I am in no way a fan of Lifeway Publishing. The Southern Baptist curriculum publisher is, in my humble opinion, a giant money-making machine. They buy up the rights to produce curriculum for many top selling Christian books and brand-name Christian authors, in many ways capitalizing on those authors’ concepts. They then sell those books through the trade as “short discount” items, giving stores less than half of their usual margin. Huh? When is a book publisher not a book publisher? (And they aren’t the only one, David C. Cook invented the term “programmatic curriculum” so they could short-discount their non-dated curriculum in a similar manner.)
The sales on this stuff are so brisk that when we visited the Lifeway store in Nashville, they had a sales clerk somewhat permanently assigned to the aisle containing their adult curriculum. Their number one product, the workbook to Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby has sold enough copies to have long-recovered any developmental or research costs. The ethical thing to do at this point would be to call it — and several others — a regular book publication and drop the short discount. But if Lifeway has ever debated that possibility, I’ll never know. They have refused to answer any correspondence I’ve sent them on this issue for about three years. They’re Baptists. They don’t have to answer to me.
So it was hard to have any sympathy for Lifeway whatsoever when I saw this story about the company being caught in a classic case of double-speak. The magazine at left, Gospel Today, got pulled from their retail store shelves because it featured a cover story on — are you sitting down? — female pastors. Yes, I know a few Bible verses on this subject, also; but this is Lifeway, home of Beth Moore, the Southern Baptist equivalent of Joyce Meyer. (Or is Joyce Meyer the Charismatic equivalent of Beth Moore?)
Here’s how Kentucky writer and blogger Michael Spencer at Internetmonk summed it up so well in this editorial. I don’t share his biting anti-evangelical rhetoric, but I’ll grant that in this case, the comments are completely well-deserved:
Rereading the story of the story of Lifeway Christian stores pulling from sale a magazine with five female pastors on the cover, I was really overwhelmed with the vacuity of evangelicalism.
At what point is someone allowed to say that in those same Lifeway stores, the #1 selling Bible teaching marterials are the resources published by Lifeway by Beth Moore? When are we supposed to notice the dozens and dozens of Beth Moore books and workbooks? The Beth Moore aisle in most Lifeway stores? When are we supposed to notice that Beth Moore’s materials in Lifeway DWARF any male pastor or teacher? When do we get the exercise in pretzel logic that explains there’s no inconsistency in having a female Bible teacher with an audience larger than any pastor in a denomination that opposes women pastors?
When are we supposed to notice the howling hypocrisy of chattering endlessly about the tragedy and threat of women pastors, but pocketing who knows how much money from Beth Moore’s Bible teaching?
Moore can teach more individual Southern Baptists and in more churches (via video, etc) than any other Bible teacher, but as long as we have our Pharisaical lenses on, it can all be explained as within the boundaries we’ve drawn.
And you wonder why people equate evangelicals with an inability to think critically. It’s this kind of nonsense that makes any pretense to principle comedic. It’s the authority of the Bible….as we creatively construe it.
… If you link to the article, don’t miss the more than 70 comments that have been posted.