Richard John Neuhaus is fond of repeating an observation about the United States: the country is so vast, so full of contradictions, that evidence can be found to support almost any generalization about it. Much the same could be said about evangelicalism.

Last week in Atlanta, the Christian (read "evangelical") publishing industry held its annual convention—"CBA," as it's known. Publishers, booksellers, and others connected to the trade came in droves to see the books and Bibles and music videos and knick-knacks that will be turning up in your local Christian bookstore in the coming months. And as usual, there was plenty of evidence at hand for your favorite generalization about evangelicalism.

Do you despair at evangelicals' embrace of the shallow, the trendy, the theologically dubious? Bingo! This was the year of Jabez. Bruce Wilkinson's bestseller, The Prayer of Jabez, was named the Book of the Year by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, and everywhere you turned at the convention there were signs of Jabez mania. Shameless knockoffs, designed to resemble the Wilkinson original, could be seen on almost every aisle. And of course there were Jabez mugs, Jabez neckties, Jabez pens—you name it. There was even the Jabez fish: the familiar Christian symbol that has adorned so many evangelical bumpers, with the name "Jabez" spelled out in big letters inside the fish.

Do you brood over evangelical anti-intellectualism? If so, you could take grim satisfaction in the winner of the theology category in the ECPA awards. Yes, the Gold Medallion went to Hank Hanegraaf for his book, Resurrection.

But wait a minute. Are you encouraged by evangelicals' devotion to Scripture? You would have found much to gladden your heart in the aisles of CBA—not least the announcement of the English Standard Bible, based on the RSV but with significant revisions, forthcoming from Crossway. The sample translation of the Book of Psalms bodes well for this enterprise.

Do you see signs of an intellectual renaissance among evangelicals? There was plenty of evidence at hand. Didn't IVP's Dictionary of New Testament Background, Walt Wangerin's wonderfully revisionist novelistic portrait, Paul (Zondervan), and Phillip Johnson's The Wedge of Truth (IVP) all take home Gold Medallions? And when have there been so many challenging books as those on display at this year's convention from Baker, Eerdmans, IVP, and other publishers committed to enlarging the territory—so to speak—of the evangelical mind?

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Even Jabez mania was deftly countered by Douglas Jones's dead-on parody, The Mantra of Jabez (Canon Press), which gets my vote for Book of the Convention. A mixture of delightful mimicry, Swiftian-strength theological satire, and inspired silliness in the great Monty Python tradition, The Mantra of Jabez (subtitled "Break on Through to the Other Side") is a bracing tonic.

So where is the soul of the CBA? Pick your evidence (and this report only scratches the surface). As for me, I'll be back for next year's convention, Lord willing. I wouldn't miss it.

John Wilson is editor of Books & Culture and editor-at-large for Christianity Today.

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Other media reports from CBA include:

Christian books selling hot — Associated Press (July 12, 2001)

Throbbing hearts and thumping Bibles - Salon (July 12, 2001)

When Jesus saves, his followers like to spendThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution (July 10, 2001)

Religious books: Divine popularity, heavenly sales - CNN (July 10, 2001)

God, Mammon, and 'Bibleman' — Newsweek

Earlier Christianity Today articles that have addressed the state of the Christian book industry include:

Dead Authors Society | We're no longer interested in tasting death but only little morsels of cheer. (Mar. 28, 2001)

Books & Culture Corner: The Culture of Euphemism | A dispatch from the Christian Booksellers Association convention. (July 17, 2000)

Behold the Power of Cheese | A dispatch from the Christian Booksellers Association (July 12, 2000)

Don't Blame the Publishers! | Publishers are not forcing shallow books on an unwilling community. (Feb. 9, 1998)

The Christian Booksellers Association Web site mainly offers information about the CBA, though it also has bestseller lists and the text of CBA Marketplace magazine. For more on Christian books, music, and products, see Christian Retailing magazine.

World magazine also criticized "how bumper stickers, stuffed animals, and retail kitsch are squeezing the books out of Christian bookstores" in its July 1, 2000 issue. But it's not as harsh as its July 12, 1997 cover story, "Whatever Happened to Christian Publishing?" (which was itself scrutinized in Books & Culture [print only]).

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Modern Reformation also published a critical "dispatch" from CBA in January 1999.

Christianity Today's books area has reviews of The Prayer of Jabez and other works.

Books & Culture Corner appears Mondays at Earlier Books & Culture Corners include:

Give Me Your Muslims, Your Hindus, Your Eastern Orthodox, Yearning to Breathe Free | Immigration's long-ignored effect on American religion is garnering much attention from scholars (July 9, 2001)

Shrekked | Why are readers responding passionately about a simple film review? (July 2, 2001)

Debutante Fiction | The New Yorker should have paid less attention to the novelty of its writers and more attention to their writing. (June 18, 2001)

Saint Teddy? | Yes, Roosevelt paid the usual presidential respects to Christianity, but didn't show much explicit personal devotion to it. (June 11, 2001)

History Bully | Christian scholars speak not-so-softly over a big sticking point: Theodore Roosevelt's faith. (june 4, 2001)

'Taken Up in Glory' | The Ascension has been forgotten in many Protestant churches, jettisoning an essential part of the Christian story. (May 21, 2001)

Who Won? Who Cares? | Skip the latest ballot reviews and read Italo Calvino's brilliant election novella "The Watcher." (May 14, 2001)

Infamy Indeed | John Gregory Dunne suggests imperialistic Americans got what they deserved at Pearl Harbor. (May 7, 2001)

Rantings of a Not-So-Primly Dressed Person With Too Much Time | The Chronicle of Higher Education infuses some not-so-subtle bigotry into its fetal-tissue research coverage. (Apr. 30, 2001)

Big Numbers, Big Problems | Christianity is in the midst of a massive global shift. But how much of a difference is it making in its new homelands? (Apr. 16, 2001)

DiIulio Keeps Explaining, But Is Anyone Listening? | At a media luncheon in Washington about Bush's faith-based initiatives, answered questions get asked one more time. (Apr. 9, 2001)

Public-izing Faith | Recent articles in Touchstone, Commonweal, and The New York Times serve as reminders that faith is not merely "a private thing." (Apr. 2, 2001)