Home > Uncategorized > Do Local Churches Know the Politics of Amazon?

Do Local Churches Know the Politics of Amazon?

On Thursday I posted a copy of a letter that I sent to a local church back in the fall of 2010. It surfaced here partly because while I now feel that a couple of pastors of that church give us a “first pass” on orders, the church in general bypasses us, and as the largest Evangelical church in town, I righteously covet their business.

Then on the weekend, sparked by a discussion with one of you, I posted the piece at Thinking Out Loud, “To My Fellow Bloggers;” or at least that’s how I chose to frame it for that edition. But the next logical step is to look at this issue as it would appear to impact local churches.  (The last paragraph here is modified from the weekend edition.) You can’t uphold certain values on one hand, and then toss them aside seconds later. Churches can’t have it both ways. This isn’t about debating a specific social issue, it’s about asking churches for consistency.

This originated as a letter to the same church described in the first paragraph in the hope that, three years later, things can still change.


Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought Gay marriage donations?

This week we were asked by a Christian bookstore manager, “How many people know that the founder of Amazon is the largest single donor to the cause of gay marriage?” Honestly, I didn’t know myself, and the amount, $2.5 M (US) is staggering. He told me, “Tell your local churches that are buying from Amazon just to type ‘Jeff Bezos’ and ‘gay marriage’ into a search engine for themselves.” A week later, I did this myself. There were many, many articles, but this one describes a behind-the-scenes look at the donation:

Thank Lesbian Jennifer Cast for Jeff Bezos’ Huge Gay Marriage Support

Like most of us, Jennifer Cast said she figured her former boss, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, was well aware of the threat to gay marriage in Washington State by the upcoming the ballot iniative and wrote to him, “I figured that if you felt the desire to support marriage equality, you would do it.” But, unlike many of us, this time she spoke up with a direct ask, and for the first time in twelve years working on the issue, Cast, 50, partners of 20+ years with Liffy Franklin, 63, emailed Bezos, “I beg you not to sit on the sidelines and hope the vote goes our way. Help us make it so.” She wrote, “We need help from straight people. To be very frank, we need help from wealthy straight people who care about us and who want to help us win.” She asked the billionaire for a contribution of $100,000 to $200,000. Within thirty-six hours he replied, “Jen, this is right for so many reasons. We’re in for $2.5 million. Jeff & MacKenzie”

This is the largest ever donation in support of marriage equality and it only happened because a lesbian spoke up and asked for it. Learn from her. The announcement also inspired other gifts, according to the Seattle Times, which reports, “Cast said she has received hundreds of emails since news of Bezos’ gift broke early Friday from well-wishers and those who suddenly wanted to give. One donor pledged $25,000.”

Jeff Bezos is worth $18.4 billion. Although William Lynch, the CEO of Barnes & Noble, isn’t a billionaire, his compensation last year was $10 million, going up to $15.3 million this year. He doesn’t have a connection to Washington State, but some of the Amazon haters need to ask Lynch for a significant donation. He can give to Maryland’s or to Maine’s campaign…

A link for this and what follows is available if you wish. The perspective below was actually from a gay website. The first line really sums up what’s happening even as you’re reading this.

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…gay marriage donations?: The founder of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos, and his wife, MacKenzie, just donated 2.5 million to help pass Washington state’s Referendum 74, which would legalize gay marriage. The donation from Bezos, the 15th wealthiest man in America, has been called a “game changer” by Washington gay marriage campaigners.

I do not see how any Evangelical church — at least the conservative ones — possessing this information can continue to use Amazon as a source of supply for church and small group resources.  I would think they need to take a long, prayerful second look at that situation.

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  1. Anonymous
    March 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Have Christian bookstores in Canada ever thought of creating a buying group or consolidated web site they could play in the same arena as Amazon?

  2. March 20, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    We – the Believers in Jesus Christ and all that is in his Word – can’t serve God and Mamon (which is not money but the God of money). It’s time we stopped saving pennies and start saving Truth! Thanks for this post! May it have great exposure. (PS My website is done; I’d like to go with this id now as it’s most comprehensive)

  3. March 22, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Much as I disagree with gay marriage (and have recently been directly lobbying my MP on the issue, as our government it trying to push it through at present), I’m not sure about the validity of launching an Amazon boycott on these grounds. If Amazon were directly sponsoring this out of company funds, or Jeff Bezos were drawing additional income for this purpose, that would be a different matter. But if he is simply using his own personal fortune, amassed in previous years, to support a cause in which he believes – misguided as it is – isn’t that his right?

    • March 22, 2013 at 9:16 am

      That perspective is fine if it is internally consistent for you; but unfortunately, as happened when this piece ran on my other blog, you have introduced the b-word (boycott) into a story/opinion-piece where it does not appear. As I stated there: “Again, I think that people/bloggers/churches that are opposed to gay marriage but continue to deal with Amazon need to fish or cut bait; there’s no middle ground here.”

      The question is which is the most important value: Stewardship (saving money) or principle. Again, as I stated there, “Does anyone else out there think it’s strange that people who espouse a particular value are willing to let that principle fly out the window if supporting someone who believes the opposite means they save $2.00 on the price of a few books and get free next day shipping?”

      So we’re not using the b-word here. (Besides, what if a title a church badly needed was out of print and A-Zon had the last three copies anywhere? Is that a game changer?) Rather, we’re saying that the churches are either operating in ignorance or are choosing to look the other way to this — and the erotica, etc that A-zon sells — and put saving money ahead of a principle they would no doubt want to uphold if they could clearly see the whole picture..

  4. March 30, 2013 at 2:15 am

    As we prepare to close the doors of this 40 year-old store, I find myself challenging our loyal customers to ask their online-shopping friends if they’d shop in a Christian bookstore that sold porn, witchcraft, etc, and if not, how can they justify using Am. And besides, do they have any idea how much of credit card companies’ profits come from online porn? (I’ve been told 50%) And, yes there certainly seems to be a double standard when a customer asks for a better price on my marginless stock then drives away in a pretty cool vehicle. Yes, it sounds a bit whiney, but I really don’t care now. I should have whined long ago, but I really doubt it would have changed anything. As they say, you don’t miss your water ’til your well runs dry.

    Of course, I, too, am a hypocrite every time I order from Harper Collins or Ingram, because they, too, are purveyors of filth. I have my own justifications for using Ingram of late; Ingram, who we avoided for most of these years, being loyal to our Canadian suppliers: being in the northwest, freight from Ontario taking 10 days to 2.5 weeks and Cook & Foundation now costing about 15%freight (I don’t have exact # in this computer); Cook’s website not being very useful for customer queries, forcing me to use Ingram to get enough info to order from Cook; Foundation’s being totally useless. There being no service for us after 2pm & 1:30pm respectively, while Ingram has cust. service 24/7, and set freight rates, a west coast warehouse, 4-5-day delivery, and all those great things that come with 10 times the population. And it was the Canadian suppliers who decided their reps didn’t make enough traveling ‘way up here to justify sending them. That’s true. The 3 stores that were up north all were severely population deficient, and couldn’t buy like the city stores, & we actually were a bit too independent to accept most of their advice. But they still could have held me with a truly functional website. But was there ever a kinder, better sales rep than Peter Tiernay?

    Buying group? 20 years ago, yes. Not now with publishers selling us out. 20 years ago I urged RG Mitchell to try to become the Spring Arbor equivalent, to simplify ordering for retailers, but working together is not what Christians do best, sad to say. I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect the chains and Amazon have strangled bigger and better deals out of our publishers while the Mom & Pop stores pay the big bucks, & our customers see such a huge price difference they’re sure we’re ripping them off. Meanwhile month after month, year after year, we go home with no paycheque, until we face the reality that it will only get worse. We finally cut out losses, & close the door, with the loyal but too-few crying, “but what about us?!! What about the community? What about books & literacy, & thinking?” Can’t you re-invent yourself (again)? With what? Our big profits?

    Ah, yes. Stewardship. Save a couple of dollars, lose your local stores. Get competitive! Right. And where do we shave off after paycheques, may I ask? And now the vultures are here, and I’m saying, no, that’s not on sale. It’s NEW. Get it while you can. Free freight. Touch it. Smell the ink. One more day & we’re done. 24 wonderful, frustrating years of dear friends in Christ, great books & music, two-way ministry: could there be a better job in all the world? We’ve had the best landlord in the world, the best bookkeeper, the best years of an industry that is about to do some reaping.

    Thanks for doing what you do, Paul. I wish I had had time to follow your blogs but after Sarah started to, a few years back,, another baby came along, & I’ve been too busy & short-staffed to look you up. Bless you & your work.

    Not without a cause,
    Elaine Taylor
    Hero’s Lighthouse

    • March 30, 2013 at 9:33 am

      Elaine,

      A part of me aches every time I hear about another store closing. Yes, nobody likes to whine, but in Cobourg we started whining loud and long enough that the message finally got through to some of our customers. In Brockville, there was no one on the ground to beg and plead for customers to come back, so that store closed eight weeks ago.

      Every time I call a supplier at 4:30 only to find them closed, I wonder how stores in the west deal with this. I once even asked a supplier, “You have another phone line for west coast stores, right?” Apparently not.

      You’re also right about websites. We use CBD or Ingram and then copy and paste the numbers into the Cook site to see if they actually have the stock. As of Thursday, the popular book 90 Minutes in Heaven wasn’t listed under the author’s name — in 13 editions — but they are finally changing that at our suggestion. Foundation’s website has been dead to us for about three years now. One dealer on the east coast told me that he thinks Foundation would be further ahead with their bookstore customers if they had never tried to have a web presence.

      Shipping charges to the western provinces must be horrendous. I complain every time something goes over 8%, but I would find 15% impossible. You’re left with a business model that just doesn’t work. We try to give our Canadian suppliers a first pass on every title, but I know that with free shipping, STL does a huge volume with some Canadian stores.

      The Amazon thing is just too frustrating. They don’t call these type of customers “category killers” for nothing. But CBD is every bit as much a thorn in our flesh. When the #1 selling book, Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman is offered for $5.00 (as it was all January) you know that the publisher, author’s agent and CBD are conspiring together to undo the local store business model.

      There’s a conservative church in my community that buys extensively from Amazon. I often wonder what they would do if we emailed all the people on our mailing list and said, “Did you know that _________ Church supports gay marriage?”

      …Elaine, I wish you the best in future endeavours. In spite of all that’s going on in this business, keep connected to Jesus.

  1. April 2, 2013 at 7:57 pm
  2. April 8, 2013 at 9:48 pm
  3. August 24, 2013 at 8:02 am
  4. March 26, 2015 at 8:13 pm
  5. November 30, 2015 at 12:38 pm

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