By Jim Fletcher
I’ll report on this in-depth at a later time, but this
week, I’d like to highlight a few things I saw at the International Christian
Retail Show in Orlando.
This is the big, annual Christian booksellers’ convention, better known as CBA
(Christian Booksellers Association). More than likely, these are the folks you
see operating a Christian bookstore in your area.
From the perspective of pro Israel Christians, the
convention was a mixed-bag. In fact, I had the great pleasure of seeing my good
friend Terry James. Terry has some exciting things on his plate, including a new
book that will be out from Harvest House soon,
The American Apocalypse: Is the United States
in Bible Prophecy? Terry and I reminisced about how popular prophecy books
were 15 or 20 years ago. Today, they are few and far between on the convention
In fact, CBA is continuing its move to a more pluralistic
community. I spoke to a representative from a New York
publishing house — secular — and he matter-of-factly explained that they publish
some Christian authors….and authors who follow other religions.
“Emergent” was the buzz on the floor.
Publisher-after-publisher is releasing titles from authors in the Emergent
community, as it’s known. Authors like Brian McLaren and Tony Jones are pumping
books into a market willing to receive them. Among their unorthodox views is a
disturbing trend toward bashing the study of eschatology. At least, eschatology
that is at odds with McLaren’s pluralistic view. He and his friends don’t like
dispensationalism. RaptureReady and Lighthouse Trails are two websites that have
archived articles detailing Emergent’s dislike of Bible prophecy.
Of course, McLaren comes across as a sweet guy. His stock
author photo smiles at us serenely, as if McLaren has found the kind of truth
that brings true spiritual contentment. In point of fact, McLaren and other
Emergent speakers reject the belief that there is any such thing as ultimate
truth. For them, everything is open to discussion and dissection over a
specialty coffee at Starbucks. Everything except dispensationalism and Christian
Zionism. Then, they barely conceal their contempt for “Bible literalists.”
I want to be clear about something: CBA publishers
sometimes publish books they believe to be necessary for the spiritual
well-being of Christians. And they often publish books because they bring in
In other words, the latest trend, the latest feel-good
teaching is the priority.
William Paul Young, author of the runaway bestseller,
The Shack, attended and spoke to
convention attendees at a breakfast on Wednesday morning. You might be aware of
Young and his book: the novel, which details a man’s search for emotional
healing after the brutal murder of his daughter, has generated controversy due
to its odd depiction of the Trinity (for example, “God” is a large black woman;
Oprah Winfrey and Queen Latifah are rumored to be in the lead for the inevitable
Young didn’t reveal much about his theology during a
discussion format. Instead, he talked about his own narrative, something vastly
popular today. No longer do religious speakers present theology and doctrine to
audiences. That’s considered hopelessly outdated.
Instead, one’s own life journey is all the rage. And
Young’s poignant story of suffering sexual abuse as a child moved the audience
to collective tears. Nothing else mattered, not the questionable elements in the
book or Young’s ties to liberal thinkers. The real bottom line is the bottom
line. Christian stores are struggling against the giant retailers, who can offer
deep discounts for books. Therefore, whatever nominally Christian book which
sells big is treated like royalty.
When Young finished speaking, he left the stage and was
embraced warmly by CBA President Bill Anderson. Several attendees rose and
Meanwhile, the old standards are marginalized and even
treated with some embarrassment. I’m talking about authors promoting a love for
the Bible and the God of the Bible. And, God forbid, the Jews of modern
If Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo and the folks at
Christianity Today believe we all need to “think carefully” about the “damage”
dispensationalism is doing to the world today, then by golly, publishers will
Several pro Israel/Bible prophecy ministries that used to
show at ICRS no longer attend. That’s sad. However, I understand. To spend
perhaps $10,000 for a booth and travel to ICRS makes little sense when your
staffers watch disinterested attendees pass by, on their way to a publishing
house display that endeavors only to make people feel good about themselves.
I was grateful to a handful of publishers who still defend
the faith once delivered to the saints. Folks like Harvest House and Strang
Communications. Both are strongly pro Israel.
New Leaf Publishing Group has several fine titles. Interestingly, all three of
these houses are still privately owned. That’s the key. They aren’t “beholden”
to a corporate/investor climate that demands pluralism.
An Israeli publisher attended, shoved in the back of the
room and almost invisible to the crowd. This would be the extent of what I would
call promotion of pro Israel
books. Publishers will say that they are simply providing the books in demand by
the buying public.
I don’t believe that. It’s the opposite. The public will
buy what’s put in front of them and the plain truth is, publishers are
contributing to the dumbing-down of America.
They subtly, cleverly blame customers, claiming that it’s the customers who want
gooey, fluffy giftbooks. The other claim — that woman are the primary bookstore
customers and want “women’s books” — is sexist. Are woman not smart enough, even
eager, to read about Israel
and Bible prophecy?
Of course, the answer is, “Of course.”
The Christian book industry doesn’t understand this market.
These publishers also don’t care. They are following the pied piper of Emergent.
The solution for us is to buy Terry James’ books. Support
Lighthouse Trails Publishing, and Harvest House, and Strang, and NLPG. Tell
everyone you know about them. Spread the message far and wide. The goal?
Ultimately, that when you exit the stage one day and stand in front of the Only
One that matters, He will warmly embrace you. Then you will hear the cheering
and clapping of the angels and the saints.