Home » First, Do No Distortion

First, Do No Distortion

It’s still early to be speculating, but Walden media (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) has picked up the rights to The Screwtape Letters:

"The novel is a collection of letters from higher-up devil Screwtape to his subordinate nephew, Wormwood, about how he should damn a man known as the Patient. This involves mentoring the younger devil on ‘methods of undermining faith and promoting sin’ while commenting on Christianity and human nature…According to Variety, the film will be a ‘midbudget, primarily live-action pic’ that they hope to release in 2008."

Anyway, if it does get made, let’s just hope for a high quality production.

Which brings me to my point for the evening. Contrary to how it seems to some, I don’t think anyone here delights in pointing out the shortcomings of our industry. Frequent protests have required us to defensively support and reassert negative facts in an attempt to reach agreement and move on to addressing and correcting them. Some have been distressed at how frequently it seems we complain about the offerings on the Christian bookshelves. But it’s the distorted and reduced Christian books that cause the distress in the first place, and though there’s improvement on the horizon, the fact that we’re confronted by so many safe Christian books only heightens the irony. Truth must stop being distorted and safety must be dethroned by quality for Christian books to stop deepening the problem.

And praise God, since starting on this Holden Caufield-like journey, I’ve found I’m not the only Christian editor frustrated with the hyper-safe shelves of CBA. Far, far from it. In fact, I could tell many stories (but never will) about the publishing execs, editors, writers, and sales and marketing forces who have expressed their agreement with many of my statements here, not so much to thank me (though some have), but to point out that I’m by far the first to feel this way. And while it’s nice to hear, I have to wonder why then there aren’t more blogs like mine and Dave’s. Okay, there’s Jana. And okay, granted, it’s not a big industry and reputations are at stake. No one needs more whining. Certainly, there are more important things to be doing, like actually working to fix it.

Erwin McManus is someone working to fix it. He gave a pretty good interview here. And since there aren’t enough publishing folks to make his new book a hit for Nelson (and none of us actually pay money for books anyway), you have to get the word out and go buy your copies from the most conservative “Christian retail” store you can find. Go forth and multiply. Consider it your duty to society, or your subversive act of cultural espionage, if you prefer…

CB: You say in your book that your soul “always craves more.” Is this something to which you think all church leaders are equally susceptible?

McManus: I think Christian books aren’t as honest as we think. To be frank, a Christian magazine just did a very nice article on me. In the photo, I was wearing a shirt that had a gun on it shooting out butterflies. When I got the magazine in the mail, they’d PhotoShopped out the gun.

When I saw it, I thought, This is the inherent problem with Christianity. We’re not honest. We distort and recreate truth in a way that is palatable to us. When we do that, people hear our messages and they think they aren’t real and they aren’t honest. We think that because we have the truth, everything we do is truthful. We need to not only preach the truth, but be truthful.

Soul Cravings
, for me, is an honest book. O publishers, for God’s sake, let us have more.

And for you, writer of that soul-inspiring work of colossal brilliance, I urge you to forget safety and write, headlong into the bleak and terrifying unknown.

And send us a postcard.

5 Responses to “First, Do No Distortion”

  1. do they even sell postcards in the bleak and terrifying unknown?
    do you think they take debit cards? no matter, I’m sure to have plenty of change with me…
    i’ll bet it’s not so scary – i’ll let you know…

  2. Nicole says:

    Soul Cravings . . . aahhh, love: my favorite subject. The excerpts were excellent.
    It’s good to be encouraged to write fearlessly, and I totally agree within the parameters of the Spirit of God because Lord knows we could all easily (well, some of us more than others) write trashy stuff just for shock and awe. However, if the fear factor in CBA won’t allow for the stretching of subject matter and presentation (again within the parameters of Spirit-led writing), I guess we will be writing for ourselves or going the self-publishing or Lulu routes?

  3. Suzan says:

    Hey, Mick, I really like your blog a lot, but I’ll pass on Erwin McManus books. Although he has some interesting ideas, his theology is slightly skewed. I couldn’t recommend his books even if he does make some good points, but others might enjoy him if they read with discernment.
    Thanks anyway!

  4. Nicole says:

    Suzan makes a great point. We can be down to the bone honest, but that won’t necessarily make us “right”. Which makes determining what and how we want to read very important and discernment key.

  5. Mick says:

    Absolutely, Suzan, Nicole. Everyone must follow the dictates of his own conscience. Haven’t read McManus very deeply yet, so I’ll definitely keep an eye open. Still, I couldn’t disagree with this:
    “I just don’t have a lot of patience for people who use the name of God to try to control people through guilt and shame. If God’s love isn’t freely given, it’s not worth receiving anyway — because then it wouldn’t be real. It’s a curious thing that Jesus is like a cold drink on a hot summer day, but Christianity can be like spoiled milk.”
    Sentiments reminiscent of Tony Campolo, Ron Sider, Don Miller, Brian McLaren, Mark Noll…even Francis Schaeffer…

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