Diversity and Christian Publishing

Diversity and Christian Publishing

So! I was in a discussion at what has become one of my favorite blogs, Diversity Between the Pages. The latest chat posed a question, asking why ethnically diverse Christian Fiction is so important. I’ve blogged about this topic before, and I wanted to post my answer from last Saturday’s discussion here, slightly edited to make more sense as a standalone post. 🙂

Among other good reasons for publishing more diverse books, I don’t think Christian publishing would want to fall on the wrong side of history.

By that, I mean like Crusaders who murdered people in the name of Christ in medieval times. Or unscrupulous Church leaders who contributed to the need for the Protestant Reformation. Or preachers in the U.S. who condoned and pushed for American slavery over the pulpit. I know those examples may sound like extreme comparisons to fiction publishing, but I believe the principle is comparable. In super-simplified and understated terms, when we don’t value humanity as we should, the legacy we leave isn’t too pretty.

The Bible speaks of those from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” who were redeemed by Christ (Revelation 5:9, NASB). I think it’s important for Christian Fiction to reflect that kind of diversity—especially now, at a critical time when there’s a struggle and a fight going on for the rights, the dignity, and the very lives of people of color. We wouldn’t want Christian publishing’s legacy to be, “At that critical time, we still shied away from publishing diverse books because it didn’t make sense to us, money wise,” or “We didn’t think it was essential,” or “We discussed it but couldn’t get our ducks in a row to make it happen.”

Now, I’m not saying that Christian publishing is deliberately devaluing humanity. Or that no one in Christian publishing sees the seriousness of the time we’re living in. But I do think it’s important to consider the picture we’re painting that people will look at, years down the road. Will the books we’ve published indeed reflect that we value all humanity? What will the lens of history reveal about what we’ve produced—and what we haven’t?

Even as I’m mentioning “the wrong side of history,” I don’t think Christian publishing has to come at this from a negative angle, producing from a place of what we don’t want to be, or just trying not to paint a bad picture. But literature is a huge part of any crucial point or movement in history. How positive and powerful a message it would send should Christian Fiction become more dynamically diverse now!

And when I talk about Christian publishing, yeah, I’m including myself. There’s so much more writing and publishing I need to do.

 

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The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytsma

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytsma

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

So. Is privilege in the United States real, or is it something that people imagine, for any number of reasons? Author Ken Wytsma takes a look at this issue in The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege.

In my book reviews, I normally don’t make a big point of the author’s race or gender. Nevertheless, I’ll note that this book, which is directed toward a Christian audience, was written by a white man. And, yes, a lot of people—especially white people—should read it. It’s important to bear in mind that the fight for racial equality in the U.S. isn’t something any one race should be fighting for alone.

I’ll also note that this book isn’t out to just broadcast grievances, to shame the country, and to make people feel guilty. No, this is about seeing the historical roots of a very real problem, as you can’t truly remedy anything without getting to the bottom of it. The author also includes action points, so readers won’t be left with this problem without any idea what to do next.

The book has so many compelling points, like the need not to merely do acts of justice, but to become just. Or the idea that people might think they’re following the golden rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) when really they’re following the silver rule (“Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t have them do to you.”) The silver rule is passive. The golden rule requires action.

I highly recommend this book for the Christian community. If you think racial issues are “just politics” or not something that Christians should be too concerned about, I’d encourage you all the more to read this.

 

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Social Issues

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing Early Reviewers for an honest review.

Five Gold Stars

Just MercyJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

I was on edge a good deal of the time while reading Just Mercy, much as I would be while reading a legal thriller, only these were accounts of actual people, actual trials, actual tragedies. Victims of wrongful condemnation. Incarcerated women and children abused behind prison walls. Racism, classism, and other -isms that feed off of insecurity, ignorance, fear.

Oh, I was previously aware, on a modest level, of the kind of inequities that Bryan Stevenson’s book brings to light concerning the nation’s criminal justice system, so there wasn’t anything particularly shocking here for me. But my conviction around humanity’s ongoing need for empathy and compassion was strengthened while reading through this compelling, and many times heartbreaking, narrative. It reaffirmed my belief that we have to look deeper, to listen more intently, to not be so quick to think that we’ve got the next individual all summed up, that we know his/her whole story–since, again and again, when we’re quick to assume “we know it all” already, it hinders us from actually listening and learning something. And, oftentimes, that something we’re missing could save our lives.

Stevenson’s work makes it quite clear that there’s so much more to be done to advance justice and mercy, which we all need. Yet, even incremental victories bring us closer to something better, and this book’s power is in its carrying and conveying the hope that better is indeed possible when we believe and work for it.

This should prove to be a timely narrative for millions of people.
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Note for my blog readers: not out of keeping with the nature of the subject matter, this book contains a minimal amount of profanity.