I confess that there is simply not enough time in the day to go through everything that comes in for review, and quite frankly some of it should never see the light of day. Because most of what I cover is music, the books often get piled up until someone in my family paws through them for the historical romance and the rest end up in the big plastic bin on my porch.
But the other day I was looking for something to read and pulled out a book called Rapture Ready by Daniel Radosh. It came out in April, and there are two reasons I decided to read it. One, the cover was kinda cute and I thought, "This could be funny," and two, my friend Lori Lenz is mentioned in the thank yous.
My friend Lori is one of the coolest, most down to earth people you'll ever meet. I'm sure she loves Jesus, I just don't think she loves the subculture crap that goes along with it. If Lori is somehow connected to the book, then I needed to check it out.
I haven't found Lori in the pages yet, but I have found a kindred spirit in author Radosh. What I get from just what I've read so far, he's Jewish, hip, intelligent, young and pretty savvy about pop culture. After a day at Shoutfest Christian music festival, he realized there was a teeming Christian subculture that paralleled mainstream pop culture but was completely unnoticed by most of mainstream America.
In other words, as I've complained about before, if you're in the fishbowl, you know the fishes you're swimming with. Meanwhile, everyone else walks by without getting wet.
I'm hooked. Radosh takes a fair and funny look at everything from Passion Plays to the ICRS retail show (or, as I call it, God's Garage Sale*). It's a fascinating look at the Christian subculture from someone completely outside the tribe.
And I find myself agreeing with him on page after page.
Regular readers of my blogs and columns will know that over the years I've questioned my own involvement in the Christian subculture. I'm constantly trying to balance doing my job (writing about genuinely good music or artists with a sincere message) and not barfing when I remember that I'm actually part of that subculture spin cycle that copies mainstream pop culture so we have safe alternative to everything and thereby avoid having to interact with - gasp! - the rest of the world.
In short, we've created a parallel universe that operates as much on commercialism as it does on faith. (Or maybe more so, in some cases.)
Take the book's chapter about Bible sales, for example. I've written about this before: why do Americans, who have more Bibles than anyone else in the world, keep buying more? I get that there are some great study tools out there (I'm using a daily Bible that breaks up the entire Bible into daily readings. I'm lazy, I admit it. I can't keep track of the days of the week without several calendars and a daily journal.)
But God's Word doesn't change just because your new Bible has a pink cover or devotionals for skaters, does it? Are these Bible versions truly created to make the Bible easier to understand or just cooler, hipper, and more saleable? (I say saleable.)
Besides, slapping a duct tape cover onto God's Word doesn't make it more culturally relevant. It makes it God's Word with DUCT TAPE on it. If you want to write a book of devotionals for skaters or bakers or candlestick makers, then do that. But stop trying to tart up the Bible to generate money.
And while we're on the subject, just exactly how many English translations of the Bible do you really need? There are people around the world without even a single verse of the Bible written down in their language (and people groups who don't even have a written language).
Did you know that there is actually a Bible that will insert your personal information into the text, so that the Bible appears written just for you? I'll admit that it's very helpful sometimes to insert my name into verses to remind myself that God is talking to me ("For God so loved Joanne ...") but this takes things a little bit too far, don't you think? It's like those children's books where you send in the info and they print Pretty Little Puppy just for your two year old.
OK, I'm getting off track here. Sorry about that. Back to Daniel Radosh.
I'm about 1/4 of the way through the book so it might totally tank after this. But I don't think so. I like to see how what people "outside the tribe" actually see us.
Because I personally think we look ridiculous a lot of the time.
So far in the book, Radosh has been kind enough to not actually point that out. He just holds up the mirror so we can see ourselves.
* My sister is actually the one who came up with the term God's Garage Sale. We were at a summer music festival and as we walked by the merch tents she said, "Let's go see what's at God's Garage Sale today" and quite honestly, that's about the best description you can come up with for the crap that's there.