The two activities might seem a contrast–the former an attempt to appreciate the simplicity of the agricultural, un-electrified life; the latter a full embrace of the I-want-everything-and-I-want-it-for-cheap consumerist mentality. Both, however, are fully consumer activities. Amish tours, quilts, food, buggy rides are presented as quaint things to buy, not as alternative lifestyles that bear contemplation. How the religious beliefs of the Amish shape their understandings is much less a topic of conversation than how much their quilts cost.
The commodification of religion pops up at the outlets, too. Of course, there are all the usual suspects: Banana Republic. The Gap. Eddie Bauer. Dress Barn.
But, there’s also the Bible Outlet.
This fascinates me. An outlet–the last stop for the previous season’s styles, factory seconds and overruns, unpopular sizes–sells Bibles. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never gone into this outlet. But I will. I want to know if I can find an out-of-date Bible (maybe a Septuagint). Or one with a label saying that it has errors. Does one just “happen” to leave out Leviticus or Revelation or perhaps the rape of the Levite’s concubine in Judges 19? Do any have a nonstandard number of Commandments?
I’m struck at how different this mentality is from the extreme reverence toward the book itself that has long dominated many religious and cultural practices. When I was a child, my public school teacher (!) insisted that in a stack of books the Bible always had to go on top. In the U.S. government, public servants and witnesses swear on the Bible. Much more ancient is the Jewish practice of placing torn or damaged Torah scrolls in a geniza, a storeroom below a synagogue. Because a scroll contained the name of God, it could not simply be thrown in the refuse heap.
When I visit the Bible Outlet, I may ask if Bibles are ever thrown in the dumpster. I may look around out back for myself.