The other day I was in one of those stores where everything is sold really cheaply. I figure it helps balance out all those times when I’ve been overcharged for things at other stores because I was pressed for time and needed something quickly. In any case, these dollar store establishments have a constantly rotating stock, it seems (things move at a buck!), and so you might or might not find exactly what you’re looking for. While just looking around, acquainting myself with the content, I came upon a shelf of Bibles. God’s word for a dollar a pop. This isn’t a place I’d normally come looking for books. Then it occurred to me: many of those who shop in such stores are committed to a faith that keeps them in their economic bracket.
That suspicion was confirmed by other items at the store. Many of them were Christian-themed. This seemed like the opposite of the prosperity gospel. People trying to scrape by, to shave enough off the budget to make it to another paycheck. Many Americans live like this. Many of them support Trump. Selling the Bible to them cheaply definitely involves a mixed message. There’s indeed a message, as I’ve learned in the publishing, in the way books are priced. Getting a thousand-pager printed where the unit cost is below a dollar requires a massive print run. Someone knows that Bibles sell. You won’t find such cheap divine revelation at Barnes and Noble. The same content, maybe, but not at the same price point.
The economics of cheap Bibles contains a message. Those who can’t afford much can be guided toward spending some of it on the Good Book. While just reading the Bible may indeed bring comfort to those who know where to look, as a whole this book requires major interpretative work. As I’ve been indicating over the last several days, Holy Writ is not nearly as straightforward a reading experience as many suppose it to be. Trying to figure out what Nehemiah’s differences with Sanballat the Horonite have to do with the rest of us isn’t an easy task. To find out, if the internet doesn’t give us quite all the knowledge we want or need, can require some intensive study, up to and including seminary. Even then you might not get it. Studying the Bible requires further commitment than simply picking one up for a Washington might imply. But then, it costs less than a lottery ticket. And you can get it while saving money on other things you need.