Christian Culture, Flimsy Faith
[This, readers, would be the perfect opportunity to write a post for my Banned Books Link Up this week!] While I had planned to write a post about a fourth “Banned Book” (John Green’s Looking for Alaska), the irony of this post by Rachel Held Evans was just too much to handle.
For those of who you don’t know, there was a giant kerfuffle back in the spring over Rachel Held Evans being instructed to take the word “vagina” out of her book, out of fear that Christian bookstores wouldn’t carry. Naturally, the Christian sphere of the interwebs went OFF and produced petitions, t-shirts and innumerable blog posts (I contributed one myself!).
And today, Rachel announced that despite the controversy and the public pressure, Lifeway would not be carrying her book.
Lifeway certainly has every right to choose its own inventory, I think the notion that Christians should dance carefully around reality, that we should speak in euphemisms and only tell comfortable, sanitized stories, is a destructive one that has profoundly affected the evangelical culture as a whole.
And I could not agree more – and what appropriate timing, Lifeway! Right in the middle of Banned Books week!
I am lucky enough to have an advanced reader’s copy of The Year of Biblical Womanhood (and will have a review posted when I get word that it’s okay). Now, I’m to the left of Rachel on a lot of things, which naturally skews my view on censorship and what is “offensive,” but…there’s a lot more out there that’s offensive than the anatomical term for a body part.
I have a feeling the ban comes more from the “controversial” egalitarian ideas that Rachel espouses (men and women should be functionally as well as ontologically equal? That’s controversial? Sigh).
Ironically, in the non-sanitized real world outside of Christian culture, controversy is what sells books, not gets them banned. Do you think Naomi Wolf’s (awful, horrible, no good, reductive and unscientific) book Vagina would have sold as many copies if there wasn’t a giant controversy surrounding her pseudo-science and transphobic thesis? Probably not.
At this point, it’s basically a proven fact: banning a book drives up its sales and increases interest in the book – in some ways, you haven’t “made it” as an author until your book gets banned or challenged somewhere.
But for those who now will not have access to the book, it is a pity and a shame. What sort of Christian world do we live in where we must scrub away opposing views and challenges to what we always thought? Is our faith that fragile that a frank reference to anatomy must be sanitized and scrubbed and spoken of euphemistically? If it is, then we have a massive problem in the church, and it's not a woman talking about her vagina.
(On a related note, Lifeway still carries Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage, which contains explicit references to anal and oral sex).