In a blog about revolutionizing Christian thought and writing, editor Mick writes: 1) The problem: CBA caters to baby Christians and safety-conscious readers. 2) The first part of the solution: We need writers who love them enough to understand their fears and sacrifice to publish books that say what they need to hear.
A point of note: CBA stands for Christian Booksellers Association. They are comprised of the Christian retailers in our country. I am not here to say negative things about that entity, I am merely wanting to raise the level and quality of the books that find themselves on CBA bookshelves. With that in mind, here is my response to Mick’s points:
#1. so true. It’s hard to find books that challenge me. And I don’t think we’re doing new Christians any favors by dumbing down our prose. I heard a fascinating talk at an emergent church-type conference this year. The man said that we are guilty of having an “all you have to do is” Christianity. Instead of being Bonhoeffers and saying “When Jesus calls a man, He bids him die,” we say, “All you have to do is…say this prayer, walk this aisle, get baptized…” Then we incrementally raise the bar until we get to some sort of Christian nirvana like “be a missionary.” (And now that I have arrived, I can assure you I am not SuperChristian.)
This is where disillusionment can move in. The poor chap who hears his first “all you have to do is,” thinks, well, that’s easy. When he finally gets the whole bill of goods (a bidding to die) he is confused and perhaps walks away.
Christian books that purport “all you have to do is” Christianity are not helpful or redemptive in my mind. What are we so afraid of? Like the dancers in Strictly Ballroom (if you haven’t seen it, you must), “We live our lives in fear.” Why can’t we tell gritty life meets relevant God stories? Why are we so afraid to tell people that Christianity is a call to die?
#2. I believe we need to redefine loving our readers. What is love? Who is Love personified? Jesus Christ. Did He mince words? He wasn’t always nice. He certainly didn’t water down His message. At one point most everyone left Him because His message was that hard. My next book, if God breathes the words to me, will be an examination of risk and why Christians don’t risk. We don’t, essentially, because we refuse to believe the radical message. We do love our parents and families more than we love Jesus. We love comfort more than we love obedience. We love safety and protection more than we love His call.
If we as Christian authors fail to love our readers enough to tell them the truth (obviously sprinkled copiously with grace), then we will be inviting them to a spineless, gutless Christianity.