Monday, March 02, 2009

Dead People Have Nearly Nothing To Say

Andy Crouch tells the story of a friend who made the mistake of looking for a book by a dead author in a Christian bookstore.

"Do you have Henri Nouwen's Show Me the Way?" he asked, referring to the late Catholic writer's collection of Lenten meditations.

"Oh no, dear," answered the clerk at the cash register. "He's dead. We don't carry books by dead authors."

I was told the same thing once. I was searching for eight copies of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters for some of my teens at church. The Christian bookstore didn’t carry it and told me the same thing. They didn’t carry books by people who were dead.

A policy like this in a Christian bookstore should raise one glaring question. After lamenting the culture this “no dead authors” policy reflects, Crouch wonders out loud:

Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the one part of the Christian store that clearly violates the "no dead authors" dictum: the Bible section. To be sure, the hundreds of lifestyle-oriented Bibles do include the original text, but too often the tedious, dead-author part of the Bible is in the smallest, least appealing type, while the easy-to-read study notes, helpful hints, and contemporary stories offer their assistance with lively type and colorful graphics.

I am more and more thankful for other book outlets. After my futile search in the Christian bookstore, I found all eight of my copies of Screwtape at Borders and Barnes and Noble and enacted a public boycott on such trite institutions as my local Christian bookstore. And as time goes on, I grow more and more attached to Amazon. If websites will make their way into eternity (in a good way), that one has a real shot.

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