Jeremiah and I are currently visiting his family in Texas, which traditionally has meant lots of busyness. The first three times we came to Texas together we were (1) attending his sister’s wedding and preparing for Fuller’s spring 2009 finals, (2) attending a billion appointments with bakers, florists, etc. and finishing up Fuller’s summer 2009 finals, and (3) having our own wedding in December 2009. This trip is comparatively empty. So far we’ve seen all of two of his high school friends, watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and read a few books. It has been quite relaxing. It has also been an opportunity to explore new horizons, including, for us, the Christian bookstores of Corpus Christi.
It is not that we have never entered a Christian bookstore, of course, but rather that we had never actually been to a Christian bookstore together. (I’m not counting Fuller’s bookstore, which is so largely dominated by deliciously moderate and intellectual fare, nor Archives, a used bookstore in Pasadena, which also stocks lots of academic books.) No Lifeway, no Family Christian, no mom ‘n pop Jesus store—until now.
First, we stopped by a fancy new bookstore we’d never heard of, but which apparently is a mini-chain: Mardel. It was an interesting place, with more space devoted to knickknacks, T-shirts/music, and teacher/homeschool supplies (individually!) than to books. A surprisingly decent proportion of books by InterVarsity, Baker, and Eerdmans for an evangelical store (that’s not to say they didn’t also sell Left Behind), and yet a sad number of books in absolute terms.
However, they have many exciting items, if you’re not seeking books, or even gaudy crosses or Christian rock albums. Heck, you don’t even need to be looking for something at all related to Christianity! For example, in the Church Supply aisle, we found a fabulous selection of flags: the American, the Texan, and the “Christian.” Delight!
If that doesn’t entice, perhaps you’d like to buy some Silly Bandz?
We moved on to Family Christian, which seemed to be barely surviving with the new competition from Mardel. On a more serious note, although their selection was poor in quantity and quality, I admit I genuinely feel a little sad that a bookstore might die. Even cheesy Christian bookstores have potential, despite so rarely achieving it. Perhaps the death of mediocrity should be celebrated, but I can’t help but mourn the loss of what could have been, even if it never would have…
I did my part to help them out by picking up John Stott’s IVP study on the Sermon on the Mount in their Bible study section. If you’d also like to help out beyond purchasing the few good books they have left, perhaps you might consider these inspiring dolls? Both Queen Esther and Aryan Warrior Deborah come with their own authentic Hebrew scrolls.
Just to show we can roll our eyes at non-Christian stores, too, we also went to Barnes and Noble. The religion section of Barnes and Noble is as much of a hodge-podge as Mardel, and their children’s section is usually even worse. Our friends at Zondervan deserve a prize for Least Relevant Bible Theme Ever (not to be confused with the Most Offensive Bible Theme Ever award, currently held by Thomas Nelson) after the publication of the Wild About Horses Bible.
While we didn’t take any pictures, we also visited a Catholic bookstore for comparison with the familiar Protestant offerings—a topic for another day.
Needless to say, despite our many sale books at Mardel, our most successful Christian book destination continues to be HalfPrice, where local theology students keep shelves stocked with never-read paperbacks.