In a Christian book market place dominated by American publishers and resources, where can Christians on this side of the Atlantic find authors and books relevant to the life, faith and culture of these islands?
Described by playwright George Bernard Shaw as "Two nations divided by a common language," (Oxford Dictionary of Quotations) US and UK expressions of Christianity also have distinct and different characters on each side of the Atlantic.
"There are approximately 6 million Christian books in print today."
With different English spellings, grammar and typesetting, it’s easy to tell which Christian resources are published in the US and which are printed in – or at least printed for, readers in these islands.
Language, spellings grammar and culture
The Atlantic divide runs deeper and wider than differences in spellings, grammar and fonts. There are differences of culture and style that make US English resources seem strangely alien to British, Irish and other English language users.
So why is it so difficult to find Christian resources that use the 'correct' English spellings and grammar? What is available in the English language style and culture of this side of the Atlantic, and what’s being done about making UK English resources more widely available?
The Christian market place across the Atlantic
11% of the world’s self confessed 2 billion Christians live in the US. 86% of Americans identify themselves as Christian though only 40% of those 250 million people admit to attending church at least once a week. In the UK, 71% describe themselves as Christian: about 42 million souls. Of them only 10% make a weekly trip to church.
If we make the judgement that church-goers are the most likely users of Christian resources - such as Bibles, faith based books, Christian music and DVDs, then for every Christian ‘consumer’ in the UK there are almost 5 in the US.
Questions of scale, resource and tolerance
With a US Christian market about five times as great as in the UK, it’s clear to see why most Christian resource publishers and publishing is either carried on in the US or intended primarily for US readers, listeners and viewers. And in today's world the market rules.
It’s a question of scale, and the apparent reality that British Christians are increasingly tolerant – even enthusiastic for US published and produced Bibles, Christian literature, music and movies. That won't change until there is more demand for non-US English publications.
Reflecting trends in art and culture worldwide
The Christian market is merely reflecting what goes on it every other aspect art, culture and entertainment. US produced movies, TV and music is marketed and sold in the UK and around the English speaking world with vigour and success.
There's a strong argument for the view that UK English users make substantial savings. Sharing in the much larger US English market is cheaper than insisting on books printed and produced on a smaller scale just for the UK. After all, it's just a matter of a few strange spellings and typefaces... isn't it?
Independent language – independent thought
Language is fundamentally a means of communication – a way of including everyone in a sharing of knowledge, culture, wisdom and belief. Above all, language is an expression of inclusiveness. It’s a way of assuring every member of a family, group, society or nation that they belong together.
Language is also a way of saying to everyone: ‘this is us and this is what we are like’. Language defines the values, character and purpose of the family, group or nation and declares to the world that it can and will formulate its own ideas and will not be subject to the ideas of others if it chooses not too.
Brave new words for grave new worlds
Of course, all of this sense of identity can get out of hand, and wars always start with a sense of division. There needs to be a healthy trade between language cultures with each adopting the other's new words and expressions as the ever changing world demands.
A healthy, living language is neither static nor isolationist. The King James Bible is lyrical and poetic and many of its most useful expressions have become everyday figures of speech. But even its most loyal devotees generally stop short of speaking KJV language in the supermarket.
Neighbour or neighbor, behaviour or behavior?
The Atlantic Christian language divide is less an issue of how to arrange the letters in a few strangely spelt words, but more a question whether the thoughts and ideas of a British Christian author, artist or musician have more cultural relevance than those of US origin.
The world of the US Bible belt may share many of the same social, economic political and spiritual problems of UK cities, and as Christians we may believe that the solution is the same on both sides of the Atlantic. But how that solution is communicated, understood and applied might be critically different in each situation.
UK English in thought, culture and application
Sometimes it's necessary to find home-grown ideas, stories, questions and answers. That is to say, grown in the minds, culture and language of these islands to influence the hearts and lives of people living in these islands.
For times such as these, Christian books and resources produced by, in, or specifically for these islands might be the most appropriate solution. Click the link here to the Best of British Christian Authors and you’ll find a whole Eden.co.uk department stocked with books by faith motivated writers born, living and working in these islands.
Books by the best British Christian authors
At Eden.co.uk, you’ll find books by British Christian authors in every category from Bible studies through home and foreign mission to modern and classic Christian fiction. You’ll also find music CDs and DVDs by British Christian bands, singers, choirs, speakers and teachers.
Look out for further posts in the British and Christian series on the Eden blog. Here you’ll find help in locating a British Christian viewpoint on faith issues relevant to life in these islands, and faith based entertainment with distinctly English flavour. (not flavor!)
Quick Guide to Best of British Christian Authors
What’s that about?
- Christian authors writing about life and faith on this side of the Atlantic.
- Mission, Bible study, Children’s books and Christian fiction for these islands.
- Resources, guidance and entertainment with English spellings and grammar.
What does that mean for me?
- Books and resources that connect your faith with real life in these islands.
- Recognisable and relevant expressions of faith, culture and language.
- Christian ideas and thoughts in the language tradition this side of the Atlantic.
Over to You
At Eden.co.uk you can find a truly interactive Christian community helping you find all you need to live, learn and grow your faith.
The larger American market for Christian books and resources, and the greater number of Christian authors means that most Christian books use US English spellings and grammar, and reflect and American way of life.
- Do you think UK Christians should accept the inconveniences of US spelling and grammar or would you be prepared to pay for Anglicsed versions of American books?
- How well do you think British Christian authors and books compare with American offerings and what, if anything, do you think could be learnt from across the Atlantic?
Tell us. Post your ideas, views and tips – beautiful, bizarre and brilliant at Eden.co.uk
April 17th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison