Christian Bookstore Puts Warning Labels on Certain Christian Books

To nobody’s surprise, LifeWay Christian Stores sells Christian books among their many products. As any reader of these books knows, however, the authors can range anywhere from super-fundamentalist to relatively-liberal.

To help their customers out, LifeWay now puts a label on certain books stating “Read With Discernment“:

While we recognize that almost every title requires some measure of discernment, certain titles should clearly be read with extra discernment.

We want you to know that the authors of books marked Read with Discernment may have espoused thoughts, ideas, or concepts that could be considered inconsistent with historical evangelical theology.

(That saying is trademarked, too, so don’t get any ideas.)

What’s the issue here?

The books that are on the “discernment” list include books by authors such as Rob Bell and Donald Miller — both authors who, from my readings of their books, seem to be Bible-believing Christians… but who also don’t think being gay is that big of a deal and who think Christians ought to give a damn about the poor.

blj

Heathens.

Which book doesn’t have the discernment label?

The Bible? (They don’t even put the atheist warning label on it.)

You can check out their current author blacklist here.

Julie Clawson, a Christian, says it well:

… I’m disturbed by the unspoken implication that the other books sold at their website don’t need as much discernment while reading. Apparently, if something agrees with historical evangelical theology then it gets a pass on reading with a critical eye. We only need to be discerning about those that are discerning about historical evangelical theology since such opinions are only valuable to those those who engage them “strictly for critical study and research.”…

Another Christian blogger also points out:

The irony is that [LifeWay] will take your money while they sell you — what they consider to be — theological trash.

Not that there are really any atheist bookstores, but if there were, can you imagine them *ever* pulling any shenanigans like this?

I don’t. We have nothing to be afraid of. We enjoy the fact that some books may challenge our current ways of thinking. We think all books should be read with discernment.

I wonder: What are LifeWay’s customers so afraid of finding in those read-with-caution books? What will happen to them if they read those books without reading the warning first?

I also wonder: Can my book get one of those labels? Pretty please…? I want to be on the blacklist! Read me with discernment, dammit!

(via onehandclapping)

  • tkozak

    I know exactly why they have these warnings, and for that reason I think it’s actually a good thing they’ve started doing this – more on that later.

    You have to consider the reason for Christian bookstores in the first place. The thing is, some people just do not have critical reading skills. When they read something, it goes right into the “facts” part of their brain, at least temporarily. Living in the world, these folks have some scary confusing moments after they’ve read something weird. The Christian bookstore serves as a safe source for reading material – everything’s been vetted.

    It’s analogous to the environments you create for people with destroyed immune systems. Those of us who have learned critical reading, meanwhile, can go out and play in the dirty old world and not worry too much. You notice there are plenty of very devout Christians who have no problem getting their books from the library or Barnes and Nobles or wherever. That’s because they know how to evaluate what they read and decide what to do with it, mentally. It’s the same way I can read Ayn Rand without turning into an Objectivist.

    So why do I think these labels are good? Simply put, I’d say that getting the Christian-bookstore-using folks to start doing critical reading at all is a great step. Of course some of them already do, but for many the entire purpose of the store is to keep them from having to, or insulate them from the intellectual dangers of just believing anything you read. So a warning that alerts them to examine what they read? Great! Eventually it can become a habit.

  • Jon

    Love this from the “Read With Discernment™” explanation page:

    Our Commitment to Biblical Solutions
    We at LifeWay Christian Stores are committed to providing biblical solutions that spiritually transform individuals and cultures.

    Not interested in the truth then? Just in affirming their already held position. And they have the temerity to accuse atheists of being dogmatic.

    Jon.

  • http://starseyer.blogspot.com Mikayla

    Should read everything with discernment.

    All those labels mean is: this book contains ideas that challenge our strongly held dogma. Who cares about the truth?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Well if I were to run an atheist book-store, I would put the Chick comics front and center.

  • mirele

    I noticed that they have a trademark on the phrase, “Read With Discernment.” I also noticed that there were no women authors on the list.

    I think I’ll be writing Lifeway an e-mail asking why they’re discriminating against women with the application of this theological label. Of course, it’s entirely possible that in the evangelical community, there aren’t any edgy female Christian voices (but I rather doubt it).

  • http://1minionsopinion.wordpress.com 1minion

    Poking around on reddit the other day, I found the link to a photo from a Wal-Mart’s “non-fiction” section that was fairly amusing: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27547765@N08/3228917764/

    It doesn’t seem like Christian stores even need to exist now. Pro-faith books are everywhere. One of the biggest request lists at the library I work for is for The Shack. I think it was originally self-published because of its crap factor, but word of mouth propelled it into publicity circles. It’s not well written, yet it’s getting compared to Pilgrim’s Progress. Insane.

  • Miko

    Sam Harris got quite a bit of flack for some of his discussion of Eastern religion and of science being capable of discovering moral objectives. I’m not suggesting that we’d ever put warning labels on books, but (while some of the criticisms were of course valid) there were enough kneejerk reactions as well in that instance to gainsay the claim that all atheists enjoy reading books that challenge their current beliefs.

    And while I don’t like the wording of this message, I think it’s fair to warn people about what they’re getting. As soon as Intelligent Design starts getting shelved under science, I think we’re going to want to have some “It’s not actually science” labels printed.

  • mikespeir

    It would’ve saved space to put just “EVIL,” rather than “Read with Discernment.” Of course, you can’t trademark “evil”….

  • Erik

    I like how they think they get to define historical evangelical theology. The evangelical movement, for one thing, is way wider than Lifeway’s bastardized niche of theology. And for another thing, the evangelical movement today is out of step with the larger Christian history that goes back thousands of years. You know, the one where they give a damn about poor people, and caring for the sick, and all that “liberal” stuff that Jesus was in to…

    (Disclaimer: I once worked for Lifeway, and got fired for appearing to flirt with the female employees. Those were the dark days of my intellectual life…)

  • Skeptimal

    I think tkozak’s pretty much on target here. One additional interesting thing is that they would sell books they don’t agree with, and that they apparently have a market for “heretical” books.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    The Christian bookstore serves as a safe source for reading material – everything’s been vetted.

    I’m not sure that’s really true. It’s stuff that’s been published by Christian publishers — which does include Hemant’s book. :-)

  • http://www.freewebs.com/guitarsean Sean

    Wait a sec, my dictionary defines discernment as:

    The act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment; Keenness of insight and judgment.

    And it further defines Christian discernment as:

    perception in the absence of judgement with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding

    Going by those definitions it sounds to me like the bookstore is inadvertently telling people to read these books, open their minds and challenge their dogma. Using the term ‘discernment’ as a warning is just a fail.

  • Jasen777

    The authors are probably on the list because of their real or perceived association with the emerging church. I would call the authors bible-believing but fundamentalists wouldn’t.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com/ Iason Ouabache

    The funny part is that this will probably increase the sales of the books with the stickers much like the “Parental Advisory” sticker did for certain albums in the 90s. Censorship like this always backfires.

  • http://notreallyalice.wordpress.com Alice

    “Pagan Christianity” was on my library bookshelf, and there was a warning from the [Christian] publisher inside, assuring the reader that they didn’t agree with everything but that it was all very interesting.

    And the book was simply demonstrating that Christian traditions (like church) had pagan roots. God forbid Christians start wondering what other aspects of Christianity have pagan beginnings…

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    The discerning reader need look no further.

  • Kyle

    Wow, I didn’t realize they are using the word in a specifically Christian context:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discernment

    Discernment is a term used in Christian tradition to describe the process of discerning God’s will for one’s life. In large part, it describes the interior search for an answer to the question of one’s vocation, namely, determining whether or not God is calling one to the married life, single life, religious life; ordained ministry or priesthood (Roman Catholic or Anglican/Episcopal) or any other ministerial calling by virtue of Baptism. The concept is not limited to ordination or vowed life.

    Further proof (in my mind) that these people live in a strange, convoluted world made up entirely out of their own imaginations.

    Of course, that is a pretty strange Wikipedia entry, I have to admit.

  • Chal

    So why do I think these labels are good? Simply put, I’d say that getting the Christian-bookstore-using folks to start doing critical reading at all is a great step. Of course some of them already do, but for many the entire purpose of the store is to keep them from having to, or insulate them from the intellectual dangers of just believing anything you read. So a warning that alerts them to examine what they read? Great! Eventually it can become a habit.

    On the other hand, people may simply choose to avoid any books with this sticker on them, further insulating their beliefs.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Amusingly, there is no “Discernment” entry in conservapedia.

    I guess this means that the conservative movement doesn’t want “the masses” to do any discernment. Discernment should only be done by the religious establishment. “Defer to your pastor (or priest) what you should do with your life.”

  • Polly

    This is truly pathetic. Grown people looking to be treated like children – worse!
    For good cause do they adopt the appellation: sheep.

    When you give up thinking for yourself, it’s just a matter of which winds let blow you.

    I’m not worried, they can blow me.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    I suspect that the “Read With Discernment” label could also be read as saying, “Hey, if you find something in this book that offends you, don’t blame us. We warned you.”

  • Richard Wade’s Evil Twin

    I think the effect of the labels will not be to introduce the idea of reading thoughtfully, critically or with any definition of “discernment.” The effect will be that they will not read the book at all. The practical translation of the label is something like the following:

    WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! THIS BOOK CONTAINS NEW INFORMATION THAT YOU DO NOT ALREADY HAVE IN YOUR MIND! IT IS NOT JUST A RESTATING OF THINGS YOU ALREADY BELIEVE, IT WILL VERY LIKELY CAUSE YOU TO HAVE TO THINK AND POSSIBLY TO RE-THINK SOME OF THOSE BELIEFS! USE ONLY WITH EXTREME CAUTION! LIFEWAY CHRISTIAN STORES AND THE PUBLISHERS OF THIS BOOK ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY EFFECT THAT READING ANY PART OF THIS BOOK MAY HAVE ON YOUR MIND, FAITH OR OUTLOOK! YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO SIGN A WAIVER TO THAT EFFECT IF YOU PURCHASE OR EVEN PERUSE THIS BOOK IN THIS STORE!

  • Polly

    It also shows the childishness of the Fundie god. The big fear is that you may accidentally start to believe the “wrong” thing and burn in Hell for eternity…ACCIDENTALLY!

    What kind of fucking prick throws you into Hell for being mistaken about something so completely arbitrary and vague as theology?

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    I noticed that they have a trademark on the phrase, “Read With Discernment.” I also noticed that there were no women authors on the list.

    I think I’ll be writing Lifeway an e-mail asking why they’re discriminating against women with the application of this theological label. Of course, it’s entirely possible that in the evangelical community, there aren’t any edgy female Christian voices (but I rather doubt it).

    Don’t worry, when my wife’s (the Julie Clawson mentioned above) book comes out next Fall it’ll probably end up on the “Read with Discernment” list. :)

  • Joanna

    I like the way Richard’s Evil twin thinks! ha

    This reminds me of a movie called “Cinema Paradiso” where the local priest would go through movies and cut out the “naughty bits”…which were mostly innocent things like men and women KISSING on screen. In the movie theater, the townsfolk would throw things at the screen during that part in protest.
    (I think certain parts of books would have to go through this sort of screening also, with black markers running through parts the Church found objectionable. Has anybody heard of this…not quite book “banning”….).

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    Danger Will Robinson! This book does more than spew the same mindless dogma you’re used to. Please put on your Deflector Shield before reading it to prevent you from considering radical New Ideas.

  • i am a dodt

    My local independent video rental establishment put the “Left Behind” movies in the science fiction section. Not totally related, but I thought it was hilarious.

  • Pingback: BagOfNothing.com » Christian Bookstore Puts Warning Labels on Certain Christian Books

  • http://www.lightbygrace.com Helen

    Jesus’ teachings would have been given the same label back in his day. Rob and Donald should feel honored! Rob Bell pretty much puts that very label on his own book “Velvet Elvis” by encouraging the reader NOT to take everything he says as being 100% right but to discern. I have read and enjoyed both of these authors and while as with anyone, I don’t agree with everything they say, I do not doubt their unwavering faith in the Lord Jesus.

  • absent sway

    I knew McLaren’s books would be on here! These meant a lot to me and probably kept me in the Christian camp a lot longer than I would have been otherwise. The people who seek to stamp out the notion that you can be a liberal Christian will not end up with more conservative Christians for their efforts; they will end up with more godless liberals.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    Well, I guess they have good reason to do this. It was a Christian book, after all, that led me to start down the path toward atheism.

    Decision Making and the Will Of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View by Garry Friesen.

    A great gift for the born again Christians in your life.

  • Morwell

    Actually, it’s not a bad idea to urge that any book be read with discernment.  But, that said, singling out some books is clearly prejudicial.  Who knows…the labels may increase curiosity about these authors, and work to their favor.  As for no atheist bookstores doing such a thing…I would note that in officially, militantly atheistic states, such censorship has indeed been practiced.  Fundies of all kinds have a tendency to suppress dissent.

  • Timothy Dixon

    Boy this hit the nail on the head! What a bunch of smug money-hungry Hypo-Christians! I’m opening an atheist book store by ‘God’
    -No pun intended.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X