Adventures in Bookselling: Elevation Hosts Van Eman vs SimGospel
Some who read these posts tell me that they like knowing what new books I'm enthused about. Others like to feel a part of our escapades in the bookselling biz---a few even pray for us, a service for which we are very, very grateful. You may have little idea how badly we feel we need it, how we feel stretched to our capacity with our feeble wisdom and resources taxed, from event to event, customer to customer. Oh, to better know the mind of Christ as we recommend stuff on this or that, suggest novels, recommend kid's books, help clients and counsel customers. It is fulfilling, but dicey. So thanks for looking after us.
Tonight, I'd love for you to know of a fun story, a small gig where we sold some books, an event that is important because (a) it was at a very cool and strategic location, (b) it involved an excellent and urgent topic, and (c) a good friend was the speaker who (d) just wrote a book. What's not to love?
Nearby Living Word Community Church, with the official address of Red Lion, PA, has long been one of York's better-known churches, innovative, caring, theologically solid, mission-minded and truly growing. They reach folks who haven't darkened the door of a church, and they do good work--from prayer labyrinths to extensive small groups, to artistic attention to worship experiences. A few weeks ago they invited me to speak briefly at their anti-porn event, where they showed the extraordinary documentary of the triple x church (a respected, anti-porn ministry, complete with an unusual and effective website.)
One of the important ministries at LWCC is facilitated by our good friend, and remarkable Hearts & Minds promoter, John Miller. John--whose dad wrote the great book Love Walked Among Us (NavPress)--leads Elevation (yes, the U2 allusion is intentional), a young adult ministry with a loose but powerful and nearly gritty praise band, all kinds of supportive community-building groups, and service projects. One of our staff employees attends Elevation, too, and it has been my delight to speak there from time to time, most recently on Exodus 3.
Tonight, our friend and CCO staffer, Sam Van Eman, who I've blogged about before, led the group in a very helpful discussion about cultural discernment, the ways advertising presents a simulated gospel (SimGospel, he calls it) and how legitimate human needs (for community or meaning, identity or value, relationship or direction, acceptance or peace of mind) cannot--cannot---finally come from purchased products. And that it is disturbing how readily corporate advertising attempts to say otherwise. He played one of the coolest and foulest Levi's commercials and did a Powerpoint show of great quotes about consumerism, print ads and the like. His talk was well recieved and I am sure that learning to do this kind of cultural criticism and media deconstruction is an essential aspect of relevant Christian discipleship in this age of images.
Sam is quite the man to do this not only because he has worked hard nurturing this kind of discernment, but because he has published a recent book, the only book of its kind. On Earth As It Is In Advertising: Moving From Commerical Hype to Gospel Hope (Brazos Press; $14.99) is an excellent resource, offering entry-level discussion on the whole topic of advertising, popular art and the influences of media. I've mentioned it before, and the quotes from the likes of Bill McKibben, Tony Campolo, Walt Mueller, T.M. Moore and Jean Kilburne grace the back, indicating that a wide variety of folks are affirming it's significance and celebrating this brother's important contribution.
And--let's hear it for the 20-somethings at Elevation--they bought all the books I took! They are, as I say, not only a cool ministry, but an important gang of folks. May they be nurtured in radical habits that equip them to resist the SimGospel. May Sam's good book be used far and wide, helping us all to raise a prophetic voice against the lies, psychological damage and ecological consequences caused by the over-blown, idolatry of the ad gurus, pimping the pseudo-religion of consumerism.*
*At an upcoming conference on pop culture at Messiah, Mr. Van Eman will also be presenting another workshop, however there he will offer a bit more positive take on the normative artistic contributions of contemporary advertising. With a proper Christian worldview, of course, one need not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We are called to be critical of the distortions of bad ideologies and disruptive social forces when necessary and yet affirm the good gifts of God's common grace, which show up everywhere. Including Madison Avenue. We will be selling books at the good event, with Steve Turner, David Dark, Ken Heffner, and an array of folks exploring Christian engagement with pop culture.
On Earth As It Is In Advertising: Moving From Commerical Hype to Gospel Hope Sam Van Eman (Brazos Press) $14.99