Shopping for God: The Book

January 16, 2008 by

Shopping For GodOver the Christmas break I took a couple of days and read James B. Twitchell’s latest book, Shopping for God: How Christianity Went From In Your Heart To In Your Face. A professor of English and advertising at the University of Florida, James is the author of several other gems including Lead Us Into Temptation: The Triumph of American Materialism and Living It Up: America’s Love Affair with Luxury. The titles of his books are a good indicator of the lens Twitchell views life through. In Shopping for God, he is no less insistent on suggesting that too much of life is all about too much. “Everything in this culture goes to market,” says Twitchell, “why should religion be any different?”

Twitchell admits up front that he is a “cold Christian.” He describes himself as an “apatheist”, which basically means “a disinclination to care all that much about one’s own religion and an even stronger disinclination to care about other people’s.” Twichtell says he has a difficult time reading the Bible, but he appreciates when the stories are explained. He likens it to his own job as an English professor. Both pastor and teacher closely examine the text and make the story come alive.

I am going to break this book review up into several posts over the next week or so. I think what Twitchell has to say is both interesting and relevant. I appreciate the depth of research that has gone into this book as the historical perspectives provide an excellent backdrop for how we have arrived where we are today.

However, I will say up front that this book really frustrates me. I was torn between agreeing with many of Twitchell’s arguments but disagreeing with many of his conclusions. My biggest problem is that Twitchell leaves absolutely no room for God’s will. It’s as if Twitchell is suggesting that nothing from the early church until now has been a work of God and that it has all been man-made. Given the worldview Twitchell claims, this outlook is not surprising but it is most certainly misleading.

Over the next few posts I’ll highlight some of the history of church marketing, including Twitchell’s views on mainline denominations, megachurches and how we arrived where we are today.

Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
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2 Responses to “Shopping for God: The Book”

  • Brian Gaffney
    January 16, 2008

    Thank you for taking the time to place Twitchell’s book under the filter of faith. Coincidentally, I’m using one of the comments from the book as the basis for my graduate school application. Two additional titles that may warrant introduction in this conversation are Vincent J. Miller’s Consuming Religion and R. Laurence Moore’s Selling God. I look forward to the conversation.

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  • Clint Sherwood
    February 27, 2008

    Hey Brad:
    Thanks for the review. I also did a review of this. . .see my blog. As I mention there Twitchell is a reporter, and while amusing at times he is a secular observer of a spriritual reality (a “Laodicean” American church). As such he is not qualified and probably not capable of identifying the underlying reasons for the drift of American Christianity. But the research he did for the book is excellent (a Christian probably couldn’t have done as well . . . too many Sundays away from a home church!). Although we might not like to see such an abundance of evidence all in one place, there’s plenty to suggest his analysis and conclusions are on target.
    The things Twitchell says are true. That being the case, when will the church acknowledge the magnitude of the problem, and get back to a biblical understanding of what it means to be bondslaves to Christ?
    Take care,

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