The Stranger recently posted an article detailing a recent marketing strategy Mark Driscoll implemented to boost reviews of his new book, Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ. Allegedly, Driscoll was spurred on by a less-than-positive review of the book by Stephanie Drury (from Stuff Christian Cultures Like). On Driscoll’s Web site this week, he announced they are giving away prizes like an iPad Mini every day in exchange for a review of the book on Amazon.
Legality aside, I was intrigued by this issue. I clicked on through to the Amazon reviews of Who Do You Think You Are, and immediately entered the strange, strange world of the modern Evangelical culture wars.
There were positive, thoughtful reviews from people who had read the book, but this category was undoubtedly the minority. There were reviews from people who simply wanted to win an iPad. There were reviews from people, like Ms. Drury, who were definitely not impressed with Mr. Driscoll’s entire oeuvre and wanted everyone to know it. And then there was a large rash of “other” reviews — most referencing iPads in some way or another — that went a different route. Some were angry, bordering on mean, but many of these reviews (which don’t mention anything about the book, BTW) were actually quite funny. I found myself giggling, which was a welcome relief from the feelings of helplessness that I normally experience while watching Christians rip each other to shreds in a public forum.
Many of the funny reviews are also effective social commentaries on the entire situation, like this one from Bob Diamond:
I haven’t yet read the whole book, but I have read the cover! It wouldn’t be honest for me to review this books contents, just like it wouldn’t be honest to buy reviews with promises of an iPad, so today I will be reviewing the cover. I really like how the cover doesn’t show Mark Driscoll’s face, so 3 stars there!
Not all of the comments are like this, of course. Many resort to cheap shots or easy moralizing. But for those commenters who didn’t — those who chose to use humor as a way to get their point across — it was a revelation for me.
We don’t need another post on Mark Driscoll, either for or against. We don’t need to talk about the moral implications of giving away prizes for favorable book reviews, or about detractors that are cruel in their critiques. What we need to talk about are the ways we as Christians need to get off the merry-go-round of vitriol in dialogue, of responding to every mini- and mega-theology debate that appears on our Twitter and Facebook feeds. There is quite enough of this going on.
What we need are more creative types, people who are willing to be funny, to point out how ridiculous we all are, in a way that refuses to “Other” our opponents. We need to build bridges by capitalizing on how absurd we all can be, with the gentle hope of redemption. But currently, it seems we are addicted to the self-serving circular nature of being offended, righteously defending our opinion/favorite book/pastor, and receiving negative feedback.
And the more the cycles continue, the more our tribe will fracture, and only a few authors and pastors and booksellers at the top will benefit from it all.
Let’s get off the merry-go-round, shall we? Hate doesn’t need any more platforms. But humor — well, we could all learn a lesson in taking ourselves less seriously.
Oh, and I haven’t read the book, but I probably/maybe will glance at it someday in the future. Can I still get my iPad, Mr. Driscoll?
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article stated that only those who wrote positive reviews would be eligible for iPads. In a follow-up post for another giveaway, Driscoll’s website clarified, saying, “Whether or not you liked the book doesn’t matter, either way I’m grateful for your time, and we’d be glad to award this week’s free gifts to critics and fans alike. But please only write a review if you’ve actually read the book.”