Thinking Out Loud

May 20, 2019

The Colorization of Your Bible

On the weekend I realized that several articles we’ve done here at Thinking Out Loud and at Christian Book Shop Talk have a common theme: The progressively increasing use of color in Bibles. By this I don’t mean the addition of illustrations, such as is found in Children’s Bibles such as The Picture Bible or The Action Bible,

but rather the use of color in otherwise unedited, full-text editions.

There also isn’t time to talk about Biblezines, such as these three (lower right of photo) produced by The Gideons in Canada, with beautiful photography running through every page. Besides, they aren’t full Bible editions either, but contain selected themed text, with the Gospel of John complete at the back…

I’m sure it began with covers. I can’t imagine that black was always the cover color of choice. Evangelist Bob Harrington used a cherry red Bible which apparently some found offensive. He countered with, “The Bible should be read;” a homonym pun he repeated (and repeated) at successive appearances in the same churches.

Red letter Bibles are not that old. Wikipedia tells us:

The inspiration for rubricating the Dominical words comes from Luke, 22:20: “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which I shed for you.” On 19 June 1899, Louis Klopsch, then editor of The Christian Herald magazine, conceived the idea while working on an editorial. Klopsch asked his mentor Rev. Thomas De Witt Talmage what he thought of a testament with the Dominical words rubricated and Dr. Talmage replied, “It could do no harm and it most certainly could do much good.”

Klopsch published the first modern red letter edition New Testament later in 1899. The first modern, fully rubricated bible was published in 1901. The rubricated bible instantly became popular, and is sometimes favored by Protestant Christians in the United States. Especially in King James Version editions, this format is useful because quotation marks are absent.

But we want to look at more recent developments.

Even as early as 2010, I noted the following Bibles that were offered for sale by a prominent online Christian retailer, and asked readers to reader decide if we are really so excited about Bible engagement that we needed all these permutations, or if the marketers had gone a little crazy on us (and no, I am not making these up):

  • The Veggie Tales Bible
  • The Soldier’s Bible
  • The Grandmother’s Bible
  • The Duct Tape Bible
  • The Busy Life Bible (“Inspiration even if you have only a minute a day”)
  • The Chunky Bible
  • The God Girl Bible (only in “snow white”)
  • The Wisdom and Grace Bible for Young Women of Color
  • The Waterproof Bible (useful in frequently flooded U.S. states)
  • The Pray for a Cure Bible (in pink)
  • The Divine Health Bible
  • The Wild About Horses Bible
  • The Fire Bible

The cover colors offered were just as varied:

  • Raspberry
  • Melon
  • Razzleberry
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Caramel
  • Espresso
  • Toffee
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Glittery Grape Butterfly
  • Plum
  • Lavender (with flowers!)
  • Black Cherry
  • Distressed Umber (?)
  • Mocha/aqua

and remember this was before the “duo-tone” type of Bibles became more entrenched, ultimately exceeding the traditional “bonded leather” editions in terms of popularity.

In January of 2017, we reported on the trend that developed out of a convergence of adult coloring books and scrap-booking. People were apparently coloring the text pages of their Bibles and not everyone was happy with the results.

Bible Journaling 2

Bible Journaling 1

In 2017, Tyndale Publishing House decided to help some aspiring artists kickstart their personalization projects by creating The Inspire Bible, available now in a half dozen different editions.

The primary market for these is women, so I don’t actually own one. This page sample was captured online, and then I darkened it considerably so you would see the graphic art material which is actually printed in a much lighter tone.

They will disagree, but rival publisher Zondervan has never come with anything quite as striking in terms of color, print process (including the page edges) and overall aesthetics for the NIV. Meanwhile Tyndale is about to issue a girls version of Inspire.

Then last week, I discovered that even Bible tabs had joined the party. You can’t buy the ones pictured at Christian bookstores or major Christian online vendors, but through independent sources.

Of course, not every innovation pleases everyone. Just last week someone reacted to the NRSV Pride Bible which we had noted in a past edition of Wednesday Connect:

This, they felt went too far, though minus its appellation, with its primary colors it would make a nice Bible for kids.

Finally, all this is nothing new; people having been been marking their Bibles according to theme for decades. Perhaps this well-marked copy was the inspiration for the various color-coded Bibles on the market today…

…such as the Rainbow Study Bible, pictured here:

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May 10, 2019

How to Accuse Someone of Heresy

Before you say:

  • He’s not a Christian
  • She doesn’t know the Lord
  • He’s probably in hell today

make sure you’ve worked your way through the normal method of drawing such conclusion.

Citation

You simply must quote the name of the work in question and page number. Include the quotation. If you can’t honestly bring yourself to purchase a copy of the author’s book, while I admire you for standing on your principles and not spending money on someone you don’t think you can support, know that you have forfeited the right to critique their writing. There is no need to read further.

Identify

Make clear what it is in the quotation that you feel is worthy of examination. Everyone else may be reading this and seeing “A” but if you feel “B” is present, note both the impact and implications of the authors words. State what you see the author saying. At this stage avoid citing third parties. This is about what you want to express concerning the author.

Verify (1)

Make sure you’re not ‘proof-texting’ the author. Don’t use pull-quotes to deliberately be provocative if the body of the larger paragraph doesn’t support your thesis. Is the author using sarcasm, humor, etc.? Jesus himself used hyperbole on several occasions in his teaching. (People who feel they have been called to defend the faith against heresy are, for reasons that escape me, generally lacking a sense of humor.) I know one particular author who is not known as a humorist, but did one title totally tongue-in-cheek. And certain people will always miss that sort of thing.

Verify (2)

Do the research for yourself. Don’t quote someone else. And make sure that person has followed these steps. (The propagation of the KJV-Only movement happened only because people built a foundation on ‘so-and-so says.’ In fact the whole thing can be traced back to two individuals, with very little primary research done by others.)

Compare

Now that you’ve followed those steps, compare what the author says verse-by-verse with scripture and make the case that there is definitely a conflict.

Avoid Generalization

Just because an author can be faulted on an individual point does not mean that their ministry has a whole deserves to be labelled heretical. (I would be greatly hurt if you called me a heretic just because I have views on eschatology that are different from yours. Which, by the way, I do.) For more on this, Google the phrase ‘logical fallacies.’ 

Civility 

Avoid name calling at all costs. Even if the person is a ___________________, it diminishes your argument. I would go so far to say it completely undermines your argument.

Repent

If the tide of public opinion on a particular author is positive and your view is negative, ask yourself why you are the lone prophet in the wilderness. Look for the fruit. If there’s fruit, and it’s good fruit, God is using them. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” – Romans 14:4

Humility

I would want to avoid the actual charge, “Heresy!” Sufficient to say you have concerns. And don’t even begin to express opinions about the eternal destiny of someone based on what you’ve written. Even if every charge you make about doctrinal aberration is correct, you don’t know that.

April 18, 2019

Book Review: The Baggage Handler

I am reviewing a fiction title for the first time in many years.

The Baggage Handler actually released a few weeks ago. I had read the book in February — on an airplane appropriately — but never wrote anything at the time because it wasn’t releasing until March 26th. Then, that date simply flew by unnoticed.

The premise: Michael, David and Gillian all pass through the airport on the same day and no, they don’t end up with each other’s luggage. But there is a luggage mix-up to be sure, with varying degrees of consequences. There is a baggage handler, who seems to work two locations at once; the airport itself and the downtown lost-luggage facility.

And the key to the story is in that word baggage. Don’t think luggage or suitcases, rather this is all about the metaphorical baggage we all carry around, a moment of discovery for all three characters in the story when they try to retrieve their belongings.

Not surprisingly then, author David Rawlings describes himself as a writer of “stories for those who want to dive deeper.” (His follow-up, releasing in December is about a couples’ counsellor.)

It must be said that both the cover design and the decision to release the first edition in hardcover leaves the book bearing a striking similarity to similar titles by David Gregory; Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, A Day with a Perfect Stranger, etc. These titles, as well as similar ones by Andy Andrews, ask us to temporarily suspend belief as to plausibility and accept certain plot contrivances in order to learn a greater lesson.

Bouncing back and forth between the three central characters means the book moves along at good pace, and for those who want to “dive deeper” in a book club setting or even on a personal level, there is a short collection of discussion questions breaking the book into five sections.

My personal disappointment with the book was that as a longtime reader of Christian books in general, I kept waiting for God to show up. Somewhere. On a single page, perhaps. After all, Thomas Nelson put their imprint on it.

There’s no real definition for what makes Christian fiction and I suppose that on the spectrum of books that preach and books ‘written from a Christian perspective;’ this one is in the latter category. At least I hope so.

On the other hand, as someone with much exposure to both Andy Andrews and David Gregory, I see the value in this novel, and already recommended it to someone.

We all have things in our past we need to deal with.

March 21, 2019

America’s Last Significant Christian Bookstore Chain, LifeWay is Shutting Its Doors

On January 6th, 2018 the iconic James Draper Tower of the LifeWay complex in downtown Nashville was demolished. Thursday’s announcement of the closing of the retail chain sends even bigger shock waves. [Source: Tennessean – see below]

Yesterday, Religion News Service reported:

LifeWay Christian Resources announced Wednesday (March 20) it will close all 170 of its brick-and-mortar stores this year.

That comes as LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, shifts its resources online.

Local news media The Tennessean reported:

The company plans to shift to a digital strategy as consumers increasingly rely on online shopping, a challenge that retailers face nationally. LifeWay resources, such as online Bible studies and worship plans, will be offered at LifeWay.com, through the LifeWay Customer Service Center and through its network of church partners

“LifeWay is fortunate to have a robust publishing, events and church services business. Our retail strategy for the future will be a greater focus on digital channels, which are experiencing strong growth,” [CEO Brad] Waggoner said. “LifeWay is moving into a new era with a strategic digital focus that will prepare us for the future and allow us to better serve our customers.”

At LifeWay’s Facts and Trends website, more details:

…The timing of store closings will vary depending on local circumstances. LifeWay expects all brick-and-mortar stores to close by the end of the year…

…In one month, LifeWay interacts with five times as many people through its digital environments as it does through LifeWay stores…

Unlike the 2017 closing of another Christian retail chain, Family Christian Stores, this is not a receivership. The FCS closing affected over 3,000 employees and also devastated publishers, music companies and giftware suppliers who were also sent reeling with the closing of Send the Light, a large wholesale distributor. FCS closed 240 stores in comparison to LifeWay’s current 170. In contrast, the website for Parable explains that, “Parable Christian Stores are locally owned and operated franchise stores run by people who desire to resource their community with Christian products.”

But there is no doubt the LifeWay decision will have an impact on authors, musicians, and a host of other creatives who make the products that Christian bookstores sell. It will also have ripple-effect repercussions on everything from how Christian products are marketed and promoted to Christian music concert tours.

But not every author, musician, or film producer is affected as the RNS story reminded us that many had their products outright banned by the chain:

[Rachel Held] Evans said Wednesday that she doesn’t rejoice over any bookstore closing and she is mindful that LifeWay’s closing means many people will lose their jobs.

But, she said, “for too long Lifeway’s fundamentalist standards have loomed over Christian publishing, stifling the creativity and honesty of writers of faith.

“I hope this news reinforces to writers, editors, and marketers across the industry that we don’t have to conform to Southern Baptist doctrine and culture to sell books. Readers are hungry for literature that embraces the complexity, nuance, and ragged edges of real-life faith and for bookshelves that reflect the diversity of the Church.”

Other people on Twitter responding to the closure didn’t share Evans’ compassion and were outright gleeful that the chain, long known for its restrictive practices was shutting down. “News we can celebrate;” said one, while @SBCExplainer, an official SBC account, countered with, “[L]et’s band together to dispel any notions that LifeWay is ‘going under’. LifeWay will continue to be the largest Christian resources provider in the world.” 

Patheos blogger Jayson D. Bradley, who himself once worked at a Family Christian store, observed, “Without intending to, LifeWay and Family Christian Stores helped create an evangelical ghetto. By choosing what was orthodox enough to sell and then only carrying what sold, they helped create the hyper right-wing political evangelical culture we all get to enjoy now.”

As the story broke last night in local markets where the company has locations, several reports indicated that store management knew their closing date was coming at the end of May. SBCExplainer also noted that outlets on seminary campuses would also be closing. Also included in the closing is the new flagship store built less than a year ago in the new LifeWay building after the first property was sold and demolished. (See picture above.)

More information was being posted on the store’s FAQ page.

 

This is developing story; check back for updates.

 

March 3, 2019

The Internet, The Church, and Accelerated Social Change

close-to-home-on-blogging1This is part two (see yesterday) of a two-part article.

In the setup in part one, we indicated that the influence of rock music in general and The Beatles in particular caused some sweeping changes, particularly in the U.S., in terms of fashion, drugs, war resistance and the sexual liberation. Some of this may have been inevitable, and there were certainly other influences at play, but the 1960s were essentially two decades worth of change sandwiched into one.

So what about another media (for lack of a better word) which influenced the Church?

The effect of the internet on Christianity or Evangelicalism varies depending on which aspect of the technology you’re discussing.

Email simply replaced snail-mail. Communications happened instantly, and at a fraction of the cost, but it’s hard to argue that this changed anything within church culture.

Church websites simply replaced the marquee at the front of the church building, allowing churches to opt instead for larger changeable letters adorned with pithy sayings. No need to post the pastor’s name or the service times, since all that was now on the website.

Video on demand or live-streaming of weekend services simply replaced buying time on local TV outlets, or for the blessed few, on a network of stations.

No, none of these things changed anything in and of themselves.

The real change happened on social media. Online bulletin boards, chat rooms, etc. made it possible for dialog to happen and made it easy for people to enter the conversation regardless of where they lived or their level of education.

But the biggest change occurred with the type of thing you’re reading now: Weblogs, or as they are better known, blogs.

While I can’t cite specific years as I did in part one of the article, here are some effects that I would say took place from about 2003 to 2009.

Blog ChildBlogs and BooksIt wasn’t Christian publishers who came up with using social media to promote new releases, rather the conversations simply started happening over the latest title or the newest author. For reasons I’ll get back to in the final point, the period was a golden age for non-fiction books and publishers were tripping over themselves to place new voices under contract.

I specify non-fiction because the publisher relationship with social media today tends to be more focused on mommy bloggers critiquing and giving away spoilers in the latest Amish or romantic or historical fiction title. Some of these make it through three books a week and publishers are quite willing to supply even relatively small blogs with freebies.

But that wasn’t always the way. The original discussions were all about doctrinal, or Christian Living titles. Maybe a devotional. Eventually, the one Christian children’s book that ever got serious blog review, The Jesus Storybook Bible.

The Growth of Calvinism – This really isn’t anything new, neither should it come as a surprise. Any advance of media technology, or any general cultural shift in communications has been seized on by the Reformed community. Just look at one of the first megachurches (Crystal Cathedral, Reformed Church in America), one of the first TV ministries (Day of Discovery, Christian Reformed), the organizations which dominate our present publishing community (Zondervan, Baker, Eerdman’s, etc., all Reformed); look at these and you see that Reformers have always been there in any available media. (My running joke: Why are there no Salvation Army bloggers? Because while everybody else is writing about it, the Salvation Army is out on the streets doing it.)

But while the internet promoted Calvinism, in some ways the form of the doctrine that was promoted was also changed by it. There exists a type of militant Calvinism today that has polarized the broad Christian community. Reformed parents couldn’t give their children the comic book The Action Bible until the publisher provided a sanctified edition with text from the English Standard Version, the Reformed community’s new Bible of choice.

blogThe Internet Celebrity – The blog Stuff Christians Like launched Jon Acuff overnight. The blog with the weird name, Without Wax, introduced the world to Nashville pastor Pete Wilson. The Naked Pastor developed a cult following, especially when some of the characters in the illustrations turned out to be actually naked. John Shore, Bill Kinnon, Tim Challies, Skye Jethani, Zach Nielson, and others like them were must reading for their constituencies. The Pyromaniacs aka Team Pyro proved that graphics matter, with their first-rate images appearing throughout their articles and attracting new followers.

But in a 2016 Happy Rant Podcast, Barnabas Piper and Ted Kluck noted that many of the Reformed blogging superstars have churches that are not as significantly large as their digital footprint might indicate. They enjoy a fame disproportionate to their church attendance. Furthermore some pastors, like Willow’s Bill Hybels, didn’t blog at all.

There’s also the few — of which this blog is one — that managed to attract a following without the author being a pastor or a published author. Voices that might not have been heard if this form of social media had not existed.

Homogenization – Despite the plethora of Christian blogs out there, there was a sense we were all reading from the same page. Re-blogging material was more common and more accepted in the early days, and the water cooler topics in church offices — especially among younger leaders — tended to mirror the topics being discussed on the blogs.

Emergent / Emerging – While the terms are now in disuse, there is much evidence that whatever the Christian blogosphere did for Calvinism, it did even more so for the various strains of the Emergent Church, including the Ancient/Future mini-movement that I feel was Emergent’s best byproduct; along with kick-starting the whole missional conversation.

I’m not sure if it was Tony Jones or not, but recently a writer from that era wrote a piece saying that Emergent was, in effect, now past its sell-by date. I have to agree, which makes it more interesting when some watchdog blog starts slamming the now non-existent movement. Which brings us to…

bloggingdogs-thumbDiscernment / Watchdog Ministries – The blogosphere in general, if nothing else, is all about being offended, so the discernment bloggers, the watchdog bloggers, those champions for truth and right doctrine (as long as it’s their truth and right doctrine) are a natural fit for social media.

The problem is that the average Christian, doing a Google search, has no idea when he or she has come upon one of these, and may not catch the watchdog’s own biases. The blogosphere, like the entire internet, has few filters.

Furthermore, there are so many targets for these writers, so many ways to instill fear, so many common enemies, that it’s easy to go on the attack and forget that those attacked are real people with real lives and real families. I think it’s harder to hate a person after you’ve shaken his hand, but I may be wrong.

Did Christian internet bullies contribute to the suicide of a pastor’s teenage son? We asked that question here a few years ago. We’ll never know the answer, but some are willing to speculate.

Connections – I met British Columbia blogger Rick Apperson somewhere in the comments section of my short lived Religion blog at USAToday. I met American pastor Clark Bunch through blogs and would consider him an online friend. Dare I say that I’ve made dozens and dozens of contacts through blogging, some of which I consider the most significant in my life, even though we’ve never met face to face.

I’ve also discovered an affinity toward people with whom I think alike and with whom I think quite differently. And I am so grateful for having spent nearly two years doing a column (albeit a news feed) for Christianity Today. I still keep in touch — mostly through Twitter — with author Drew Dyck.

Eccesiology – One of the main benefits of the early years of Christian bloggers was the rapid increase in the number of people who started planting churches. Called “the extreme sport of ministry,” church plants turned up in various shapes and sizes, with lay people who had never had a previous interest in Ecclesiology — and who had certainly never been asked — were writing and turning out blog posts and print books on the subject of doing church and creating a different kind of church (a phrase that if Googled, probably results in millions of hits.)

Growth of BloggingI listed this last, even though it could have been first, because it sums up a lot of what was taking place in a very short time: There was an explosion of ideas. Conversations were flying fast and furious about church governance, leadership models and worship styles. That the average parishioner cared so much about what was taking place drove all us into a deeper consideration of what it means to be Christ’s church.

The discussions and ideas were reflected in books and especially in a parallel explosion of conferences. People loved their church and loved the church. No idea wasn’t worth consideration. No speaker or writer wasn’t worth hearing.

It was the best of times.

January 11, 2019

When Should Christian Bookstores Pull Authors from Shelves and Online Listings?

Some of you know that when I’m not writing this blog and editing Christianity 201; when I’m not leading or assisting in weekend worship at a local church; when I’m not occasionally speaking at a church; during the rest of the time I am making decisions for our local Christian bookstore.

One of the hardest decisions I made in 2018 was to remove books by Bill Hybels from our shelves. It isn’t that those books don’t contain much truth and that many of them have been personally beneficial to me. It was just that — with shelf space at a premium in our small town store — we didn’t need the distraction.

I didn’t just make the decision, but personally removed the books, title by title, and put them in a box where they remain today. There were more than a dozen titles. Bill was a big influence on me and I have to say doing this really, really hurt, but as long as there were new ongoing developments in the story, I felt we needed to do this.

Christian bookstores have pulled product many times in the past. I got into this business through the Christian music industry first as a broadcaster and then as a performer and later as a vendor of records and cassettes. I once sat in a restaurant in Newport Beach, California and was interviewed for the job of assistant editor of Contemporary Christian Music magazine. My friends called me a ‘walking encyclopedia’ on CCM, and I given about seven seconds of audio, could name just about any song and artist, including that obscure cut at the end of side two.

When Amy Grant and Sandy Patti went through divorce, many stores pulled product. Oddly enough, those divorces are still in their past, but their music is back on the shelves. Divorce became more widely accepted among Evangelicals. I would argue that the whole LGBT thing in the church is where divorce was a couple of generations back. And I expect that, as in the case of Ray Boltz or Jennifer Knapp, stores still actively pull product when an artist comes out.

Why all this today? Because I’m staring at the shelves under “M” for James MacDonald. Christian radio stations are rapidly dropping his program (see Wednesday’s column) and James is trying to control the situation by announcing the shutdown of Walk in the Word’s broadcast division. There are calls for him to resign. Unlike those who were divorced, or Hybels’ flirtatiousness, the issue with MacDonald seems to be money and the control of money. It’s definitely his Achilles Heel.

Once again, those books contain much truth. James MacDonald is a great communicator and his writing includes a constant, unabashed call to repentance. He has served many people well in that area of his life. But at this point, I wonder if those books are also going to prove to be a distraction.

This isn’t about judgment. It’s about a shortage of shelf space, and a host of new, upcoming, younger authors who deserve to be heard. Some of those will prove themselves as the leading Christian voices to their generation. The cream rises to the top. By their fruit they will be known. Some will disappear off the scene within five years. Again, it’s not about judgment.

It’s also too easy for stores just to keep ordering key names; somewhat akin to living in a county — as I do — where every time there’s an election, people simply vote for the incumbents. So Max Lucado, Tim Keller, Mark Batterson, Lee Strobel, Stormie Omartian, John Bevere, Joyce Meyer, Neil Anderson, etc.; are always assured their latest title will get picked up at the local store level.

And honestly, if the sales reps came around with new titles by Hybels and MacDonald there are store owners who simply aren’t investing time keeping up online and would simply order those titles unwittingly.

The best analogy I ever heard was when a local pastor called my wife and I “gatekeepers.” I never thought of our role that way, but it’s a responsibility that needs to be taken very seriously. Conversely, pastors need to guard who they quote in sermons. They can easily grant authority and credibility to an author whose life doesn’t line up with their teachings.

Chances are, at the end of today, James MacDonald will still be on our shelves, but we’ll monitor the situation closely before making a knee-jerk reaction. Prayer helps as well!

November 23, 2018

I Kissed Dating Goodbye: The Survivors Speak Out

So again, when I posted a piece on Tuesday about the upcoming documentary film based on the variety of experiences of readers of  I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I had no idea that the film was actually going live online in a matter of minutes. I quickly signed up to watch I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and here we are just a few days later returning to the topic.

What I wrote on Tuesday was about the notion that even though an author changes his or her mind on a previously written book; it doesn’t guarantee that readers will want to travel on that same journey. The line, “I think he’s wrong now;” has, honestly speaking, haunted me all week, and I’ve found myself seeing that person differently all week.

Joshua Harris’ wife: “It was a good book; well, I don’t know if I can say it was good book; it was a well-intentioned book.”

Harris talks about being thrust into the spotlight, and into the pastorate, at a very young age. But at the same time, he got married about a year after the book’s printing, and at a personal level, had moved beyond the tension implicit in being single. For the record, he didn’t kiss his wife before the wedding. The doubts about the book came much later.

Harris: “For a long time I was afraid to re-examine the book I’m best known for.”

I originally thought the book and this subsequent documentary was going to focus on the challenges of adopting the courtship model as opposed to the dating model. But really, much of the documentary is focused on the Purity Movement with programs like True Love Waits.

Christine Gardner: “What I found fascinating was the Evangelical church using sex to sell abstinence.

The film contains many Skype interviews with readers from around the world reflecting how the book helped or hurt them.

Harris: “A desire to make a message as effective as possible could actually mislead people.”

One thing that Joshua Harris notes is the importance that was placed on the book at the time, and the potential influence it would have if the book was given to you by a parent or a pastor. In those situations, there was less likelihood of being able to challenge the premise of the book.

The book also created a number of “weird” situations in churches and communities which were considered normal, and thereby caused any other type of situation to be considered abnormal.

Harris: “In trying to fix the problems of dating with the model of courtship, we created a new set of problems.”

Thomas Umstattd Jr. (to Harris): “The reality is the marriage rate in the church has dropped significantly… We’re just not getting married as a generation… You were not the only person writing on this topic; you weren’t the only person writing popular books on this topic.  I think what happened is, you had the best title.”

Umstattd sees the formulaic approach of the courtship model as being no different than the prosperity gospel.

Activist Elizabeth Esther: “It was held up as, ‘This is the gold standard by which you should live your life.’ It was kind of a money-back guarantee. If you do it this way you will have a marriage that is happy and fulfilling and have mind-blowing sex for the rest of your life…”

Joshua Harris then embarks on a study of how things work now, in the world of dating apps and hookup culture.

Harris: “Neither the strict rules of courtship, or the rejection of rules in Tinder meet the deepest longings of the human heart. Both of these extremes seem to share an exalted view of the role sex should play in our lives.”

Even though it’s a documentary, I run the risk of filling this page with spoilers. (I’d love to see a published transcript.) I wouldn’t want anyone who is interested in this to miss out on watching because I summarized too much here. I’ve hit some highlights from the first 45 minutes of the 75-minute film.

There is archival interview footage interspersed from the Canadian 100 Huntley Street television show. In the last half, Harris goes on to interview author Dale Kuehne, author Debra Hirsch, author Debra Fileta, and author Dannah Gresh. The latter surprised me — I’m familiar with her books — insofar as the great kinship she has with Harris in terms of also re-examining the purity emphasis of her writing and seminars.

Gresh: “We use the word purity as a synonym for virginity. It’s not. Not in the scriptures. I work with girls all the time who are virgins, but they’re very impure.”

The book definitely put a large number of young people into some very awkward situations because of the expectations it raised. As the film asks, what if your views on sex and relationships at the time you were 21 were used to shape an entire generation of Christian kids? Millions of kids? I can’t imagine being thrust into that role.

I’d probably rethink some of it when I was older and had more life experience. And more wisdom. 

Harris: “Coming to a place of seeing dating as healthy was a big step.”


• Your journey to buying the DVD or watching the film for free begins at this website. You’ll be emailed a code which will allow you to view the documentary.

I never discussed the movie production itself. The cinematography, the sound, lighting, scripting, pacing etc. are all first-rate. Producer/Director Jessica Van der Wyngaard is to be congratulated on an excellent project.

November 22, 2018

Christian Authors Who Go By Initials Only

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:32 am

Hint

“I’m not mentioning any names but their initials are…”

You’ve heard that before, I’m sure. So here are some of Christian publishing’s bestselling authors, people who go by two initials followed by a last name.

You have two assignments:

  • What is the missing surname?
  • What do the initials stand for?

Gather the family together and let’s play!

1.  C. S. __________

2.  A. W. __________

3.  A. B. __________

4.  R. T. __________

5.  R. C. __________

6.  J. I. __________

7.  N. T. __________

8.  D. A. __________

9.  G. K. __________

10.  E. M. __________

Bonus author:

J. R. R. __________

(Don’t forget the second part of the challenge: What do the initials stand for? Answers in the comment section in a couple of hours.)

November 20, 2018

When a Christian Author Has a Change in Thinking

For over 20 years, I’ve spent a minimum of two days per week in a Christian bookstore which my wife and I own. We’ve seen books come and go for reasons other than the normal life cycle of publishing. We’ve heard of authors having affairs. We’ve learned of writers who have adopted a position on an issue which makes their publishing contract untenable with their publisher. We’ve seen testimony and biography books where it was revealed the story would have been suited to the fiction section.

I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris is unique. The author asked for the books — there are at least three related titles that I’m aware of — to be withdrawn when the current inventory is exhausted. He feels that the book is not a helpful or healthy approach to boy/girl relationships before marriage and has worked with a documentary filmmaker to give voice to the readers who found taking his approach harmful and counterproductive. That documentary releases online today!

This does not for a moment change the minds of some people. There will be pockets of mostly conservative people throughout North America — the book’s primary audience — who will continue to follow a courtship model for their sons and daughters, which is often associated with the idea of early (young) marriage.

But it’s different when you discover you know one of them.

A longtime friend asked me to order two copies of Harris’ book for him. I know this person well, and while he’s not exactly an ultra conservative, he does take a traditional stand on some things. I asked if he was serious. I thought maybe it was a bit of a joke, or a test to see if I was aware of recent events. I explained that the author had withdrawn the book, though copies are still floating around.

He replied, “I think he’s wrong now.”

Didn’t see that coming, though in hindsight it’s not unthinkable. I just wonder what Joshua Harris would say to that? The idea that he had it right and has now been sucked into some liberal vortex.

In the end, I think both Harris and my friends need to follow their hearts, though it concerns me that some people felt it took their lives in a direction where they waited for their Prince(ss) Charming to come along and then he/she never showed up. It took away the opportunity to be proactive.

But are Millennials proactive? Many have cocooned into an online world where dating apps offer their only hope of making that opposite-sex connection. Should Helicopter Mom and Helicopter Dad be stepping into the situation setting up a courtship scenario with the future in-laws? 

On the other hand, some of the kids my friend works with are not from Christian families. There is value in the group activity situations which avoid the pressure of 1:1 evenings, but it is these very activities that Millennials seem to find uninteresting. To his credit, my friend works in trying to create environments which can involve these very kids, but once they attend, they need to know that it might be on them to take the initiative to connect with that person across the room.

Also, Joshua Harris didn’t know any Millennials when he wrote the book 15 years ago, in 2003. (He was in fact home-schooled and admits to not knowing much outside that milieu.) Some would argue that we need his model more now than ever. But some of the people who were the book’s collateral damage interviewed in the documentary would say we need less of that school of thought.


More info at I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye

October 6, 2018

Bestselling Christian Books (at Least Where I Live)

Filed under: books, Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:38 pm

It’s much later in the day and we didn’t have a blog post today. So I thought I’d post this newly-released chart from the local Christian bookstore! Feel free to express your opinions on any of them; that’s what the internet is for, right?

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