Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Christian bookstores and their chokehold on the industry

By Rachel Held Evans

A lot of folks have been expressing outrage and surprise over the fact that LifeWay Christian bookstores recently banned the movie "The Blind Side" from their shelves due to language and objectionable content. The 2009 biographical film about a black high school student adopted by a white Christian family is rated PG-13 and became something of an evangelical darling when it released, receiving endorsements from Christianity Today and Focus on the Family.

But Florida pastor Rodney Baker of Hopeful Baptist Church submitted a resolution to the Southern Baptist Convention, demanding that LifeWay pull the film. Lifeway bowed to the pressure from Baker, and removed the movie from their shelves—a response that Baker saw as obedient yielding to the Holy Spirit. "Thank you,” he said “for listening to the voices of the overwhelming majority of Florida Baptist Convention messengers, the voice of this resolution, and above all the voice of the Holy Spirit to remove 'The Blind Side' from Lifeway Christian Book Stores.”

As the Christian Post reports, Baker still intends to submit the resolution the convention as a way of "sending a message about LifeWay and the content of its products."

Those of you who followed “vaginagate”—in which I was asked to remove the word “vagina” from my upcoming book in deference to Christian bookstore standards—will know that I’m not at all surprised by this story.

Christian bookstores have developed a reputation for producing a highly sanitized customer experience, purging from their shelves any language, content, or theology that doesn’t meet their uber-conservative standards. Walk into your local LifeWay and you will find plenty of Precious Moments statues, specialty Bibles, Veggie Tale movies, and Thomas Kinkade prints...but little trace of art or literature that intrigues, agitates, and inspires—as true art should! The Christian bookstore experience is, in a word, safe. But safe is not how Christians are called to live, and safe is not what artists who are Christians are called to create. In fact, based on LifeWay’s own standards, the Bible itself—which includes profanity, violence, and sex—should be banned from the shelves.

What most people don’t realize, however, is that the problem of sanitized Christian bookstores extends far beyond the inventory on the shelves to create an entire Christian subculture that is so sanitized and safe it often fails to produce art that is relevant to our culture or our lives.

Now I’m going to say something that will probably get me into some trouble, something that many editors and writers are afraid to say for fear of losing their jobs or their book contracts, but something which desperately needs to be spoken out loud: Christian bookstores have a chokehold on the Christian publishing industry. And this chokehold not only affects the inventory you find on Christian bookstore shelves, but which books are contracted by publishers, what content gets edited in the writing and editing process, and the degree of freedom authors feel they have to speak on their own blogs and platforms. As a result, the entire Christian industry has been sanitized, while its best artists look elsewhere for publication.

Read more at http://rachelheldevans.com/christian-bookstores-chokehold

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I have been writing a book about growing up in 1950's New Jersey with unconverted relatives and some Christian publishers...and other writers... have taken exception to the word "shit" which is uttered by my live-in uncle in the book. Am I to say that "Unk is crude and vulgar" instead of portraying at least some of that vulgarity? Frankly, I am more interested in general audiences reading and being challenged by the book...and they don't shop in Christian bookstores. Deano (dherbert53@aol.com)