Pharyngula

In a promising sign of the decline of some forms of Christianity, a major Christian book show has been cancelled.

The show won’t go on in Dallas. The Christian Book Expo, an innovative consumer-focused book show, won’t be repeated next year. The board of Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, show sponsor, decided not to stage another event in 2010. Attendance at this year’s show, held March 20-22 at the Dallas Convention Center, was 1,500; organizers had hoped for 10,000 to 15,000. The show left the organization with a $250,000 shortfall, according to ECPA president and CEO Mark Kuyper. “We want to clean up the debt before we consider future options,” Kuyper told PW in an e-mail.

Once you’ve got your Bible and your copies of the Left Behind books, your good evangelical doesn’t need much more. And most of ‘em won’t even read those.

Comments

  1. #1 Quiet Desperation
    April 29, 2009

    Hey! They read the only book that matters!

    Yes, I’m speaking of TV Guide!

    Nah, I dunno what that means, either. :-(

  2. #2 Barklikeadog
    April 29, 2009

    I don’t know what they read but they have facts I’ve never heard.

  3. #3 Ouchimoo
    April 29, 2009

    What else is out there for them anyways?
    Oh! Ray Comfort books. Hah.

  4. #4 Gruesome Janine
    April 29, 2009

    But I thought that in times of financial woes, people got more religious?

    Shit, I will take any good news I can get.

  5. #5 Parse
    April 29, 2009

    Um, duh! Books are for burning, not for reading! After all, if you read, you might get an education, which is like a venereal disease, but harder to get rid of.

  6. #6 Glen Davidson
    April 29, 2009

    Once you’ve got your Bible and your copies of the Left Behind books, your good evangelical doesn’t need much more. And most of ‘em won’t even read those.

    Oh, they’ll read their Bibles. The parts that explain how evil others are, a few sappy bits to make them feel pious.

    No need for so much of it, though. You could even dispense with one of the creation accounts, if the two hadn’t become hopelessly entangled in Xian myth.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  7. #7 Seokso
    April 29, 2009

    But if they read they might be exposed to dangerous alternative ideas! Reading is the gateway drug to college, and in college lurk godless heathens like PZ. It’s a slippery slope from Hop On Pop to hopping on the fast train to hell.

  8. #8 JD
    April 29, 2009

    The phone book is infinitely more intellectual. They should rejoice.

  9. #9 Dr. Strangelove
    April 29, 2009

    “I am a man of one book” John Wesley

  10. #10 pcarini
    April 29, 2009

    One can hardly blame them for not reading the Left Behind books, though.

  11. #11 Nusubito
    April 29, 2009

    I’m surprised that there was ever a market for this in the first place. Evangelists, hungry for knowledge?! I remember sitting in the library in church as a kid, and being completely alone. That room was practically abandoned, and aside from myself, I rarely saw other people under 60 or so reading in there. Of course, their selection was horrible as well. The most up to date science text available was Plato’s Metaphysics. I suppose anything more recent would be offensive to delicate Christian sensibilities.

    No, once you’ve got Purpose Driven Life and some other trite pseudo-philosophy, you’re ready to collect Bibles, and nothing else. Almost like a fanboy. Imagine someone who owned twenty copies of one issue of Marvel comics. Some bound in leather, with expensive protective covers. Most people would think: obsessive geek. Why is it that so many people who look at a christian doing the same thing think: wise sage?

  12. #12 LtStorm
    April 29, 2009

    I actually own a set of the Left Behind books…well, half the set, as my (private) high school library only had the first few. They were decent books up until about five when they killed my favorite character and it started just dragging on.

    Given, I read them as being entirely fantasy fiction and ignored all of the supposed Biblical undertones.

  13. #13 Alex
    April 29, 2009

    Dogmatists do not like to explore and learn autonomously. They like to be told what is, why is, and how is. Scraping information off the pages of books is so tedious. Plus, it might cause a sprain injury to their reasoning faculties. Free thinking and critical analysis is far too uncomfortable for them to bother with books, especially those that might contain new information to sort through.

  14. #14 cervantes
    April 29, 2009

    It’s true. 99% of the people who claim to “live biblically” have no idea what’s in the bible.

  15. #15 Ineffable
    April 29, 2009

    Quite sad. I quite enjoyed watching Hitchens getting pwned at the last book expo.

  16. #16 The Other Elwood
    April 29, 2009

    Thomas Nelson Publishing and Zondervan are too big to survive on Life Behind, Purpose Driven and Bible sales alone. There is a generally a huge market for Christian books. Unfortunately, most of them are poorly written and short on substance for their price. The unintentional entertainment value of certain authors raises the value of their work, though. John Hagee’s end of the world “nonfiction” is a hoot.

  17. #17 nkb
    April 29, 2009

    That’s weird! None of the people interviewed credited Jesus with keeping attendance low.

    It’s almost like they only invoke his name and involvement when good things happen!

  18. #18 golf xray tango
    April 29, 2009

    In my experience, one group of Christians does read plenty of books. They would of course be the ex-Christians. I wonder if reading had anything to do with the ‘ex’ part?

  19. #19 agg
    April 29, 2009

    I don’t know about reading the bibles but I am sure about buying them. A close friend of mine has about 10 different versions. Another family I know have about half a dozen and I’ve seen them buying more and giving them to friends as gifts.

    Anyone else has the same experience?

  20. #20 nkb
    April 29, 2009

    Ineffable: “Quite sad. I quite enjoyed watching Hitchens getting pwned at the last book expo.”

    I don’t believe you! The next time I see Hitchens getting pwned by theists will be the first.

    (Unless he was sober. Was he sober?)

  21. #21 The Tim Channel
    April 29, 2009

    The Christian bookstore I once visited here in Jackson had a very elaborate theft prevention system. I wonder if the regular Christian clientele even noticed the irony?

    It’s not like the hustler in the parking lot hawking pirate DVD’s and cheap gold jewelry is likely to add “Jesus Soap on a Rope” or Bible Verse Playing Cards to his inventory anytime soon.

    Enjoy.

  22. #22 Spiv
    April 29, 2009

    Poor turnout must be a sign of the end times. Brace yourselves, heathens!

    Seriously though, it’s no surprise. I imagine everything you could buy there is stocked on one of those little book stands near the deli at the supermarket. I’ve always wanted to re-stock one of those (or slip in an alternate one nearby) with a couple dawkins and harris books. Maybe a nice physics thriller or two.

  23. #23 Lynna
    April 29, 2009

    I have friends who refuse to read any book that is not “faith promoting” — which adds up to reading almost nothing, or reading the same thing over and over.

  24. #24 Alex
    April 29, 2009

    It’s almost like they only invoke his name and involvement when good things happen!

    …or when bad things happen to other people they disagree with hate, scorn, and denigrate.

  25. #25 Lynna
    April 29, 2009

    As a side note: Deseret bookstores (Mormon chain) stocks lots o’ books that freely rip off text from each other. It’s like book incest. If you read enough of the faith-promoting books from Deseret stock you’ll come across repeats and thinly disguised rip-offs all the time. No one ever calls them on it. Just another niche of weirdness.

  26. #26 Ineffable
    April 29, 2009

    (Unless he was sober. Was he sober?)
    I doubt he was.

  27. #27 Brownian, OM
    April 29, 2009

    Ineffable: “Quite sad. I quite enjoyed watching Hitchens getting pwned at the last book expo.”

    I don’t believe you! The next time I see Hitchens getting pwned by theists will be the first.

    I believe him. ‘Course, it was a pwning in Ineffable’s eyes, which likely won’t mean anything of the sort to anyone not stupid.

    Have you seen how these people interpret the Bible? I’ve had mushroom trips that conform more closely to reality.

  28. #28 Moopheus
    April 29, 2009

    In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s like, this recession going on? Book sales of all kinds are down. Travel is down. Probably has less to do with people not wanting books as people not being able to afford books. You think Xtians don’t read books? That’s not unusual. Hardly anybody reads books.

  29. #29 Matt Heath
    April 29, 2009

    The “pfft.. no surprise. Once they’ve got the Bible and a few Left Behind books they are set” talk is kind of fun, but IIRC the market for Christian books (especially in US but also elsewhere) is fucking massive. I mean like “if they didn’t have a separate supply chain that didn’t show up in normal sales charts the bestseller list would be packed with Christian books” massive.

  30. #30 Alex
    April 29, 2009

    Actually global warming is probably having an effect too. I know it’s causing many distress, especially readers. I mean think about it, Dallas is hot, global warming just makes it worse. Plus, since gas prices came down a bit, people are starting to appreciate having a few extra bucks in their pockets – and that’s an undeniable fact. Additionally, with that new muslim as our President, people are spending more time praying (studies have shown this). So it’s no surprise that book sales for everyone are circling the drain. And don’t even get me started on the internet thing. Geesh.

  31. #31 Qwerty
    April 29, 2009

    Bibles – Don’t Evangelicals give these away? That’s why they need to buy several copies. Of course, non-believers often trash the Bible which means that the market for new Bibles is endless! A cash HOLY cow! (But don’t worship that holy cow or its child, the golden calf.)

  32. #32 Shamelessly Atheist
    April 29, 2009

    @ #11

    Nusubito, evangelists aren’t hungry for knowledge, but confirmation bias.

  33. #33 Alex
    April 29, 2009

    Nusubito, evangelists aren’t hungry for knowledge, but confirmation bias.

    Which also supports the reason why they go to church regularly. They need to keep the lines that define the in-group and the out-groups clearly defined.

  34. #34 Jess T
    April 29, 2009

    Aw, but where else are you going to find books on how Stairway to Heaven contains cryptic messages that worship satan, or how how you shouldn’t let your kids watch the Smurfs because it will turn them into pagans?

  35. #35 IvanQ
    April 29, 2009

    LtStorm @ 12:

    I actually own a set of the Left Behind books…well, half the set, as my (private) high school library only had the first few. They were decent books…

    <spit take> Please tell me that assessment was from when you were young and brainwashed.

    Anyone fascinated by the brainless inanity that is LB must read Fred Clark’s thorough, thoughtful and hilarious evisceration of the first book in the series and its movie (he’s working on the second book now). Start at the bottom of this page:

    http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/left_behind/page/24/

  36. #36 Mark
    April 29, 2009

    Jesus said blessed are the poor, and now they are $250,000 closer to being blessed.

  37. #37 blueelm
    April 29, 2009

    Ineffable: “Quite sad. I quite enjoyed watching Hitchens getting pwned at the last book expo.”

    He was in Dallas!? And I missed it?

  38. #38 Joe
    April 29, 2009

    I go garage saleing frequently (spending all Saturday morning with friends hitting up garage sales all over the county). I always see boxes and boxes of stupid christian books being sold for 10-20cents each. Boxes. I just don’t see how the publishing companies can be going broke. All you have to do is reprint the same tired message, change the “author” name, rearrange the format and BAM, instant shit to hawk on the feeble masses. It’s not like they actually read them all the way through, and if they do, there’s no way they’d re-read them.

    Also, I’m jumping in on the fact that few christans actually read their bibles all the way. For one, it’s boring as fuck. And then if they read the whole thing at any speed, they’d be forced to notice the glaring contradictions.

    Also, I just can’t get through 9 chapters of instructions on how to kill various animals so that their offering is “savory to the lord” (Leviticus). Bleh.

  39. #39 pcarini
    April 29, 2009

    Christian fiction is to literature what Christian rock is to music.

  40. #40 AL
    April 29, 2009

    If Christians don’t read books, what keeps Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, et al on the top of the bestseller lists? It better not be us atheists, I’d be terribly disappointed.

  41. #41 Shadow
    April 29, 2009

    There’s reading and then there’s understanding. Most of those I’ve met who’ve ‘read’ the hellish babble don’t understand it.

    Otherwise, why do they call it the ‘good book?’ It has some of the most twisted, evil behavior outside of Lovecraftian tales.

  42. #42 Shadow
    April 29, 2009

    There’s reading and then there’s understanding. Most of those I’ve met who’ve ‘read’ the hellish babble don’t understand it.

    Otherwise, why do they call it the ‘good book?’ It has some of the most twisted, evil behavior outside of Lovecraftian tales.

  43. #43 BigSpu
    April 29, 2009

    Perhaps if text was printed on the sides of gun barrels there would have been a much bigger turnout

  44. #44 Holbach
    April 29, 2009

    All they have to read is the bullshit, er. bible, and that sure won’t epand a mind to further subjects in many other books. I have met several people so bullshit imbued that every coherent(?) sentence seems biblically influenced. Read a book on sceience? Hell no, the bullshit is meat enough for my turnip brain!

  45. #45 inkadu
    April 29, 2009

    Unfortunately, the decline in conventions most likely reflects increased internet sales & mainstreaming of Christianity into popular bookstores (and grocery check out lines).

    Sorry.

  46. #46 inkadu
    April 29, 2009

    One more tidbit: I am in South America right now and there is no shortage of Christian (well, Catholic) bookstores. There is about one every 3 blocks. They don’t have Amazon (.com I I should specify in this instance) here, and I feel lucky if the grocery store has food in it, much less horoscopes and christian pamphlets.

  47. #47 KeithB
    April 29, 2009

    I was recently in a thrift store and saw two copies of a screed written by one of the conservative talk-show hosts. (Not exactly christian, but close). Both were inscribed by the same grandfather to his granddaughter : “Michelle, I thought you should read this.” However, one of the signatures was extremely illegible, so I think Grandfathers faculties were fading fast. It was kind of sad, really.

    Any way, if most Christian books are given away to people in the “I think you should read this…” vein, the economy might really be putting a dent in those kinds of sales.

  48. #48 --E
    April 29, 2009

    I work in the publishing industry (at a very respectable university press). Attendance has been down at many industry meetings due to the economy. That the Xians are experiencing the same thing is not surprising.

  49. #49 mikecbraun
    April 29, 2009

    They need to make it like a ComicCon, with characters and celebrities roaming around, maybe some little skits going on for onlookers. “Mom, I shook hands with Job, witnessed a mock stoning, and a red-eyed Ted Haggard tried to grab my crotch! He had a guy in leather on a leash! What a great expo!”

  50. #50 JJR
    April 29, 2009

    This story makes me keep thinking of that scene in the Simpsons where Rev. Lovejoy keeps checking out a copy of the bible from the Public Library every week before Sunday.
    When the librarian asks him if maybe he should consider getting his own copy he sniffs: “Maybe I would, if I earned a librarian’s salary!” LMAO!

  51. #51 Angel
    April 29, 2009

    One can tell this blog has a different demographic. When the story of the Xian Book Expo broke here in Ea. TX and in Dallas press, all the commenters there were gushing about how great an event it was, blaming the lack of attendance on poor advertising (what, you mean the churches could not be bothered to get their minister to talk it up?), and how it was all too bad there were not more events like this. It was all I could not to crack a laugh or two at the pathetic excuses for the fact that it was simply something barely anyone was interested in or noticed.

    But anyhow, here at least, the description is accurate: as long as they have their Bible, their Left Behind books, and Osteen (especially in Houston), they are happy. Heaven forbid they actually read something that could expose them to reason.

    Best, and keep on blogging.

  52. #52 Die Anyway
    April 29, 2009

    ?Viewed in total, the event was a major disappointment.?

    I think that they basically just miscalculated human nature. Even if you’re a Godbot, a two day book sales event is just not entertaining enough to draw 10 – 15 thousand people. People, even Xtians, have so many more appealing things to do. Even watching paint dry or grass grow is more exciting than a mono-themed book show.

  53. #53 Hank
    April 29, 2009

    The Dallas area hotel keepers are none too happy either. No Christian attendees means no income from the porn films on the in-room cable!

  54. #54 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 29, 2009

    The Dallas area hotel keepers are none too happy either. No Christian attendees means no income from the porn films on the in-room cable!

    riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight

  55. #55 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 29, 2009

    pffffft.

    Total and utter reading comprehension failure in #54

    /sulk

  56. #56 Crudely Wrott
    April 29, 2009

    Most of the good believers that I know want to read a “good story” that involves someone triumphing over adversity through the exercise of faith. Sort of a biblical Nancy Drew kind of taste.

    A quick read, most of the plot and characters being familiar from other good stories, a happy ending, and some glory-giving and close the book. A quick review of the story and a warm feeling of being right about the world and, “What’s for supper?”

    Me, I like to get down and wrestle with a book.

  57. #57 teammarty
    April 29, 2009

    There’s always “Chicken Soup For the (fill in blank’s) Soul”

    And for those who are interested there is also “Kiss My Left Behind” by Earl Lee. Apparently there are3 three books in the series. And also reviews on Amazon vary wildly. I haven’t (and am not going to) read any of the Left Behind books so I’d miss a lot of the references but those who have might get a giggle or two out of it.

    I also saw new copies of the 1st book were cheaper at American Atheists but Amazon also had used copies available.

  58. #58 Greg Peterson
    April 29, 2009

    I was at this event in Denver back about 15 years or so ago, when I was with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I worked in the publishing arm of BGEA. We also printed the Christmas cards painted (using her mouth) by Joni Erickson Tada, the quadriplegic artist. I had a great time. In the evenings I would meet up with the hotel workers and drink in local bars. It seemed everyone there was from somewhere else, and they were intrigued that I worked for Graham (who back at that time, everyone pretty much knew).

    I had been working on a book called “No Laughing Matter” about how some of the comics at that time–Sam Kinnison for one–were dishonoring our Lord and risking the soul of a one-great nation. And I found a publisher, a charismatic outfit, that was willing to publish it, but first there was a long interview about my lifestyle and my marriage and kids, because they didn’t want me getting out there on the church speaking circuit only to discover that my kids were hooligans and my wife had non-poofy hair.

    I got divorced shortly after that convention and the book was never published, but I had a great time in Denver. This used to be a really big deal–all the Christian publishers (broadly interpreted…it’s not just books but CDs and cards and computer programs and Sunday school curricula and all that stuff)HAD to attend.

    This decline is seriously great news. It’s a symptom of a near-empire crumbling. I’m not sure where the “real money” in evangelical Christianity is, in offering buckets or in “publishing,” but my guess is, the Christian bookstore business probably rivals actual ministry in what it takes (and how little it gives of value in return, too, come to think of it). So this really is a sign of a sea change.

  59. #59 Anonymous
    April 30, 2009

    pcarini @ 39:

    Christian fiction is to literature what Christian rock is to music.

    Ever heard of Dostoyevsky?

  60. #60 Aquaria
    April 30, 2009

    #59

    The average American relgitard who would buy “Christian” books (a) doesn’t know who Dostoevsky is, (b) will spot the name as Russian and know–fer shur–that he is therefore a Commie atheist and/or (c) even if they did try to read Dostoevsky, they’re too fucking stupid to understand him.

    So why bring him up?

  61. #61 Piltdown Man
    April 30, 2009

    Aquaria @ 60:

    The average American relgitard who would buy “Christian” books (a) doesn’t know who Dostoevsky is, (b) will spot the name as Russian and know–fer shur–that he is therefore a Commie atheist and/or (c) even if they did try to read Dostoevsky, they’re too fucking stupid to understand him.
    So why bring him up?

    Because pcarini said “Christian fiction”, not “modern American evangelical fiction”.

    Also worthy of mention are Cervantes, JK Huysmans, George MacDonald, Georges Bernanos, Julien Green, Flannery O’Connor, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Anthony Burgess, Saunders Lewis, Charles Williams, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Shusaku Endo …

    PM (=Anonymous @ 59)

  62. #62 nkb
    April 30, 2009

    blueelm: “He was in Dallas!? And I missed it?”

    He was. I considered going to see him take on an entire panel of Christians until I saw the admission prices ($20 or so, if I remember correctly). No way was I giving them $20.

    I wonder how many Christians didn’t go because of the high admission price.

  63. #63 David Murdoch
    April 30, 2009

    Christ on the cross seems like He has been defeated, but in truth He has overcome sin and death. The church losing its numbers in the west might seem like it’s in decline, but it will come back just as it has many times before.

    Besides, there are other parts of the world in which the church is greatly increasing right now. In Italy, I’ve heard, there has been a resurgance of bible reading… which is in contrast to most of the former history of that country in which the church put strict conditions on reading scripture.

    God Bless,

  64. #64 CJO
    April 30, 2009

    In Italy, I’ve heard, there has been a resurgance of bible reading…

    Good. If they’re reading carefully, there should be a big upsurge in apostasy and the embrace of atheism soon then.

  65. #65 AtheistPride
    April 30, 2009

    I’d like to see some pictures of ‘for sale’ signs in front of churches. I can think of nothing more poetic.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!