Posts Tagged 'Brad Cummings'

The Shack – Too Edgy for Christian Publishing?

‘Big Evangelical’ acquisitions editor Mick Silva and lit agent extraordinaire Chip MacGregor offer two nuanced takes.

As many readers here know, I’ve been friends with Windblown co-publisher Wayne Jacobsen for years. (We have similar house-church-like roots, though neither of us exactly claim that nom de plume now) When he approached me in (I guess it was) late 2006 about this novel he’d acquired, he and co-publisher Brad Cummings knew they had something special on their hands. I agreed, so much so that we gave their newly-minted Windblown Media a super-good deal on TheOOZE’s time-tested grassroots blog publicity.

I should probably clarify something right now: The deal wasn’t quite as good as the oftquoted $300 pre-Hachette acquisition ‘total marketing budget.’ That was a benignly unaware statement said early on and picked up the the newswires. Nonetheless, we were indeed The Shack’s total marketing budget, though, helping facilitate one corner of the word-of-mouth that has made The Shack the runaway hit that it is.

So: ‘Too edgy’ for Christian publishing? Some acquisitions editors still claim they wouldn’t take it, citing poor writing or not living up to ‘the rules’ of novel structure (ie, way too much socratic dialogue – the same ‘problem’ that killed that other best-seller, the A New Kind of Christian trilogy – now available in nice new paperbacks, by the way). So much for what the ‘experts’ say – the people have spoken, and they are compelled.

Of course, ‘the people’ have been wrong before – The Prayer of Jabez, Left Behind, and The Secret, anyone? – but the edge is definitely why people are picking up The Shack – Its depiction of suffering is realistic, its depiction of God is controversial, and God’s depicted outlook on living is most bold. It’s clear to me that both the CBA and ABA markets need to expand their horizons if they want to cultivate readers into the 21st century. Otherwise, authors and readers and going to bypass traditional publishing channels altogether.

Coming up in a couple of days: Is ‘God’ a matter up for discussion? Can we fruitfully (and faithfully) re-vision the Divine? Or is searching for a ‘better God’ a fools errand? And, we continue with our series on Emerging Worship…

Heresy Hunters: I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

You know you’re doing something worthwhile when all the right people are denouncing you.

A couple of weeks ago Herescope denounced Jay Gary, Diana Butler-Bass, Brian McLaren and myself, who will be hanging out at the World Future Society‘s annual conference in D.C. We’ll be talking about “The Future of the Religious Right” and of global Christian faith in general, but the Heroscope team sees our work as promoting “new theologies and practices,” and “disparaging…of biblical prophecy.” Somehow, they suspect that all this winds up “creating an evolutionary convergence” where we all sing Kumbaya and venerate Gaia and Easter bunnies. As if that’s a bad thing!

Moving along: I’ve already told you the kind of flack The Shack has been getting recently with the heresy-hunter websites. Well, as Steve Knight reports at Emergent Village, now our ‘ol pal Mark Driscoll is in on the action too (you can watch his eight-minute YouTube rant on the E.V. link). Apparently he’s mighty uncomfortable with the sacred feminine, anthropomorphic depictions of God, and the idea of the Trinity (and thus, human relatedness) as mutually submissive rather than chain-of-command hierarchical. Sigh. Co-publisher Wayne Jacobsen blogs his response to the question “Is The Shack Heresy?”

Of course Frank Viola has had his share of critique concerning Pagan Christianity–not all from shrill heresy hunters, but certainly enough of it. Well, Tim Dale over at Karis Productions produced this pretty funny spoof response:

I have two observations about all the shelling and attack from this past month: Most of the people above are friends of mine, and for the most part, we can all laugh this off (in the cases of Frank and Team Shack, they can laugh all the way to the bank, as these books have really struck a chord with most readers and have become best-sellers)–even if we don’t know whether to laugh or cry sometimes. Others, though, are not so fortunate–heresy-hunters can cost people their livelihoods.

I don’t have the privilege of knowing Peter Enns, but his story has been all over the blogosphere recently. As Christianity Today reports, Enns has been suspended from his teaching post at Westminster Theological Seminary for writing his 2005 book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, which takes a hard look at the messy, complex, and human aspects of Scripture from an evangelically-informed text criticism point of view. The Board of Trustees said:

“That for the good of the Seminary (Faculty Manual II.4.C.4) Professor Peter Enns be suspended at the close of this school year, that is May 23, 2008 (Constitution Article III, Section 15), and that the Institutional Personnel Committee (IPC) recommend the appropriate process for the Board to consider whether Professor Enns should be terminated from his employment at the Seminary. Further that the IPC present their recommendations to the Board at its meeting in May 2008.”

I understand that confessionally Christian schools are not as enamored with “freedom of thought at any cost” like their liberal arts counterparts; I get that evangelical higher learning institutions are trying to maintain a precarious balance between intellectual integrity and nurturing creedal faith commitments. All the same, Enns is not Bishop Spong or something–he’s asking questions about Holy Writ that the rest of the Church (and world at large) have been asking since the 19th century. Like it or not, those who read and love the Bible are going to begin pondering its more troubling aspects with greater honesty and ideological flexibility.

Heresy-hunting is far from the world’s worst problem. (Next time, I’m going to blog about sex trafficking. Please try to refrain from throwing yourself off a building.) Nonetheless, it is a downer. As I mused last year, sometimes I wonder why I even bother participating in this kind of ‘dialogue’–it all seems so insular. Sometimes I just want to throw my blog into the ocean (so to speak) and becoming a wandering hermit…with my wife and child, of course. But for now, I suppose I’ll leave everyone with an easily-rebuttable maxim: If you don’t have something kind to blog, don’t blog anything at all.

Related:

Mike Todd’s The Shack Film casting call

John MacArthur launches Nothing Must Change tour

Heretic Hunter video

Brad Cummings and Wayne J have something constructive to say about all of this in their Doctrine Police podcast at The God Journey


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    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

    Illumination and Darkness: An Anne Rice Feature from Burnside Writer's Collective
    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
    God's Ultimate Passion: A Trinity of Frank Viola interview on Next Wave: Part I, Part II, Part III
    Review: Furious Pursuit by Tim King, from The Ooze
    Church Planting Chat from Next-Wave
    Review: Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, from Next-Wave

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