Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Marriage Counseling and Marketing

In my last post I finished with the following argument:

"Christ is the end of counseling. Christ is the end of marriage. So Christ is the end of marriage counseling. Unless counselors point a couple away from themselves, away from the goal of having a good marriage, away from their inherent selfishness, away from seeing their marriage as an end, then their counsel won't ultimately help the couple. Marriage is a means to the end of living for Christ. Marriage counseling is the means to the end of helping a couple stop living for themselves and start living for Christ."

As I survey the astounding number of books on bettering marriage, written from a Christian perspective, I wonder how many achieve the point of the above paragraph. Make no mistake, some do. Some books offer wonderful, Christ-centered, God-exalting counsel for couples. The problem is that they're not the ones on the end-caps of your local bookstore. In fact, if these books aren't recommended by someone, most will never hear of them. On the other hand, there are books that seem to me entirely unhelpful, and I'm bombarded by them at every turn. From a Christian publishing point of view, marriage counseling is about marketing. Posters of their cover are plastered all over the windows of the store. Banners hang over doorways. Full page ads promise great results in Christian magazines and on websites. The authors' voices are booming from radio interviews, telling me how they have the secret I've missed all this time. It is sad in our day that one can generally tell how Christ-exalting a book is by how little popular advertising it gets. The more Christ-centered the book, the less likely you'll even know it exists. Meanwhile, pseudo-Christian pop psychology is shoved down your throat from every direction in million dollar campaigns. The reason for this is simple.

Christian publishing, on the one hand, is about helping biblical messages proliferate to the masses. On the other hand, Christian publishing is about making money. If a publisher can't make a book sell, it doesn't matter how helpful it is. You'll never hear of it. One thing is certain, Christ-exalting messages do not usually sell well to self-absorbed Christians. And publishers know it. What's worse, they cater to it. Over the next several weeks, I'll review some books, both good and bad. Some I've mentioned before on this blog. Others I'm working through right now. My goal in doing this isn't to bash anyone. My goal is to recommend to you Christ-exalting resources that you may never see on a bookstore shelf, or hear about on the radio. My secondary goal is to warn against some dangers in books that are "household names" in Christian circles. You can't judge a book by its cover. And you can't judge it by its marketing blitz. In the end, a book can only be judged by the Sun around which all the planets of the solar system turn - Jesus Christ. Stay tuned.

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