Working at a Christian bookstore has been a good fit for me, what with my 14 years of experience in youth ministry, but I must admit to feeling a bit conflicted lately.
As with all brick-and-mortar booksellers, online retailers have been hurting us. There has been a need to expand the store's offerings beyond books and CDs. And so, an increasing amount of floor space is being given to gift items: mugs, jewelry, water bottles, monogrammed journals, wall hangings....
The result is that deeply-loved passages of Scripture have become slogans and catch phrases, instead of life-changing, soul-stirring truth. The cross has gone from being an "emblem of suffering and shame" to a color-coordinated piece of decor.
It all reminds me of this passage from Brennan Manning's The Signature of Jesus:
Organized religion has domesticated the crucified Lord of glory, turned him into a tame symbol. Viewed as a church relic, the cross does not disturb our comfortable religiosity. But when the crucified, risen Christ, instead of remaining an icon, comes to life and delivers us over to the fire he came to light, he creates more havoc than all the heretics, secular humanists, and self-serving preachers put together.
Truth is...Jesus never got along very well with The Establishment or did as was expected. As C. S. Lewis wrote about Aslan, the Christ-figure in The Chronicles of Narnia, "Safe?...Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."