While Martin Amis pens anti-Islamism fiction on behalf of the religion of Atheism, and the Bisexual Word God, Christopher Hitchens, peddles anti-Islamism non-fiction wherever long fancy words are allowed, yet a further sign of religious intolerance is to be found in the hell that's befallen the 200-year-old British Christian bookshop chain, once known as SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge). SPCK transferred the chain to the US trust Saint Stephen the Great (SSG) last year. The shops are now called SSG "to reinforce their Christian values."
The trust is run by two Texan Orthodox Christian brothers - Phil and Mark Brewer - whose principal agenda is to "rescue abandoned Christian churches" from the Muslim and Sikh heathen (particularly in areas of "large ethnic populations") who would turn these churches into mosques and temples. The acquisition of SPCK's 23 bookshops will aid this purpose (for cash flow presumably) - bookshop staff have even been asked to look out for abandoned churches in need of saving.
Staff have not warmed to the Brewers who seem afflicted by a Bush-like cloddishness. One hundred have left since their takeover: 11 staff alone resigned en masse from the Exeter branch in October. Many complain of stock censorship: the Qur’an can no longer be bought at SSG shops - a development at odds with the original SPCK objective to "improve understanding between Christians and Muslims." The Brewers' new work contracts have appalled employees: reportedly, all staff will be required to work when told to, including Sundays and bank holidays, and to undertake janatorial duties. Part-timers will be treated as casuals. Questioned on Radio 4 this morning, Mark Brewer claimed that some staff had been unable to make the necessary transition - a nice euphemistic way of saying that many staff will not be treated as shit.
The Brewers admire St Stephen the Great because after each battle fought against the Muslim Turks he built a commemorative Christian church. Blessed are the peacemakers! What was once a liberal Christian chain of shops seems now to be turning into a Christian fundamentalist crusader. Most unfortunate in these fractious times.
Church Times views, click here
Staff resignations, click here
SSG video on rescuing churches for Orthodox Christianity, click here
Radio 4 show on the controversy, click here