It’s never going to happen. This revolution. It’s just not.
It’s always going to be just over the horizon, out of reach, beyond the next bend in the road. Hiding in the shadowlands. Lingering in the space between dreaming and waking.
Our world can’t handle it. The industry will never accept it. The truth is, no one wants to face facts. We all want our cake, our super-sized lifestyles, and we don’t want some stinkin’ revolutionary message messing things up.
We may as well all give up right now.
Ever felt like that? Okay. I didn’t think so. Me neither.
Say what you will, but there’s a very real barrier to anything fresh and new and truly inspired in our Christian books, and I think there’s at least one thing we can point to that explains it. I want to diverge from our recent debate about art as evangelism for today to talk about another very important barrier to the revolution. We all claim to want this industry-wide change to happen, but our outlook is built up to resist it. We claim to want a fresh revelation from God, but we keep flogging the same assumptions, expecting the same thing we’ve always gotten. Maybe we’re afraid of it changing too much or of it not happening on our terms. Maybe it’s easier to use lingo and Christian slang, to speak of vagaries to keep the practical realities from ever infiltrating our daily lives. It’s just easier and safer to “lay it all at the feet of the cross” than to actually do something about it and have our entire lives change.
So why is CBA suffering from a glut of badly-written books, chock full of Christian jargon and unrelenting religiosity?
Why do authors speak in clichés and platitudes?
Why do so many CBA editors complain about the deplorable state of the manuscripts they get to evaluate?
Because just like CBA readers, we editors secretly like it that way. We don’t demand anything better. Second, because writers don’t seek out experienced editors with integrity who don’t allow that garbage to pass by their desks and do something about it. And third, because most editors, publishers, and “gatekeepers” aren’t doing anything to make the situation any better.
If we really believe in this revolution and we’re not just paying lip service to the idea, we need to quit treating publishers and editors like royalty and make them pay for their favored status. Sure, they work hard. They’ve earned their stripes through years of study and real-life book editing. But does that mean we should treat them deferentially as though they don’t owe it to the industry that pays their salary to help earnest, fledgling authors?
There’s too much tip-toeing around in CBA, as though we’re going to offend someone by “bothering” them with our God-given passions. If you believe in the revolution I’ve been flapping about, then stop that groveling right now! One thing I always make it a point to say to any writer’s conference is that any assumption of reverence is completely out of place. We are all in the same sinking ship here and if my hunch is right, when editors get up to the pearly gates, they’ll be told their “talents do not fit the needs at the present time.” They’ll be fortunate to end up with Dante’s book critics.
I made a pledge when I became a book editor to never, ever consider myself worthy of the position. Wordsmith, message-crafter, whatever you want to call it, the skill required is just a skill, like anything else. Now I’m no Stein or Plotnik or Zinsser (And can’t imagine sitting at that table without peeing my pants), but I’ll tell you what: someday I will be. And so will you. And you can bet once you’re there that you’ll realize this fascade of privilege is utter foolishness. So my advice would be to learn to hate it and not even acknowledge its existence. Hate what it does—to me, to other editors, to the business, and to the other poor writers who believe it exists. That’s the first step.
And my other fervent request for the day is for everyone to come on in, let’s have a big, Teletubbies group hug, and realize we’re all working toward the same goal: furthering the Christian Writing Revolution. The only way we’ll ever see it change lives is to allow it to change our own first.