Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Difference Between Catholic and Protestant Gift Shops

Beth Moore
The differences between Protestant book stores and Catholic gift shops are a revelation.

First of all, you know you live in the Bible Belt when you have to drive two hours to find a Catholic gift shop, when Protestants have their choice close to home. In the old days, Catholic churches had little shops in the vestibule that would set up after mass. The Bear hasn't seen one of those in thirty years or more.

Catholic book stores are timeless. There are writings by and about saints. Protestant bookstores are all about what's hot, like Duck Dynasty. The Catholic gift shop has the Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis; the Protestant book store offers Eat the Cookie, Buy the Shoes by Joyce Meyer.

Catholic: St. Teresa of Avila; Protestant: Beth Moore of Arkedelphia. Catholic: most writers are dead; Protestant: most writers are alive and have television shows.

G.K. Chesterton
Catholic bookstores have sacramentals, like rosaries and holy medals. 

Protestant bookstores are all about the merchandising. The latest book or movie tie-in dominates shelf space Even their Bibles are gimmicky: Jimmy Carter has a Bible (presumably for those who miss long lines at the gas pumps and the Iranian hostage crisis). You'll have to wait until this fall for the Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible. There are Bibles for youth, women, men, and policemen, not to mention numerous Study Bibles, each with its own denominational bias, more or less. 

We poor Catholics have to make do with just the word of God: the USSCB's NABRE, with its occasionally Modernist notes, or a RSVCE if you can find it. Good luck finding a Douay Rheims on the shelf. There's not even a G.K. Chesterton Bible, let alone a Mark Shea Bible. 

There is no Bear Bible.

Protestantism is a publishing phenomenon. Loyal readers lap up every word from popular preachers of dubious orthodoxy like Joyce Meyer because it makes them feel good. Yes, I can eat the cookie and buy the shoes. Isn't God great!

Catholic gift shops aren't perfect, of course. You're likely to find the popular Richard Rohr's garbage, too, and "St. Joseph's Voodoo Real Estate Kits." But for the most part, you could pick up a book at random and it would be edifying. 

The Bear has written elsewhere about the decline of the gift shop at Our Lady of the Snows. It is a shadow of its former self, supposedly because it "wasn't making any money." What level of profit is required for a National Shrine to offer a decent selection of Catholic books? Does the Church have a duty to support a Catholic material culture, regardless of profit margin?

Are Catholics really not reading about their faith anymore? Or have they just switched to Kindle? Where are they buying their holy medals? Their rosaries? Their statues and crucifixes? You can't download those to Kindle.

Protestants have one thing Catholics lack: the support of a material culture. Protestants go to places like the local Lifeway Christian Book franchise and "feel Protestant." They know exactly what they'll find, like you do when you go to McDonald's. They can browse Protestant things, and take them home. If a Protestant lady mentions, "Beth Moore," chances are that her Protestant friend will know who she's talking about and approve. 

Protestants can go to church on Sunday -- if they feel like it, otherwise, it's not that big of a deal -- a Wednesday night service, and get together in a home for small group Bible study.

Sadly, Catholics don't live their lives like that. Catholics are all trapped behind enemy lines operating as francs-tireur. We do well just to survive, sniping at demons on our own. We tune into our favorite blogs like French resistance fighters getting the latest information by short-wave radio.

The Bear doesn't know anything about Beth Moore. She looks pleasant. God blessed Beth Moore with a photogenic face, which is more than can be said about the Bear, or G.K. Chesterton (who the Bear has always suspected was a Bear himself). But the Bear knows St. Teresa of Avila like a best friend. There is something to be said for holding the respect of people for centuries, not just decades. 

Four hundred years from now, does anyone really think Beth Moore will be remembered?


  1. I have to admit, I did purchase "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren a few years ago, mainly out of curiosity. It did have a structure, which made it easy to follow. But I didn't finish it. Dare I say it was too "light"? As with so many books you find in Christian vs. Catholic bookstores.."Where's the beef?" I enjoy feeling good and joyful as much as the next person, but I want more. I want to be instructed.

    At the Christian giftstore it's just "Christian Light" most of the time.
    I know many Christians do a daily devotional, I don't really know if that is similar to lectio divina...

    The Catholic gift shops need to get over not being "hip". In fact our entire faith needs to get over. Be secure in your faith, you don't have to be the cool kid on the playground. Just be. Don't worry. As the Bear says "shine you Catholic heart out!"

  2. Thank you for the reminder. The Bear hasn't used his tagline in a long time, it seems. So...

    Shine your little Catholic hearts out!

  3. "We tune into our favorite blogs like French resistance fighters getting the latest information by short-wave radio"

    HA!!! I laughed out loud at true, so true!

  4. Kathryn...I'm so glad you wrote in....I have to tell you that I read the de Wohl book on Catherine of! I am on my 4th since (currently The Living Wood (St. Helena and the True Cross), just finished The Quiet Light (one of my top 10 favorite reads of all time!!!--St. Thomas Aquinas), and before that, Citadel of God (St. Benedict). I hope to get through my whole de Wohl library by the end of summer (and even ordered a couple I didn't have previously). Thanks for the spur on Lay Siege to Heaven--I've wanted to read more of him since reading The Last Crusader, but had procrastinated for a few years. You helped salvage my summer....thank you! :)


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