Get a bunch of Christian intellectuals together and pretty soon they'll start in deploring the CBA. The initials stand for the Christian Booksellers Association, the organization that links Christian bookstores across the nation. (Secular bookstores form the American Booksellers Association, or ABA.)

The shorthand is a little inaccurate, because it's not actually the booksellers themselves that us elbow-patch types deplore. It's the poor quality of many of the books they sell. These books are generally described as shallow, cutesy, self-indulgent, and trivializing; they're thought to be embarrassingly below the standards of the ABA (no pinnacle of wisdom itself).

Who is to blame for this sorry state of affairs? Those scoundrels, the publishers. These are the guys responsible for producing the physical books; they decide that a project is worth the investment, coax it from a writer, run it through an editor, and stamp their name at the bottom of the spine (of the book, that is). CBA publishers, it is said, are too enamored of profit and don't care enough for the nurture of souls.

I agree that much of what is on display in a Christian bookstore falls short of edifying, especially when a lot of it isn't even books. If you walked into your local secular bookstore and found a third of the floor space given over to plastic gewgaws and T-shirts with cringeworthy puns about your deepest beliefs, you would gather that they don't think of you as Mensa material.

But I am not convinced that publishers are the bad guys in this story. Book publishing looks like a glamorous, big-bucks biz, but on the inside it's a lot more love than money. As Ken Auletta explained in a New Yorker magazine overview ...

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Frederica Mathewes-Green
Frederica Mathewes-Green is the author of several books and has been a commentator for National Public Radio, National Review, and other media outlets. Her books include The Jesus Prayer and Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy. Mathewes-Green's podcast "Frederica Here and Now" is carried on Ancient Faith Radio. Her column, "Your World," ran from 1998 to 2000.
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