In the latest issue of Christian Retailing there is an article titled “LifeWay Christian Stores drops warning label.”
It seems that LifeWay stores, a large Baptist chain, was selling books that went against Evangelical theology and putting warning labels on them. The program was called “Read with Discernment.” They ended the program because there was “hardly and interest, ” according to Thom Rainer, president of the chain.
I can certainly understand why. The entire Protestant history, and especially the modern acceleration of splinter Christian churches, has been one of rejecting specific doctrine and forming a new church. Why would an Evangelical with the mindset of “I don’t like this pastor’s theology so I’ll go to the church / strip mall down the street instead” care whether or not a book had a warning about being “unorthodox?” For that matter, how could the chain possibly make a decision to put such warning labels on books anyway? Once you have decided that 2+2 is no longer four and is really based on how you believe the Spirit is moving you to interpret such a question, you lose the mooring you need to say “This is true and this isn’t.”
The really interesting thing, however, isn’t the program or the ending of it, but the decision process that led to carrying such titles in the first place. As a business, why would you want to carry titles that may convince your customers that your product is just the same as another or, worse, far less interesting than another? The process of intentionally or unintentionally convincing customers that they really don’t need your business is what I call “poisoning your own well.”
Just imagine if Pepsi started posting reviews of their product in ads that suggested that Coke was just as good or even better? How long do you think Pepsi would survive? Or, take another hypothetical example, how long would your Catholic store last if you stocked and promoted authors such as Fr. Rohr who don’t believe that the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation? Sure, you may have a generation of customers and I have seen first hand a store that has been in business for over fifty years that specializes in heresy but the children of those who buy into such beliefs aren’t going to be shopping with you. They probably won’t be passionate about any faith to shop anywhere.
As a prime example, take a look at the National
Catholic Reporter. They have been feeding their readership heresy for decades. The result? Their average reader is over 60. I’m not making that up. The Catholic store that I know specializes in heresy? Their shelves are bare and there have been whispers for years that they are barely hanging on, not because of financial problems but because of lack of interest.
If you run a Catholic store you have to ask yourself a very simple question: “Do I actually believe that the Catholic Church is THE Church?” If you can’t say “Yes” and mean it, you might as well be selling tennis shoes or some other item you actually do believe is the best. Once you have answered “Yes” to that question, you have to base all of your product decisions on it. Every product must be evaluated in the light of “Does this product help or hurt people’s faith in the Catholic Church?” If you can’t say that it helps, don’t carry it. It’s really that simple.
Once you can make such a decision you can tell your customers that, like Aquinas and More, you have a “Good Faith Guarantee.”