There are few things in evangelicalism easier to mock than the annual meeting of the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA). It is a Christian marketing epidemic and embarrassing to millions of thinking evangelicals. The problem is a great deal of the criticism is simplistic, which should be a point of embarrassment to those of us who consider ourselves thoughtful evangelicals. First the facts. Today over 13,000 delegates, representing all facets of the Christian retail industry, are descending on the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans for this year's convention. Though the CBA convention is #181 of the 6,000 U.S. tradeshows based on total exhibit-floor space sold, it is the biggest networking and buying event in evangelicalism, with representatives from all 50 states and over 60 foreign countries buying, selling, marketing, and publicizing Christian products at 1,712 exhibitor booths over the five days, July 8 to 13. It's easy to spot the excesses. The show officially opens today when Bibleman (a.k.a. Willie Aames) cuts the ribbon. Within minutes, you can run across Scripture Candy ("Reaching the world one piece at a time"), Arise Christian watches with inspirational phrases on the face ("Arise: telling more than time"), and Scripture Jewelry (the "Hinds' Feet on High Places" pendant goes for $100). And so on.To be sure, respectable book publishers (Baker, InterVarsity, Zondervan, etc.) can be found, as well as promotions for some of the best contemporary Christian musicans, like Jars of Clay. But no one—not even the attendees and Christian marketers—denies that the overall impression is one of Christian kitsch run amuck.So why do all those good Christian people, who admit it's a lot of silly hoopla, do it? The common ...1
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