Monday, December 04, 2006

Christian Bookshops Drop Quran

SPCK, the UK's oldest chain of Christian booksellers, will no longer sell the Quran or other books it considers "inimical to Christianity."

Behind the story is something interesting: majority interest in the chain has been sold to representatives of an Orthodox agency, the mission of which is to build an Orthodox presence in still-nominally-Latin Britain. Anglicans still hold a minority position on the SPCK board, and voted against the decision to stop carrying "inimical" books.

As a matter of business strategy, the decision makes some sense. Define your brand, and so forth. And on the surface, it seems like a reasonable mission strategy as well. Why should any organization devoted to the "propagation of Christian knowledge" have an interest in propagating knowledge of other faiths?

But that question is not entirely rhetorical. Arguably, at least, Christians may be better-prepared to articulate their faith in a pluralistic society if they have a working knowledge of the other faiths with which it is inevitably to be contrasted. Any decent missionary knows this. So we wonder if the SPCK move, for all its common-sense appeal, does not in fact represent a step away from Christian engagement with non-Christian culture, and toward the sort of circle-the-wagons, last-holy-remnant attitudes which often seem to flourish in declining, ethnocentric churches -- like the Orthodox.

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