“Christians are actually, to me, anyway, as a Jew, much more interesting in America. And weirdly, much more misunderstood. Evangelical Christians are the most incompetently portrayed group in America, in TV, in fiction, in the news. When Christians say that the media gets them wrong, Christians are absolutely right. Christian life in this country is really horribly documented, and way more interesting than is done. Generally, in the media, very religious Christians are portrayed as hardheaded doctrinaire knuckleheads. But in fact, from my experience, the most religious Christians I know tend to be incredibly thoughtful, complicated, generous to a fault, very principled and not knuckleheads. Actually, they’re sort of weirdly the opposite of the stereotype, and that includes people from the hardcore fundamentalist faiths.”
—Ira Glass (Thanks to Mollie at Get Religion)
By way of counterpoint, according to Barna’s survey data, there are precious few of these “most religious Christians” in America. I don’t think I’m one of them. And there’s little chance of surviving as a Christian writer, publisher, or acquisitions editor catering only to this small group. And yet, there’s little chance of preserving your moral standards if you’re catering to the majority of Christian book-buyers in America. Doing so will almost certainly require compromise. For example:
1. As Barna points out, most American Christians are hypocrites. We want to follow Jesus, but we’d rather watch other people doing it.
2. We’re shallow. “Just give me Jesus” isn’t a simple slogan, it’s a cop out. Deep theology and paradoxical spiritual truths are too hard. Keep it simple and make us feel better.
3. We’re dualistic. We want to live simply, but be complicated. We want to get uncluttered, but we can’t accept the limitation of giving up stuff.
4. We’re blind. Of course, we can’t really admit any of this because were too smart for that. But by closing our eyes to avoid the uncomfortable realities, we face consequences.
We know a large portion of our audience buys books to feel better about all this, for the psychological freedoms they offer. Lucrative Christian books (indeed, entire publishing programs) are built on these 4 little navel-gazing secrets, using them to apply band-aids: a little encouragement, a little spiritual salve, an easy out. They help us feel for a while that all is within our reach if we buy an inspirational book.
But as publishing professionals, do we have to accept this catering to the masses? Can we resist this? Must we give people easy outs? I don’t mean we give up easy reads, but can we sneak in some real meat with the stuff? Maybe we can trick them into developing a taste for meat by making it cheaper, faster, fresher, newer, easier, and making them laugh and cry at how good this “fast food” tastes.
I guess I have to believe this IS possible, that the first all-important step is looking at how you yourself have compromised, realize you’ve been had, and decide to stop furthering the enemy’s aims. Then, praise God for his grace and repent on your knees. If you’ve been in 1, 2, 3, or 4, you don’t have to stay there. And if you’re just starting out, commit to the higher purpose of Christian “inspirational” books and band with others to fight for balance with God-honoring messages that reach our respective corners of the market.
And together, maybe we will manage to keep Ira’s good impression.
If this is you, then it’s time to get it going.