Recently, a new LifeWay store opened in my neighborhood. I'd never been in a LifeWay store before but knew they advertised themselves on Twitter as "one of the world's largest providers of Christian products and services." Well, this week I needed some supplies for my 2nd grade faith formation class, so I decided to check it out. I mean, Catholics are Christians too, right? I walked into the store and saw aisles of KJV Bibles, devotional study Bibles, picture story Bibles for kids, Bibles for teenagers, Bibles For Divorced Men Who Drive Chevy Trucks. OK, I'm kidding about that last one. But you get the point: there were Bibles for every kind of Christian demographic except....Catholics.
And while there wasn't one Crucifix or Rosary or prayer book or baptism candle to be found in the entire store, there WAS a huge section dedicated to Duck Dynasty. Huh??
When I asked a very friendly employee where I might find a Catholic Bible (for lack of a better word) he told me: "We don't keep those in stock."
"You don't keep them in stock?" I repeated, puzzled.
"Well, we can order it for you!" he offered, with a huge smile.
"Um. OK, well. I was hoping to have it by this Sunday for my catechism class," I said.
His brow furrowed. "Hmm. Not sure we can get it to you by then."
Disappointed, I browsed the kids' section for some Bible storybooks while my twins watched a Veggie Tales movie that was playing.
"Mommy, what's this?" Jasiel asked, holding up a stuffed, red tomato.
"Bob the Tomato," I answered.
I couldn't help but burst into laughter. The absurdity of it all, you know? A vegetable named Bob. A cucumber named Larry. Indeed, an entire RACK of vegetable-themed Bible story movies. But not ONE kid's book about The Lord's Prayer.
I did end up purchasing two Bible story books and one discount-priced kids' praise music CD. I also signed up for the store emails and coupons.
But just as I was ready to pay, the cashier asked if I'd like to donate to their "Thomas Project"--a mission effort to provide Bibles to people in South Asia. "These people don't have Scripture in their own language," she explained.
I stared, the irony of it rendering me just totally speechless.
LifeWay cares about accessibility to Scripture so much that they'll provide Bibles to people living in South Asia...but not to Catholics living right in their own hometown.
It honestly felt humiliating. I couldn't help but wonder how many of my fellow Catholics have felt so slighted and dismissed when shopping at LifeWay. But then I remembered how, as a fundamentalist, I often said Catholics weren't Christians. Standing there in front of the cashier, I could feel myself beginning to blush. I had done to Catholics what LifeWay was now doing to me.
Tears came to my eyes. All I felt now was sorrow. Sorrow for all the division, sorrow for all the misunderstanding, sorrow for all the unnecessary fighting between brothers and sisters in Christ.
The twins were clamoring for my attention so I quickly paid and turned away.
As I was leaving the store, another customer held the door for me and then--in a lowered voice--said: "If you're looking for a Catholic Bible, I know of a store about 20 minutes away from here."
Her lowered voice, her clandestine gestures--it was like we were underground Catholics afraid of being exposed to the Big, Bad Protestants. She shrugged, sorta sheepish: "I overheard your conversation at the cash register," she said.
I looked at her. Smiled. And then we both laughed.
Because whoa. Christians are weird, man. No wonder "the world" thinks we're nuts.