As a Christian, an aesthete, and a human being, I heartily agree with DeBakcsy’s scathing critique of accessory Bibles. In fact, as I grew up being bombarded with such monstrously packaged, tendentiously framed, and nakedly manipulative messages, I would dare say that the kitsch of Christian pop-culture may well have been the greatest threat my faith needed to survive.
However, I don’t find it particularly surprising, nor do I consider it to be a new development, at least not in a larger sense. Ever since Emperor Constantine bowed the knee in 313, thereby ushering much of the empire into at least a nominal affiliation with the church, Christianity has been big enough to draw a massive crowd, which in turn, as in all other fora, draws droves of power mongers and would-be gatekeepers all eager to get their grubby fingers on a piece of the action, usually under the guise of “protecting the faith” or some such. The organized church, like so many other organizations, whenever it succeeds too much, is always in danger of becoming little more than a country club where power brokers rub shoulders and make important decisions in back rooms. So it goes whenever you get people together and force them to make decisions as a group. And this is why Augustine’s distinction of the visible vs. the invisible church is of the utmost importance.
As I see it, every age since the foundation of the Christian religion has inflected the institution in both glorious and appalling ways. This again should not surprise, as both culture and faith are carried by the same organism. That an age of unrivaled consumerism and mass-media manipulation should spawn the gimmick Bible seems to me inevitable. Is it more gaudy than Vegas, more vapid than the home shopping network, or more intellectually dishonest than network news? More incongruous, to be sure.