CBD

They found me.  I used to call them CBD, but because of the popularity of a certain hemp-based product, Christian Book Distributors changed its name.  Now I knew about them long before they had me on their mailing list when I taught at Nashotah House.  When I was a seminary student in Boston I made occasional trips to CBD’s Peabody warehouse for sales—this was quite a boon to students who never have enough money (little did I know!).  Books you’d heard about in class were there, for a fraction of the price.  At Nashotah I always looked over their bargain page, because, well, professors like books.  I recognized their catalogue in my mailbox instantly.  The name is now Christianbooks.com.  Grab some munchies and sit down.

Not only the name has changed.  Back in my student days I could find academic resources here.  As religion in America has become more and more polarized, what used to be CBD (if I use their current incarnation my computer insists on putting links in) has become radically conservative.  Page after page of study Bibles reveal no hint of the mainstream bestsellers in the genre.  It’s as if they don’t exist.  More than that, if you leave them out maybe people will come to believe they don’t exist.  Even the bargain books are nothing an erstwhile professor would buy.  Instead of academic titles there are all kinds of Barnes & Noble-type gimmicks to get shoppers to spend their money.  Like junk food for the soul.  I look at the books on my shelf.  Some of them were purchased, cash in hand on the ground in Peabody.  Not any more.

There will be those who claim (fake news is the only news now) that what has changed is me, not them.  The fact is places like CBD used to be more open minded.  They admitted the possibility of doubt.  Now your choices are Scofield or Ryrie.  That should be enough for any appetite.  Not only that, but many of the titles now sound militaristic.  Battlefields and all.  Thumbing through, I wonder where Jesus has gone.  The evangelicalism of my youth was clearly Prince of Peace centered.  Now it’s politicized to the point that I’m not sure what it represents beyond GOP values of greed, opportunism, and power.  Anyone who thinks differently need not apply.  How CBD found me after all these years, I do not know.  I wish they’d consider saving the environment rather than printing catalogues to send me.  The climate, despite what they would claim, has changed.


Identity Crisis

Living in Boston can be a heady trip for a budding academic.  Even if you’re across the river from Harvard and MIT, it’s a city known for its education scene.  Like many who studied there, I never wanted to leave.  A fringe benefit of being a student of religion was that a short trip would take you to Peabody.  Why?  Peabody was home to CBD—Christian Book Distributors.  In their showroom they had rock-bottom prices for something theology students crave—books.  That was many years ago now, and over time CBD grew to be the largest distributor of Christian paraphernalia in the country.  In my mind they’ll always be associated with happy little trips that ended in armloads of reading.  What more could you want?

A story by Emily McFarlan Miller explains why the revered CBD is changing its name.  Cannabidiol, a legal derivative of cannabis, is popularly known as cbd.  Lots of things share initials, of course, but these are the days of the web, and an internet search for cbd now pushes the distributor (at least the book distributor) off the first page.  One thing we all know in this online universe is that you’ve got to be on the first page.  CBD’s decision might seem extreme—changing the name of the business to get back on the front page.  Despite the amusing aspects to this story, it emphasizes something of an ongoing jeremiad with me: the web has redefined reality.  Think about it this way: when a digital image is over-enlarged it pixellates.  That’s because it’s composed of minuscule squares of a single color.   When brought together in a pattern, they form images we recognize.  It their basis, however, they are squares.

The earth, however, is an orb.  The natural state of falling liquids—the principle behind the shot tower—is a sphere.  Now, spheres together in a closed space leave gaps—just look at a jar of marbles and you’ll see what I mean.  That’s the order of the natural world.  Reality, if you will.  Tech, on the other hand, is pixels.  They fill the space better, and if done well can create the illusion of a curved line.  They can never, however, fit into a round hole of the same surface area.  The world has gone after the convenience of the internet in a small box.  It has changed the recording industry, the movie industry, and the publishing industry.  And just try to find your way to CBD on it.  You might have to change your search parameters.