LifeWay Christian Bookstores decided not to carry Rachel Held Evans’ A Year Of Biblical Womanhood. Since 40% of Christian bookstores are LifeWay (aka The Southern Baptist Publishing Conglomerate) this is a real blow to Evans’ sales of the book. The Christian blogosphere is all over this tempest, steam pouring from the spouts of angry feminists and traditionalists alike. Evans claims that the book has been excluded because she used the word vagina. Others respond that it’s because she is openly, forcefully feminist (egalitarian in Christian parlance) and LifeWay is decidedly not feminist (the word Christians use for this is complimentarian.)
I do not know all the whys and wherefores, but knowing a great deal about both parties I think that LifeWay probably has a good point. Rachel Held Evans is someone I agree with on a great many things, someone with whom I disagree with on many more things. She is openly liberal, openly postmodern and holds a great many aspects of the traditional church experience in contempt. It’s that contempt that bothers me most about her position. Because she is loving, tolerant and fair in her approach to other believers most of the time but bristles at the idea of women staying out of the pulpit.
Anyone who knows me for four and one-third minutes understands that I’m a libertarian. As a libertarian I believe that both LifeWay and Held Evans can do exactly as they please. Their business is their business. So why am I even bothering with a blog entry on the topic?
Because of Christian publishing and the attitude that my fellow believers have toward that business. I’ve become friends with a great many Christian writers over the years and most of them aspire to the golden status of Traditionally Published. For most writers getting published is the equivalent of God The Father landing on your head in the form of a dove and saying “this is my beloved child in whom I am well-pleased.” Getting published is a big deal to a writer. It’s a validation. It’s The Validation. (I sometimes suspect this is why so many authors are vehement in their protestations against self-publishing. In a way self-publishing is very much like starting your own country instead of getting elected to Congress.)
Over the years it’s become pretty clear to me that a lot of Christian writers think that they are owed a publishing contract by right of siblinghood in the family of God. More than once I’ve met someone who writes Christian books because “it’s easier to get published in the CBA.”
Christian publishing is a business. <——read and repeat three times.
I know that Jesus said all are welcome into the faith. But being welcome in the faith doesn't mean that the business arm of the church owes you any favour at all. And when you've spent the bulk of your waking hours challenging the business leaders you can't really honestly think that they'll go ahead and do business with you.
Whether or not a church should run a business is a deeper question for another day. But the plain fact is that Christian publishing isn't Christianity. It's a business designed to supply the products demanded by Christians. That's all.