The term “religious” shopper took on a literal meaning last week when Pastor Caleb Kaltenbach, browsing at Costco, noticed that the retail giant had labelled their inventory of Bibles as “fiction.” This observation and Kaltenbach’s subsequent tweets incited a very strong reaction among some Christians.
Kaltenbach later explained that he was more intrigued than offended over the matter but regardless, Costco issued a public apology, blamed a labelling oversight in the distribution department, and stated that they “should have caught the mistake” before the holy books hit the shelves in Simi Valley, California.
Customers, however, continue to have mixed reactions. Non-believers are saluting the company for “taking a stance” against organized religion, while others are staging boycotts and expressing their anger via social media. Angry tweets ranged from people asking whether this would have happened with the Koran, and also people vowing to no longer spend money at the giant retailer.
Those that have reached out on the Internet, calling the incident “ironic” and “hilarious,” are the ones who have the right idea. Those who are outraged are blowing the incident completely out of proportion. Kaltenbach stated to Fox News that “what Costco did doesn’t seem too tolerant,” insinuating that the company was perhaps provoked by an unknown agenda.
In reality, this was exactly what company representatives claimed it was: an oversight. Costco is the second largest retailer in the United States, carrying thousands of products in their stores at any given time. With the volume of inventory being shipped in and out of warehouses, it isn’t inconceivable that a product or two put onto shelves is mislabelled.
The public isn’t outraged about the labelling alone, they are outraged that a multinational company seems to be mocking the text on which their whole belief system is based. The assumption is ridiculous, seeing as Costco wouldn’t stand to gain anything by making this kind of statement. Large companies are largely focused on their imports, profit margin and marketing techniques. It would be very bizarre if board meetings discussed strategies to blatantly enrage devout, God-fearing citizens.
The labelling is a very minute detail, and the controversy is only stemming from the fact that it is a religious book. Some groups don’t believe that the text can be realistically categorized anywhere. An article for the Canadian Atheist’s website claims that a “fiction section is for deliberate fiction,” and the Bible shouldn’t be labelled non-fiction on the grounds that it is “just badly flawed from the perspective of history, science, philosophy or indeed common sense.”
Ultimately, credit should be given to Costco for actually carrying the Bible among their other books. One would think that committed Christians would be happy that the word of God is available in a store primarily known for their economy sized packs of Gatorade and Kraft Dinner.
If people want to get lathered up about big companies and their policies, redirect the focus to important issues that affect our world and the people in it, like work conditions, environmental preservation, or international fair trade.
A one-inch sticker on a Bible should not shake Christian religious convictions. The simple, realistic solution would be to just peel it off and move on. Although, given the intensity of the reaction, fundamentalists may begin lobbying for a new commandment: thou shalt not mislabel.