the deep pockets and corporate backing of Zondervan and NelsonAVord.rnPopular authors developed by the small publishersrnjumped ship to the big players for multimillion dollar advances,rnsums unthinkable for the small publishing houses. As a result,rnthe. small houses found themselves having to play the samerngame. They needed celebrity authors and surefire best-sellersrnto remain competitive. While some publishers —Crossway,rnBaker, various denominational presses, and others—have managedrnto hold on to their theological integrity, many have turnedrnto what can only be described as pop Christianity.rnWalk into a typical Christian bookstore today. Try to find thernbooks. Knickknacks, CDs, videos, inspirational posters, greetingrncards, T-shirts, and related merchandise (what the prophetsrnof old might have assailed as graven images) take up two-thirdsrnof the shelf space, according to industry statistics. Books makernup only 28 percent of sales. The relatively few books that arernstocked, therefore, need to have high turnover.rnMany Christian bookstores only stock the best-sellers.rnWholesalers have programs to supply bookstores with titles thatrnpromise big sales, offering mass quantities at a big discount.rnThe result is a self-fulfilling prophecy, since the books they providernare the only ones on the shelf for the customers to buy.rnThe most striking feature of the Christian marketplace isrnhow closely it imitates the trends and fads of its secularrncounterpart. Whenever a trend emerges in the secular arena,rnwait six months and a Christianized version will appear in thernreligious bookstores. Romance novels sell millions—there arernnow Christian romance novels, which are slightly less steamyrnwith less provocative covers. Horror stories remain big sellers;rnthere is Christian horror. Tom Clancy’s high-tech, three-inchrnthick military thrillers have inspired Christian counterparts, asrnhave John Crisham’s legal thrillers (though the original Mr.rnClancy and Mr. Grisham are already, by all accounts. Christians).rnThere are Christian diet books and Christian exercisernvideos. Christian cookbooks and sex manuals. Christian commercialismrnis even getting on the bandwagon with managementrnbooks, such as Thomas Nelson’s The Management Methodsrnofjesus and The People Skills ofjesus: Ancient Wisdom forrnModem Business.rnEven when it comes to religion. Christian publishing tendsrnto follow, rather than lead, the culture. The New Age movement,rninterested in angelic “spirit guides,” spawned some bestsellersrnabout angels. Christian publishers followed suit withrntheir books on angels. Near death experiences were big forrnawhile in the secular press, provoking a rash of Christian booksrnon the same subject (sometimes documenting visions of Hellrnalong with those of the “bright light”). Celebrity worship is bigrnin America’s pop culture. Thus, ghost-written books by sportsrnstars, entertainers, people in the news, and individuals who arernfamous for being famous are much-prized by Christian publishersrn(particularly if they feature a dramatic conversion experience,rnthough this is not necessary anymore). Certain authorsrnacquire big followings, and while many—such as Billy Grahamrnand Chuck Swindoll —may have valuable things to say, thernpreference for celebrity writers sometimes squeezes out authorsrnwho are not already famous.rnSelf-help is a major category in the secular bookstores, but itrnhas become a specialty of Christian publishers. Here the theologicalrnconsequences of the new commercialism are especiallyrnobvious. Evangelical Protestantism has always stressed God’srnhelp—that is to say. His grace —rather than the human being’srncapacity to help himself The Bible consists of God’s Law—rnwhich convicts the reader of the fact that he cannot keep it andrnis, in fact, a desperate sinner —and of the Gospel of Christ,rnwhich promises free forgiveness through Christ’s atonement onrnthe cross. Pop Christianity, on the other hand, sees the Bible asrna self-help manual, a guide for successful living. God’s Law isrnreduced to practical principles, which are rather easy to followrnand which promise a happy middle-class lifestyle. In practice,rnthis often means books that are little more than pop psychology,rnwith an ever-so-thin veneer of religious language. Happinessrncomes from feeling good about yourself, as in RobertrnSchuller’s Be (Happy) Attitudes, or from being assertive, as inrnNelsonAVord’s title Don’t Let ]erks Get the Best of You. This isrna far cry from “take up your cross and follow me” (Matthewrn16:24).rnMore direct doctrinal compromises are sometimes to bernfound. Word published Searching for God in America, basedrnon a PBS series which cited Islam and Buddhism as beingrnequally valid with Christianity as paths to God. Recently, Zondervanrncaused a firestorm in evangelical circles when it beganrnrevising the New International Version of the Bible to give itrn”gender-inclusive language,” which often meant changing thernsupposedly divinely inspired words of the original Hebrew andrnGreek to make them more palatable to our politically correctrnand feminist-chastened ears. When word of the de-genderedrnNIV—which was already available in England—came out, thernuproar was so great that Zondervan and the Bible translatorsrnchanged their plan, at least for now (though Tyndale’s The LivingrnBible, a paraphrase rather than a translation, is also reportedlyrnundergoing the same kind of revision).rnPop Christianity has also manifested itself in whole churches,rnwhich, though once conservative, are now eagerly followingrnthe culture in their zeal to bring in vast numbers of worshipers.rnClassic hymns are jettisoned in favor of pop music; time-testedrnliturgies are thrown out for “user-friendly” worship styles andrn”entertainment evangelism.” Pastors are transforming themselvesrninto CEOs; the members of their congregations are seenrnas customers, as consumers, to be manipulated by marketingrntechniques. The ancient faith, which has done so much notrnonly to save souls but to shape Western civilization, is beingrnturned into just another commodity. Worse, by slavishly followingrnthe culture, it becomes unable to critique that culturernand to call us back to moral and spiritual sanity.rnNot all contemporary Christianity is shallow, insipid, andrnsecularized. Many people are rediscovering the faith in all of itsrndepth, richness, and transcendence. One can even find booksrnon the subject. But these Christians must increasingly strugglernnot only against the secular culture but against its mirror-imagernin the Christian subculture. In the meantime, those looking forrna way out of our current cultural malaise often have a hard timernfinding authentic Christianity.rnThe good news is that human beings, whether in “the world”rnor the church, cannot live for long merely as economic animals,rnno matter how good the economy is. Some traditionalrnchurches are growing by welcoming what one pastor describedrnto me as “casualties of the church-growth movement,” thosernwho crave a sense of transcendence and the practice of Biblicalrnspirituality. Once Christian publishers become indistinguishablernfrom the secular publishers, there will not be much needrnfor them, and they will doubtiess fade away or be absorbed intornthe generic marketplace. Then perhaps someone will start arntract society again. crn26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn