'Jesus loves me' bumper stickers? Of course (I'm perfectly certain that someone, somewhere, has made a 'Jesus on board - in my heart' bumper sticker as well. I've never seen one, but I just know they will have. And it won't say 'heart', it'll have a picture of a heart.). Poorly made and not very attractive household items with Bible verses on? Tick. '4 steps to salvation combs'? Sadly, yes. 'Every man's guide to multi-tasking!! - comb your hair and get right with God, all before breakfast!' (I made that up, by the way, they don't really say that. That would take up valuable space, needed for the 4 steps).
And all available in every lurid shade of plastic you can wish for, including some you can't.
So yesterday I was in Belfast and wandered into that big Presbyterian bookshop, the one with the fancy spires and the posh shops next to it. This shop offers a little less tat than average (in terms of volume), although the range is generally of 'higher' quality and more expensive.
So anyway, I'm wandering round, trying not to buy books, and failing miserably, when I wander into the bargain section. The bargain section of Christian bookshops are always particularly good - here you find Christian books that are so bad that even Christians don't read them. They're currently doing the 'Left Behind' story books (in comic form) for 10p each - I was sorely tempted to buy the lot, mainly to avoid any poor child having them inflicted on them, but I didn't want to boost sales. So I wandered into the music section to have a little browse (incidentally, Christian bookshops are also one of the few remaining places where you can still buy tapes). And I see this CD, called something like 'Kingdom Karaoke'.
I think 'help, say it ain't so, they can't have'. Tentatively, I pick it up and turn it over. Help. They have. They have released a karaoke CD of HYMNS. For your karaoke machine. Help. These people just don't get it. Karaoke = banter (see Voxo for further details) and alcohol is pretty much a pre-requisite. Hymns = worshipping the almighty God of Heaven and thoughtful wonder is required.
Can you imagine that party? "Go on there, Rossy-boy, get up and give us a song!" "Ah no, I'm shy." "Go on go on go on" "OK. Have you any Bonnie Tyler?" "Err... no" "Queen? Elton John?" "Well, no, but we can do you the Reverend Willie McCrea." "Ah, great!" and then follow 5 minutes of cousin Ross (who only turned up because he fancies your friend and he had time to kill before things get going at The Apartment) singing "Will ye go down to the meeting hall tonight? Go down to the meeting hall and meet the king of light!" (I made that up, it's not really a Willie McCrea number, but it could easily be). Talk about pooping the party.
Even worse, maybe churches will adopt this for Sunday morning. "Let's give up on this congregational singing thing! We'll take it in turns!! Let's have Gladys up to the front!". A Thousand Tongues later, and we're understanding the joy of silence.
I'm not sure whether to despair, or stop visiting Christian bookshops.