Some Thoughts on the Rachel Held Evans/Lifeway Controversy

1. I don’t really like Lifeway much. Its kitschy and they always hound you about buying/donating/giving to something when you check out. And you have to listen to the fourteen-thousandth version of a worship song that came out six months ago and will be forgotten in six more. My guess? RHE doesn’t like Lifeway either. Lifeway  is a straight down the middle evangelical bookstore. She is very critical of them. So Lifeway is most likely not fond of her. Where do we get the idea they should be expected to carry her book and if they don’t its a really big deal? We get from those who enjoy the outrage.

2. I would get excited if my book was not carried by Lifeway. Because then I could tell everyone on my blog and then more people would probably buy it. And then I could afford to get my car fixed.

3. RHE doesn’t seem to me to be the kind of person who gets their feelings hurt very easily. Maybe they are hurt. Or maybe, just maybe, she is enjoying this a little too much. I mean, this isn’t a justice or fairness issue. It’s not because she is a woman. Too many books on the shelves written by women for that to be the case. It just seems hard to feel sorry for her. I doubt she wants us too.

4. It seems that most of the people who are concerned about this are just like me…they don’t like shopping at Lifeway anyway.

5. I don’t know for certain that RHE is stoking controversy to market her book. But I know I would be tempted to do that. But I also would like to think there is a part of me that would shrug my shoulders and move on.

6. I know full well my own desire to sometimes shock and stick it to the rank and file evangelical sometimes. I get very frustrated with the evangelical circus. But this just seems to be part of it and not a separate thing all together. To be different from them would be to respond without such righteous indignation. On your blog. T be different would to walk out of the tent of the circus and not worry too much if anyone notices.

7. I think it would be better for the church at large if Christian bookstores published books by all kinds of believers. But I also think they should be able to sell whatever they want.

8. I keep seeing the word “banned” bandied about. If a gay bookstore does not sell a book by an evangelical, no one uses the word “banned.” Lifeway has not “banned” the Catholic Bible or the Book of Mormon. Or RHE’s book. They just are not carrying it. When something is banned, it’s use or distribution is prohibited. The word doesn’t work here. You can buy it elsewhere. And probably for cheaper. Without having to stand in line by the Testamints.

3 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on the Rachel Held Evans/Lifeway Controversy

  1. Vicky Patridge October 20, 2012 / 8:31 pm

    Hey Matt. Maybe you can come do abook signing at TurnRow. When your book comes out!

  2. Ed Eubanks October 20, 2012 / 8:40 pm

    Strong insights/reflections, Matt.

    I think she saw this coming, actually; she certainly had every reason to.

    I agree that this sort of controversy is too tempting as fodder for exploitation. But I also think it highlights some inherent problems with “the system” that probably need to be addressed, too. One of the things we’re trying to do with Doulos Resources and Kalos Press is provide an opportunity to give voice to those titles that the mainstream of Christian publishing probably wouldn’t touch, for the reasons why they don’t like Rachel’s book (and for others).

    We actually blogged about this (ironically, in a response, of sorts, to a blog post from Rachel Held Evans) earlier this year:

    Margie’s book, The Exact Place, was rejected by a number of publishers before we got it. Was it because it was a memoir from someone who wasn’t famous? Or was it because she acknowledges the existence of cuss words? We’ll never know (well, she may know, if they bothered to inform her through a rejection letter). But it may be that the huge positive response to her book so far is an indicator that it needed to be published.

  3. Suzanne Evans (@evans60134) October 21, 2012 / 11:06 pm

    Thank you Matt. You’ve said very carefully exactly what needs to be said about this.
    From the early response to Rachel’s book, it looks as if God is in fact using it to touch women who are attracted to her for exactly the reasons she is not attractive to Lifeway: she is sassy and irreverent and (at time needlessly) provocative. Many of her followers are women who have been disillusioned by the church, but who may, in fact, be willing to take a new look at the church, at the Bible, and at Jesus because someone they like and respect will take them there in a way they can relate to. The more she paints herself as an outsider, the more they relate to her.

    I think I see Rachel growing through the controversies, not just exploiting them. I am learning to appreciate her for who she is: 1) a strong mind; 2) a great writer; 3) a sister in Christ. She admits to being highly ambitious, defends that as laudable, and chastens fellow women bloggers for not working for numbers. Being provocative is one of her ways to increase her following. Her outrageous difference from me is why I first followed her blog: she is someone with whom I often disagree, but I do want to hear her out. I, too, have grown through this exercise, recognizing that God has assigned her an audience that perhaps she is singularly suited for.

    I went back to her first blogs and compared the comments from then to now. The readership, at least those who comment, seems to have changed considerably. She is developing a strident but captive audience to whom she could have a great ministry — hopefully not one of shared cynicism, a single issue club — but a ministry of the gospel. This would be glory to God. She is presently urging more civility. I have not responded to her, because I have been unwilling to enter her particular fray, and have not trusted my flesh to respond appropriately. Now, rather than fume inwardly, I pray for her and her potential ministry, and I fight the accusatory thoughts, try to take them captive, leave it to God to fashion and refine her and to fashion and refine me for His good pleasure.

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