Southern Baptist bookstores have quietly suspended a four-year-old
program that warned customers to read with “discernment” books by several
up-and-coming authors whose books “could be considered inconsistent with
historical evangelical theology.”
Chris Rodgers, the director of product standards and
customer relations for Nashville-based LifeWay, said the warnings were discontinued
because they were “irrelevant to our customers.”
“There was little to no interest in it,” Rodgers said. “No
one asked about the authors.”
The program flagged the writings of several emergent authors
with labels which advised readers to exercise caution and “extra discernment” when
reading particular books.
The labels provided the address to a website to learn more
about the work or author; the website has since been disabled.
The program recently came under attack in a blog post from
Christian musician Shaun Groves, who was upset that LifeWay was willing to warn
customers about a book but still continued to sell it.
The label read: “Read With Discernment. This book may
contain thoughts, ideas, or concepts that could be considered inconsistent with
historical evangelical theology. Therefore we encourage you to read it with
LifeWay, the official publisher and book store of the
Southern Baptist Convention, downplayed the program and the decision to end it,
saying the labels were not warnings but rather an attempt to provide customers
with more information.
“They were not warnings; there is no way at all you could
read those as warnings,” Rodgers said. “The program has been called
controversial, (but) the only real controversy was the Groves blog.”
But some authors of the marked books, including popular
authors Rob Bell, Donald Miller, Brian McLaren and William Young, were happy
with the decision to terminate the program.
McLaren, a sometimes controversial emergent author whose
books were flagged, said a decision to censor writings by another Christian
went against the Baptist tradition of personal conscience.
“I think it is concerning when, especially a Baptist
bookstore acts as if a central organization can make decisions on which books
are accepted and rejected,” McLaren said. “Yes, I am very pleased (to see it ended).”
Young, who wrote the New York Times best-seller The Shack,
said he wasn’t bothered by the program, but still thought that LifeWay made “a good
move” in ending it.
When Young heard his book had been labeled, he shared a
laugh with his family and friends. “Like most people are saying, ‘Put it on
every book, or you put it on no book,’” Young said.
Young feels, however, that LifeWay had good motives and
understands the difficulty of their situation.
“LifeWay has a tough job, they have to figure out how to be
a part of a world in which ideas are larger than their community, but still maintain
their allegiance to their denomination,” Young said.
(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical
Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new
Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank
you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or
issues with items we run, please contact [email protected]
or call 919-847-2127.)