February 06, 2009

Independent Bookstores

In his recent letter to us, Eugene Peterson had this to say about books and the future of independent Christian bookstores:

I think you have a daunting task: to provide good,
solid books and at the same time keep the book-
store financially viable. American Christians
have horrible taste in literature, maybe especially
religious books. The junk is so prevalent, and the
good stuff usually requires more attention than most
are willing to give it.

He’s certainly right about the junk: All you have to do to verify that observation is stroll through the aisles of any of our local big box bookstores. Fortunately, though, we also don’t have the kind of financial pressure those operations do. We have to make enough money to pay Matt and Rebekah and Vickie, our heroic employees, and we have to make enough money to replenish our stock of good books, but we don’t have to make big profits.

As to whether American Christians have horrible taste in literature: That may, in fact, be true, but, ultimately, I’m just not sure that makes much of a difference when it comes to our mission. Because what we are doing at Christ the Lightgiver is what the Church has been doing for centuries and centuries—preserving the very best from the past, cultivating what is most beautiful in our contemporary culture, and creating a community which encourages learning, artistic expression, thoughtful discussion, and, above all, contemplation. That’s what St Columba was doing on Iona; that’s what St Aidan was doing on Lindisfarne; that’s what St Benedict was doing at Monte Cassino; that’s what St Sabbas did in the Kidron Valley—it’s what the monks are still doing at St Catherine’s on Mt Sinai, and it’s what we are doing at Christ the Lightgiver in Cedar Park, Texas. It is slow, quiet work, but it is also transforming.

So, thanks, Eugene, for taking the time to share your observations with us. We are counting on your prayers, as well.

fr. aidan

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