Discerning Reading


Our church’s book club met this morning and we discussed the book, A Tree Full of Angels by Macrina Wiederkehr. I’m not going to give a book report here, but I do want to mention how vital I think it is that we, as Christians, are discerning in what we read.

I’m a Border’s book store member, so get regular emails from them with hot deals and new releases. Just this past week was a feature on a new book entitled Jesus by Depak Chopra, which is found in their Religion, Biblical Studies section. Yeah, in the Christian section. If you’re familiar at all with this author, then you know him as a New Age, self help sort. In fact his other publications are found in the psychology, self help section and he has another Jesus book in the Metaphysical section. Seems Depak has jumped into Christian literature right along with Sylvia Browne (well known psychic), whose book on Jesus practically hit me in the face while perusing the Christian section of a bookstore lately. My jaw dropped, let me tell you…

So, let’s say you want to learn about Jesus or Christianity and off you go to one of the chain retailer bookstores to buy a book. You settle into the Christian section and assume you can pick any book and get the real scoop, a life-giving theologically accurate piece of print. Maybe years ago this was true, but such is not the case anymore. Book stores now stock their shelves with more than respected, church sanctioned authors. Nowadays, Christ is up for grabs among pop culture giants who want to get their two cents on Him out there–I hear He is good for sales, good for profit. I wonder if Browne and Chopra aren’t just the beginning here…

How do we know what to choose off the shelf? Well, avoiding the pop culture voices or voices from another spirituality or religion is probably a good place to start. Unless they also have profound credibility in Christians circles (like the pop culture break in, Rev. Rick Warren of The Purpose Driven Life fame), I think it is safe to side step them. If they are a respected orthodox Christian author/theologian who has been around awhile then we can probably trust that (you know, C. S. Lewis, St Teresa of Avila, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, etc). Also, the publisher can be telling: if the publisher isn’t a Christian publisher, then it may not be sound reading. Although there are plenty of Christian publishers out there who grate on my discerning radar, at least they have some accountability for what they publish. Mainstream publishers seem to have fewer problems with publishing what will sell, as opposed to what will speak Truth. Even though the book our club discussed today was written by a Catholic monastic, it was published by HarperOne, a division of HarperCollins, not by a Catholic publisher. Weiderkehr writing has been published by Ave Maria Press (a respected Catholic publisher) but not this book and I think I know why–although it harbored immense depth and nourishment for the heart, it was tinged with New Age, feminist speak/theology. Like I mentioned to the group, don’t think the Pope would kiss this book. I know I’m disappointed I own it and I’m not even Catholic.

When in doubt, it may be wise to visit a Christian bookstore or website to help narrow the options–let them do the discerning work for us. Also, the local library may also help us discover what belongs where as their cataloging system is more detailed than we would get at a bookstore. 248 is my favorite Dewey Decimal section :-)

The Dude, though, who is always with us and can flip a red flag when the reading veers off is the Holy Spirit. We can read discerningly as long as He is with us and, if invited into the reading experience, He doesn’t hesitate to tell us when to avoid a book or stop reading a book. He also can point out pieces of a work that just don’t jive with His Truth. He is in our corner, folks, and only wants what is best–we can trust Him to speak as needed.

Think I’ll go read a book…


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