Christian Store Ends ‘Read with Discernment’ Program

LifeWay Christian Stores has decided to get rid of its ridiculous “Read with Discernment” program, in which certain books were marked with stickers encouraging people to “read cautiously.”

I posted about this program a couple years ago. Since most of it is still relevant, I wanted to repost it here (with a couple edits to fix links).

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.)

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)

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com Donna

    Well, this blog should certainly be read with discernment. :-)

  • JD

    I’d say most people have a blind spot for people that have similar ideological leanings, and that’s regardless of leaning, though some groups may be more prone to this than others. I don’t think people do the same fact checking for people they agree with either.

    I’d take it as a badge of honor.

  • Jordan

    Imagine if they had gone with, “Read with Skepticism”?

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    Not that there are really any atheist bookstores

    I would suggest that http://embiggenbooks.com comes as close as any. But from their ‘about’ page:

    She has the biggest range of popular science titles instock in the observable universe, and her technical science books are growing on a daily basis. Not bad for a little independent bookshop.

    Indeed, not bad – but it seems that professional scientists like John Lennox, Stephen Barr, Denis Alexander, Kenneth Miller and Francis Collins cannot be found there. Fair enough – their shop, their call.. if they want to exclude the scientific works of people who hold certain metaphysical views, good on them. But it’s still the kind of editing or promotion of a particular view-point that you call out lifeway for (not that I agree with their ‘discernment’ stickers though).

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Without those labels, how can the discerning Christian tell which are the more interesting books?

  • http://n8chz.blogspot.com/ Lori

    I don’t think you will be on the blacklist. It is for wolves in sheep’s clothing, not wolves in wolves’ clothing.

  • cat

    Well, they still sell them, so that isn’t the same as a blacklist. I really don’t have a problem with this. Their customers are expecting certain types of content in their books, these books contain things that the customers may seek to avoid (regardless of the objective value of the ideas). The customers can still buy and read the books if they like.

    There are plenty of times I wished there was someone out there to label certain books, movies, or games with homophobia and sexism warnings. I don’t get to avoid that crap in real life, why would I want it to fill my entertainment? As much as I hate to sympathize with evangelicals, I understand the the desire to avoid certain ideas in certain contexts. As long as they are not trying to censor these books outside of their own little store, I count this as their own business.

  • tmaxPA

    I’m ashamed to say that at first I actually thought they would be putting these little stickers on the extra-crispy fundy books, rather than the non-insane tolerant ones. I should know better than to give religionists the benefit of the doubt like that. I’m just too damned optimistic.

  • JesseS

    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.

    This would be a more believable statement if you hadn’t linked to the Atheist Warning Label for the Bible and if people didn’t go around public libraries reshelving the Bible into fiction.

  • Richard Wade

    LifeWay probably realized they were losing sales. That label amounts to “Caution: Reading this book is risky!” People would pass it by without a second thought.

    Can you imagine a grocery store with labels on certain food items saying, “Please eat this only after careful forethought”? They would go stale on the shelf.

  • Carlie

    LifeWay probably realized they were losing sales. That label amounts to “Caution: Reading this book is risky!” People would pass it by without a second thought.

    Of course, they probably could have increased sales dramatically if the stickers said “Don’t read this book!”


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