“Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburger” – Mark Twain
This is an introductory post for a new column that we will be running on our website, the aim of which will be to examine and ask hard questions about – i.e., to grill – bestselling Christian books.
We will try to present the books in a manner that reflects fairly and accurately the author’s intents. For the time being, I (ERB editor, Chris Smith) will do these reviews under the pseudonym Christopher Curmudgeon, and will hope that the alter-ego helps to lend a light and humorous tone to the reviews. Our purpose in creating this column is twofold: for many of our regular readers, who would rather die than set foot in a Christian bookstore, this column will serve as a newsflash about what other Christians are reading these days; for readers who do read mainstream Christian books, or who have family and friends who do, we hope to shed new and different light on the bestsellers, challenging you to think theologically about what you are reading and to have meaningful conversations with others about the books that you are reading. (a key part of our mission here at The Englewood Review of Books).
Although we will primarily focus on specific books, we hope that the cumulative effect of this effort will be a broad-scale re-examination of not just the world of Christian publishing, but the whole evangelical sub-culture at large. (At some point, we will likely explore the questions like what makes a “Christian bestseller”? And with multiple lists of Christian bestsellers, how do these lists compare? And why do many fast-selling books for Christian audiences never appear on these lists?) We, like many others, have long been repulsed by this sub-culture, and yet in many ways as writers and publishers, we are dependent upon it. The main reason that the evangelical sub-culture exists is that there are people out there – and LOTS of people apparently – who want the sorts of books, music, etc. that it offers. Many of us– including The Englewood Review of Books – have chosen to operate as independently from the Christian marketplace as we can, but this approach does little to engage or transform the evangelical sub-culture and the desires of Western consumerism upon which it is built. We hope that by engaging the Christian bestsellers, and getting people talking about them, we will plant some seeds of critique that may eventually grow up to force further cracking in the monolith of evangelicalism. For it is in the cracks of prevailing systems that we are able to create spaces for imagining new and hopefully more faithful and sustainable alternatives, and as such alternatives arise and people see the possibility of another way, our desires begin to be transformed.
We’re glad that you’re along for the ride on this journey! Please engage our reviews (we may at times be asking the wrong questions), and share them with others in your church or family who might be reading that particular book.
The first review in this new column will be of Sarah Young’s two books [easyazon-link asin=”1591451884″ locale=”us”]Jesus Calling[/easyazon-link] and [easyazon-link asin=”1400320097″ locale=”us”]Jesus Today[/easyazon-link], which if all goes well, will be posted next week.
Image credit: Ericd at the English language Wikipedia