My fiance Jasmin and I trekked to the lung-searing west for the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) Convention–this year dubbed the International Christian Retail Show–today(I guess “yesterday” now) in Denver. What an interesting bunch of contradictions. One author, a middle-aged women who would probably appreciate me not mentioning her by name, greeted us this morning with “Welcome to the Christian Babylon.” Jasmin, who’s a pretty sensitive type, spiritually speaking, gets that “money changers” vibe from the place too. Basically there are aisles and aisles of Christian books, music, paintings, socks, candy…you name it. The Christian Industry is alive and well in America, taking in over $4.34 billion last year.
But, lest we paint with too monochrome a brush, I have to say that there were signs of life here too. For our part, we’re there to meet with several publishers about books we’re working on; me, a book on contemplative prayer and community practices for 20 and 30-somethings, for Jasmin, a novel about a strange guy driven by his empathy to bizzare and inexplicable actions. I’d like to think the guys we met with today are different from the norm of what we see overall in the CBA marketplace, and I think it is.
We had pretzels and juice with Don Milam, the VP of Destiny Image, an edgy charismatic publisher. What a guy! We spoke of Christians and authors who do both monikers justice by their life and flair for expression (Robert Farrar Capon, Philip Yancey, Brennan Manning and Richard Rohr were the centerpieces of discussion in case you’re wondering who…), and the longings that are stirring in him to transcend those tired boundaries of “conservative” and “liberal,” “progressive” and “fundamentalist.” There’s just too much in faith and our Lord that we need to conserve, and that we need to re-cast in more generous (liberal) terms, for us to squabble about.
A little while later (after visiting tons of booths and getting tons of books, some of which look fascinating and others which I can likely do without) we met up with Jordan Green, member of the Burnside Writer’s Collective and upcoming lit-mag The Ankeny Briefcase with Don Miller. Jordan’s a cool cat, and optimistic about the future of the CBA. He believes the children are our future. No really…but we’re the kids. “In five years, this is all going to change,” he said. “Wheras now emerging church literature is about 10% of the CBA, I think it will grow exponentially in the years to come.”
I share his optimism, or at least want to, but I think a 10% “market share,” is a high figure to credit to us now, and I wonder about how much emerging forms of faith in Christ and the church are compatible with the USAmerican Christian marketplace…or how much it should be. I agree with JOK about the high cost of becoming a movement, and would suggest that all Emergent Villagers and folks alike the Gink to read Climb the Highest Mountain, a book penned during the Jesus Movement…about movements.
A funny CBA story to end this post with: We were walking on the exhibit floor, and an older, black-suited man was talking his cell phone. “…well its impossible to read this map,” he said. “I want to know what church the guy who designed this goes to, so I can excommunicate his @$$!”
Maybe there’s hope after all…