Jewish Journal


January 23, 2009

The condensed Bible for the working person


This gem was produced by the Bel Air Drama Department a few months ago. It got lost in my publishing platform, and now that I’ve rediscovered it, I’m marrying it with a story from the Los Angeles Times that I bookmarked a few weeks ago. The story, “A Closer, Faster Walk With Thee,” was about the industry aimed at improving your run—because you don’t have time to walk—with God:

The American style of worship, like everything else in people’s overloaded lives, is speeding up.

This hurried search for the Almighty partly explains the rise of a niche industry of books, DVDs, podcasts, text messages and e-mail blasts that distill the essentials of faith, from creation to the crucifixion.

The materials offer bite-sized spiritual morsels that can be digested in minutes, or even seconds, on the daily commute, aboard airplanes or at the dinner table. As “7 Minutes With God” advises: “Take 7 minutes each day to: build your faith in God, grow closer to the Father, make progress in your spiritual life.”

And what about your over-programmed 10-year-old? Again, religious publishers have an answer: “The Kid Who Would Be King: One Minute Bible Stories About Kids.”

“The audience is definitely anyone who’s interested in a ready-made, quick little devotion they can do every day,” said Tim Jordan, an editor at B&H Publishing Group in Nashville, which produces the “The One Minute Bible.”

“It’s not meant to replace the Bible,” Jordan added. “It’s meant to whet your appetite.”

Unfortunately, the article, which ran in the Times’ once-vaunted Column One slot, really missed the mark. It fails to discuss the real value of religion on the run. I’d say, like faith on your cell phone or drive-thru churches, it’s minimal—and also makes no mention of the lion of quick-hit devotionals, Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest.” Baffling, I know.

Instead, we get this excerpt, which seems like it could have been written by the book publishers themselves:

“If you know how to reach readers of religious materials, you are onto something, because they are devoted,” said Marcia Z. Nelson, religion book reviews editor for Publishers Weekly. “Devotionals and prayer books are perennial sellers.”

And they’re fueling interest in traditional religious texts, publishers say.

The Christian Booksellers Assn. says that eight to 10 of the nation’s 50 top-selling Christian books are devotionals or other texts that provide daily spiritual guidance.

“Christian publishers and retailers realize that today’s busy consumers are looking for . . . spiritual food that can be consumed in a convenient way,” said Bill Anderson, the association’s president.

Such books stand to fill a growing spiritual void.

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