Religion Magazine

Dancing with the Devil?

By Richardl @richardlittleda

Kindling a fire in Waterstones

Not so very long ago the managing director of Waterstones described Amazon as a ‘money-making devil’, and yet if you visit pretty much any branch of the store now, you will find new display units ready to take their stock of Amazon Kindles. Mr Daunt has seen the future, it would seem – and it is pixel-shaped. With digital fiction sales up by 188% in the UK in the first half of 2012, it is hard to argue with his point of view. Like any bookshop, Waterstones has become in many instances the place where people go to browse for free before ordering their purchase elsewhere.  Although the details have not been released, the chances are that Daunt’s new deal will allow customers to do the same with digital books for kindle. The only difference is that they will order them in store, rather than going home to do it. Meanwhile, they are in Waterstones, browsing their shelves, seeing other things, maybe buying their coffee, and staying loyal to some extent.

There is a version of the ‘lightbulb’ joke for almost every persuasion and denomination. Hence I shall choose the one here which mocks my own:

Q: How many Baptists does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: Change?

All too often churches have become unwitting curators of the past rather than creators of the future. It is our Gospel, surely, rather than the trappings which surround it, which remain unchanged? Maybe we fear the accusation of inconsistency more than we fear atrophy? Of course Mr Daunt looks a fool for changing his mind publicly, and has said as much. In the end, his staff may find that his decision has saved, rather than jeopardized their jobs and may feel their boss has ‘taken one for the team’. Only time will tell.

If the church becomes a chameleon, fitting in with its environment to the point where it becomes indistinguishable, then it has failed. I prefer the metaphor of a palm tree, I think. You will have seen them in footage of hurricanes – bending and whipping to and fro in the violent winds, but rarely snapping. The secret is in the cells apparently – long in shape and flexible by nature. Storms come and storms go, but the palm tree remains true to form. To bend and flex may be necessary, but it remains the same in every essential and still stands out.

Palm tree or chameleon?

Dancing with the Devil?

Images: wikimedia commons

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