God and Mammon in Christian Publishingrnby Gene Edward Veithrn, 1.^rn^rn”‘ ^rn”VrnS.rnfc.rn” ^ ^^^rn^ Nrn- VrnTKT^rn^ ^rn•rn1^rn’ 1 ^rn^Jl^p^rn^ ^ ^ ^rnl^^ufiHBlrnyjL,~” i?^j^p^>*»—.rnA^^HH^rn^ i ^ ^rnR^^^HrnHii^^^Brn^•BHj^^^^^^/rnfji^”ia–^^MIrn1 JP!rnj^HP’^-s^rn% ^ ^ ^ ^ » ^rn*rnt ^ ^ Nrn^L^ i 1rn• •rnJrnfrn>rnk «rnThat one can find Christian bookstores in nearly everyrnshopping mall is doubtless a good sign. While our intellectualrnand cultural establishments refiase to factor God intorntheir equahons, there is an alternative network of publishingrnhouses and bookstores devoted entirely to religion. While millionsrnof ordinary Americans have stopped reading altogether,rnChristians, particularly conservative Christians, are still readingrnvoraciously.rnThough many segments of the publishing industry havernbeen hurting. Christian publishing has been thriving, hi onlyrnfour years, from 1991 to 1994, sales of religious books shot uprn92 percent, from 36.7 million to 70.5 million. Nearly sevenrnpercent of all books sold are religious. Today, the network ofrnChristian publishers and bookstores, mostly representing evangelicalrnProtestantism, make up a three billion dollar industry.rnAnd yet. Christian thought does not seem to be any morernprominent in the marketplace of ideas. Even as its marketrnshare increases, the influence of Chrishanit}’ on American culturerncontinues to shrink. Part of the reason may be that Christians,rnwith their publishing arms, have become something of arnsubculture, set off and kept separate from the mainstream. Tornthe extent that this has happened, it is not necessarily due to arnfundamentalist impulse to separate from the sinful world;rnrather, conservative Christians have been marginalized againstrntheir will by an aggressively secularist media and academic es-rnGene Edward Veith, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciencesrnat Concordia University, is the author of Postmodern Times:rnA Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culturern(Crossway). A version of this article appeared in Worldrnmagazine.rntablishment.rnBut there is another factor in the paradox that while churchesrnare growing, Christianity is declining. If churches are not exercisingrnmuch influence on the culture, the culture is certainlyrnexercising a great deal of influence on the church. This is evidentrnnot only in the mainline liberal denominations, whichrnmake a point of aping cultural trends. These liberal churchesrnare in fact declining, having become so indistinguishable fromrn”the world” that few people can find a reason to get up early onrnSunday to go to them anymore. Today, it is the evangehcalrnchurches that are growing. But ironically, they are now capitulatingrnto the secularist culture. This has nothing to do with therntriumph of nonreligious ideas or ideologies, which in fact havernnever seemed less credible; the new worldliness of evangelicalismrnis due to the utter victory of free-market capitalism.rnThe new creed of American religion is commercialism. Today,rndoctrine and practice are shaped not so much by Scripturernand certainly not by tradition, but by marketing research, consumerrnsurveys, and the overarching goal of reaching a massrnmarket by giving the customers what they want. This is statedrnin so many words in the literature, seminars, and consultant reportsrnof the so-called “church growth movement.” The resultsrncan be seen in the “mega-churches” now scattered throughoutrnour nation’s suburbs, whose architecture and corporate missionrnstatements show them to be enormous spiritual shopping malls.rnThe emergence of a new pop Christianity—and an explanationrnof why the values of the free market, inestimable as they arernin many other spheres, are not necessarily beneficial for theologyrn—can perhaps best be seen in what has happened to thernChristian publishing industry. Christian publishing companiesrnhad their beginnings as denominational presses—church-rn24/CHRONICLESrnrnrn