One of the things that really gets me angry is the fact that CBA doesn't understand why it is wandering into the grand canyon of irrelevance. For those of you who don't know, "CBA" is the "Christian Booksellers Association", and I am a former member because of my bookstore. That is to say, I joined CBA because of my bookstore, and I left CBA because of my bookstore.
I got a postcard this week at my bookstore about the book to the right, and on that postcard, the following copy was given:
You've seen the lively discussion on CBN.com. You've heard Charles Colson talk about the book on Breakpoint. Albert Mohler wrote on Crosswalk.com that "Nelson's book is genuinely interesting, offering credible and helpful insights into the Oprah phenomenon."There's more on that postcard, but that's the part I want you to think about.
See: while Dr. Mohler actually did say that about this book, he actually wrote a complete review of the book which is very balanced and does not require any centuri0nization for the astute readers of this blog.
What I wanted to point out is that what Dr. Mohler concludes about this book is the following:
In her substitution of psychology for theology, Oprah has become a high priestess and icon of the psychologization of American society. When she features prominent New Age figures on her television show, she helps to mainstream New Age influences and philosophies among millions of Americans. Her substitution of spirituality for biblical Christianity, her promotion of forgiveness without atonement, and her references to a god "without labels" puts her at the epicenter of a seismic cultural earthquake.That's a little bit different than the postcard intimates, yes?
At the same time, Oprah cannot be ignored. Marcia Z. Nelson's new book is intended as a celebration of Oprah's significance as a harbinger of a new gospel. In the end, the importance of this book is grounded in the fact that it draws attention to Oprah's influence and cultural impact. Oprah's newly-packaged positive-thinking spirituality is tailor-made for the empty souls of our postmodern age. She promises meaning without truth, acceptance without judgment, and fulfillment without self-denial. Marcia Z. Nelson is certainly right about one thing--Oprah Winfrey's "congregation" cannot be ignored.
And that is why CBA is irrelevant. I have an object lesson related to that which I have to get off my chest, so bear with me.
Let me let you in on a not-so-little secret: in the next 4 months, a WAL*MART near you is going to start carrying a short line of "Christian" t-shirts branded "Only Son". The price-point is going to be $ 9.77. (source: Arkansas Democrat Gazette, dated: 1/15/2006) When that happens, there is going to be a massive exodus of apparel vendors from the CBA arena because $14.99 Kerusso T's won't sell at all when a very comparable shirt at Big Blue will be 30% less. Sadly, two years ago at CBA Advance I was telling all the shirt vendors that the right price for their wares was (based on Comp at GAP and Old Navy) $9.99 -- with seasonal T's being $7 or $5.
The funny thing about these T's is that all references to Jesus have been reduced to the "Only Son" brand line, or reduced to 6-point type in order to keep from "offending non-believers". So in order to stick a fork in the CBA apparel market, WAL*MART has done exactly what Oprah has done: taken the stupidity and ignorance of alleged Christians and capitalized on it.
And the co-dependent partner in this deal is CBA. "Cent: you've cracked," comes the response from the clown car. "CBA is the enabler of this deal? How so? Did CBA broker the deal?" No: CBA set up the marketplace through apathy to orthodoxy.
Listen: it may make me crazy to listen to Tim Enloe talk about objective sacraments, and it may make me dizzy to listen to Lutheran Pastors discuss the Eucharist, and it may make me punchy to watch Baptists take pot shots at Limited atonement and Unconditional election, but that's what apologetics is there for. We can at least stage the argument even if nobody is going to change his mind, right?
The problem with CBA is that they don't think the arguments are valid. T.D. Jakes has more clout than John MacArthur because Jakes has a talk show, has been on Oprah, and sells a lot of self-help books in spite of his open rejection of the Trinity. Nobody asks any questions of Randy Phillips regarding his take on the Trinity, either. Nobody wags a finger at Joel Osteen for being unable to preach the Gospel when questioned by Larry King. And if you can get past Richard Abanes to ask Rick Warren a question, you're a better man than I. But raising any of these objections is categorically verbotten in a CBA forum.
And listen: if you don't carry Rosaries, you're branded irrational. It's a classic Seinfeld episode: it's "You don't wan' to wear the ribbon? " and "Not that there's anything wroing with that" all rolled up into one.
But because of this blind rejection of the simple categories of the faith which have been in play for centuries -- some for millennia -- CBA has lead the Christian consumer into a dead end where Oprah can be called a Christian because she doesn't openly reject Christ even though she would never mention Him by name, and her message can be called "the Gospel" even though it doesn't just fail the Galatians standard: it fails the 1Cor 15:1-4 standard.
Let me say something clearly here: while I reject Communio Sanctorum and Tim Enloe's view of the faith, I respect that they have bothered to offer some basis for their view of the Christian life and the Christian church. It may be dreadfully wrong, but at least it offers something to think about -- and it asks a lot of the right questions. Blind ecumenicism is the worst enemy of orthodoxy because it has no way to consider questions like "church" and "believer" and "salvation".
But blind ecumenicism is exactly what CBA offers its customers. And in that, it eliminates the true ministry of Christian retail and, ironically, the true competitive advantage of Christian retail. See: if I can walk into my local CBA store and what it carries has no more or less spiritual advantage to what I can find at WAL*MART, why on earth would I buy (as an example) Max Lucado's Cure for the Common Life for full retail at a place that is out of my way when I can buy it at WAL*MART off the endcap on my way to the checkout at the Amazon price?
But if my local Christian retailer is someone who trains his associates to know the difference between KJV, NASB, NLT, NIV and tNIV and the Message, maybe it's worth going there. And if my local Christian retailer offers me the service of screening the books that come out so that he (and his employees) can tell me, "this author denies the Trinity," and "this author soft-soaks the Gospel -- he talks a lot about grace and not so much about the cost of discipleship" and "this book is biased by anti-dispensationalism," and "this book is founded on traditional Protestant theology, which in the end is useful to a broad spectrum of readers," then maybe it doesn't hurt that I have to pay 20% more for books I can trust.
But because CBA is like CBN and TBN and is blind in its ecumenicism, WAL*MART beats it up all the time -- because when there's no discernment at stake, price is the only issue. That is to say, we have already established what kind of girl you are and now we are haggling over the price.
So when you see the Oprah Gospel book on your local CBA bookstore shelves, take it to the owner or manager and ask him/her if they have read it. And then ask them why they would sell a book like that when they don't know what it's teaching. And then ask them what their ministry statement is and whether it is in-line with their ministry statement to sell books which dare to call what happens on the Oprah show in the same league with the cross of Jesus Christ.
Then come back here and tell me what happened. Only do it before Saturday because CBA Advance is next week and anyone who's a manager or owner will prolly be there in
Denver Nashville at the Gaylord Opryland pretending he's in the New Jerusalem.