How To Survive a Christian Bookstore: #1 EMBRACING THE FEAR

You need to buy a better Bible but you dont want to enter a Christian Bookstore to buy one. OK. I get that.

Actually, I have a phobia of Christian bookstores myself. Last year I managed to avoid them completely, except for one quick appearance to buy a Bible for one of my daughters. And that was not easy – I tell you! I had to psych myself into it . . . deep breaths and everything. But I did it and so can you! And if you want to buy a decent Bible then eventually you are going to have to make the leap. Here's some guidelines on surviving a Christian bookstore.

Step #1 is to EMBRACE THE FEAR

For me, it's more than an aversion – its a phobia – a nightmarish dream, a dreadful paralyzing fear that i will be sucked into the very bowels of a Christian book store, kicking and screaming, beyond my control, dragged passed the Joel Osteen books in the front and all the way over to the Dreaded Footprints Poster on the far wall.


And then it hits me that I am actually INSIDE A FREAKIN' CHRISTIAN BOOKSTORE and I start to perspire and cheese starts oozing from all of my orifices and forms a river and its caught me in its cheesy current and its sweeping me along and little precious moment figurines are jumping on me, biting my legs,


and little old ladies are running at me to put Rob Bell dark-rimmed glasses on my face and saying, “Isn’t he a lovely man?”


and then i am drowning, fighting for breath, going under and the last image in my mind before I pass into eternity is the gleaming smile from a hundred Joel Osteen book covers. I fight for breath but its no use.


And then Joel’s penetrating evil smile gets bigger and bigger and brighter and brighter and WHITER AND WHITER and then everything is FADE TO WHITE and i am suddenly in eternity . . . but I have entered through the wrong kind of pearly gates!

You know what I'm talkin' about???

Your fear of Christian bookstores might be different than mine – perhaps a phobia of 80s retro burgundy leather Bibles or maybe, like mine, its some footprints in the sand that chase you down the beach, appearing and disappearing in a way that would freak anyone out. But whatever your fear is, you need to embrace it, suck it in, and get over it. Because we are going to get through this thing together and get you into a Christian Bookstore where you can buy a Bible.

NextHow To Survive a Christian Bookstore #2 FINDING YOUR HAPPY PLACE

Previously on TSK: The Prayer of Jael


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Thanks, Andrew… this will be a huge help to so many of us who have had bad experiences, as I’m sure we all have.
    Bless you, some of us may be able to browse and hold product in our hands once more as we evaluate the titles, instead of relying solely on Amazon.

  • chad says:

    I actually worked in one for 2 years….I remember throwing away an entire box of “purpose driven” fleece blankets the day they came in the store.

  • i worked in a christian bookstore some, at a seminary no less. some crazy items. such as sugar-free Testamints. and it was ironic to see occasional christianized knock-offs of trademarked secular items …
    and, speaking of retro burgundy faux leatherette bible bindings, i am reminded of the story of the newby pastor who preached his very first sermon ever to his new flock on the first three words of the bible: “Genuine Moroccan Leather.”
    and hey, chad, i’d’uh wanted one of them P.D. Blankets! certainly good against the chill created by the Slough of Despond.
    oh well.

  • Rick says:

    “…I start to perspire and cheese starts oozing from all of my orifices and forms a river and its caught me in its cheesy current and its sweeping me along…” – Super gross!

  • Paulomonk says:

    I have not crossed the threshold of a “c” bookstore in years… I support the local bookstore in town and also buy online. I worked for a software developer that participated in the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) for a year and attended two tradeshows in Indianapolis & Orlando. Over half of the tradeshow floor was covered in what was called “Jesus Junk” YIKES! Our business contracted services out to TNI and we had meetings with Z. It was very disappointing to say the least and integrity was not a priority in doing business… cutthroat at almost any cost was more the standard.

  • brambonius says:

    I remember when a girl (who wasn’t a christian for long) asked me where the footprints story was in the bible, cause she couldn’t find it…

  • I’ve a similar aversion- i usually experience a full blown panic attack, heart races, my hands get sweaty and the hair on the back of my neck stands up. What really shocks me is the price of the bibles (where if go to a Salvation Army thrift shop- all the bibles in the used book section are price marked. $00.00 which is SWAEEEEEEEEEEEET!)
    Also, when i walk over to the “art section” in any christian book store, i want to run out screaming. I’m not sure, but it has all the same signs and symptoms of being in need of a “deliverance session” I have struggled with the thought “do i just have a religious spirit” or am i a “closet pagan”…. it’s the same feeling i get walking into a “Mall” during christmas season or the Yankee Candle store, where the fumes of mulberry candles mixed with the fake lavender and vanilla, gives me a sever headache, i want to puke and i can’t get the smell off my jacket or out of my nostrils for days. Perhaps we should start a “support group” for those of us struggling with such aversion disorders………. We can call it “T.A.” – TUROPHOBIA ANONYMOUS
    (that’s fear/phobia of cheese)- just to save you the wiki search!
    xo k8

  • Tsk says:

    A support group for puke-prone christian shoppers is a great idea. Don carson would probably call it “The Gagging of God’s People”.

  • becky says:

    Andrew – think outside the box here. Go to Borders or B&N and then head over to the “religious/inspirational” section and pick up a bible sans cheese. You can even pick up say a David Sedaris and walk around with it while buying the bible if you’re afraid of being labeled a “Christian.” If you want to avoid the Starbucks cafes, head over to your independent bookstore, where many of them carry some bibles. And they can special order whatever you want. Or buy it online where it will arrive in a brown box with a name like “amazon” on the box so no one knows you’re buying a bible. 🙂

  • Paul Ede says:

    Perhaps this is one of the causes of the collapse of Wesley Owen here in the UK?
    I understand there was a major IT failure and an over-ordering of stock, but WO has been on the block for a long time due to competition from the internet. Is it sad to see WO go? I have tended to be quite disappointed with the quality and diverity of stock, I have to admit, and the generally tired decor etc. But to others it has been a lifeline, especially the cafe’s in most of the bigger stores

  • Stacey says:

    I love this post!! Looking forward to more! =)

  • I would like to echo Paul Ede’s comment. Let us spare a thought (and a prayer) for those in some of the Wesley Owen shops who may be jointing the rundumtancy club. See my earlier post:

  • Ansku says:

    Fist time here, had a laugh. Thank you!

  • I grew up in church. When I was Very Young I loved the “Jesus junk”…. the yellow, happy face erasers that said “God is Love” The pencils with a Bible verse. The yo yo’s with words imprinted on it to remind me that God was a part of all the ups and downs of my life. I loved the junk; I’d memorize verses weekly for it, faithfully attend every Sunday school class to acquire more of it.
    When I was older I discovered The Source to all this junk, but luckily by then I no longer cared about that stuff; I ventured into a very old, dusty 2 story shop with orange carpeting, awful music, and workers who chose to ignore me, to could peruse the basement section that no one ever journeyed: The old classics, concordances and Bible dictionaries. Oh, I was a true nerd and so enjoyed buying these things, that the dreadfully depressing journey to the Christian Bookstore was worth it.
    I’d not been in a Christian bookstore in over 15 years but last year I was looking for a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress and thought the Christian bookstore SURELY would have a copy. Nope. They did not carry it. As you stated, lots of Joel Osteen, lots of “art” with footprints and scripture, decorative pillows, bird feeders, mints, etc.
    I normally now don’t even bother even going into my local Christian bookstore. It’s a big one, not the dusty, dreary one of my youth but in many ways I find it so much worse. I tell myself that it’s not their fault: They are just catering to consumers…. obviously people buy testamints or junk or all that stuff.
    My solution? Online purchasing.

  • brad says:

    In comment #9, Becky suggests we “think outside the box here. Go to Borders or B&N and then head over to the ‘religious/inspirational’ section and pick up a bible sans cheese.” Or even try a local independent bookstore, amazon, etc.
    OMG Becky … don’t you realize what you’re suggesting? That we be missional? But how does that support The Church? Certainly that can’t expand the Kingd– oh, my bad … sorry. Umm … good call …

  • Rob Cassels says:

    Andrew you are now linked to the official ROBCASSELS.COM or I have linked to you .All new award winning graphics.So people can say hey what is this Tall Skinny Kiwi???What the world is that?Click the button and find out.I need video of my work if you have it for the .com site.Keep up the great work and out of deep muddd.All our love to your family

  • Jermayn says:

    Love it….
    I myself prefer ordering online but the one advantage of going in is that they have the throw away/ cheap books at the back and in truth, they are all the ‘good’ books, unlike the smiling assassin money hungry sopy Christian books.

  • cheryl marie says:

    This seriously had me laughing out loud. Not rolling on the floor (thank goodness) but some serious intermittent semi-spasmodic chuckling fits. And I thank you for that. Laughter is a good thing. I will never think of Joel Osteen’s teeth the same way again. In fact, I’d never considered Joel Osteen’s teeth before, but now I find myself curiously drawn to them….

  • becky says:

    Brad – as a fellow commentator noted above, classics such as Pilgrim’s Progress are not carried in a US based “Christian” (read evangelical) book store. Nor will one find Walter Percy, Flannery O’Connor, John Updike, Anne Lamott and a host of others whose Christianity is not deemed “acceptable” to the major distributors like Ingrahm and Lifeway who carry the bulk of what ends up on Xn bookshelves. Conversely, many secular bookstores have really amped up their “religious and inspirational sections,” sometimes even going so far as to have a “Christian” subsection.
    I would push the independent bookstore when possible though in these economic times, I get needing to take advantage of the B&N and Borders discounts. At least try to get use the indy stores’ cafes in lieu of the Starbucks branded ones featured in the chains.

  • This is hilarious! The thing that bothers me is the junky imported plastic things that pass as bible covers. We have searched and have yet to find any Christian store carrying a cover made in America. We handcraft bible covers, so naturally this gets under our skin!

  • saintbeagle says:

    Seriously, it is sad to read some of the ‘best sellers’ lists. Trips to Christian bookshops are usually quite depressing for that reason!
    I have an inward struggle…do I buy stuff from there and help fund a place which promotes Joel’ pearly whites or do I not…forcing them to sell more and more of the only stuff which seems to sell…Joel and his footprints

  • chad Miller says:

    Easy guys if the Christian Book store closed where would I go for quality christian fiction…
    Ps. I saw fortune cookies for sale with verses inside instead of fotunes
    Pss. A few years ago I went into a Lifeway store to find warning labels on many books ie. Donald Miller – and The Shack, We don’t like their theology but we do like the money.

  • supersimbo says:

    I one of the youngest staff members of a large UK based Christian Bookshops chain.
    Over the last couple of years we have been working hard to hear what people are saying & try to change our image, how we do things, how our staff “are”
    Its not easy after years of people associating certain stereotypes and cliches with what you do.
    There are some good people trying to make a difference

  • becky says:

    As a published writer, I want to salute the work you’re doing supersimbo – we need this kind of grassroots efforts in order to help change the face of Xnity. Thanks for the bottom of my heart. It is much appreciated.

  • Notbovvered says:

    Well I guess you could say we’re going through a refining process here in the UK after we got invaded by the Texas Cowboys aka Phil & Mark Brewer who swept into the former SPCK bookshops in the name of Orthodox Mission and walked away with as much as they could get away with … then we got globalised by Biblica when they swallowed up STL, destroyed its IT systems and walked away because they’d tied it in so many knots that nobody knew which way up the boxes went anymore let alone which way it was to the warehouse door…
    So now we’re trying to pick up the pieces, and praying that the good Lord will have mercy and that whatever emerges will be nothing whatsoever like you describe…
    But yes, I’ve seen ’em too and I’m laughing too coz it’s so, so true…

  • Harry Parke says:

    I avoid Christian Bookstores completely and download my books free of charge over at Obooko. Nobody is watching me and I come a way with books without having to spend a cent. Check out the virtual Christian bookstore:

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