Earlier this year I got to meet a very well known New York Times Bestselling author who is a Christian, published by a Christian publishing house, who writes about Christian themes. I’ve sat on this post for some time because I wasn’t sure what to do with this information. I was going to call him out by his name (because at the end of the day anyone can be whoever they want in front of the public – but you can’t hind your true self behind closed doors!), but after a clearer head prevailed as to what my scope of bridge building is all about (thank you Brenda and Mom), I’m not going to do that. Instead I will tell you what happened, what I’ve learned from the following situation, and how I promise each and every one of you that I will never, ever become like this man.
He has set the standard in my life for what I strive to not be like.
Here are the cast of characters for this story:
New York Times Bestselling Author #1 (NYTBA1)
New York Times Bestselling Author #2 (NYTBA2)
Third Party Group (TPG)
I have a good friend (NYTBA1) who is such an encouragement to me, who also just happened to sell 10 million copies of his last book worldwide, launching him into a rare stratosphere of influence. NYTBA1 is one of the most genuine, sincere, humble and real people I have ever met in my life. NYTBA1 knows NYTBA2. NYTBA1 has been telling everyone he knows about Love is an Orientation, The Marin Foundation and the unique things we are doing to bridge two opposed communities because he believes in this work so very much. One of the people he told was NYTBA2, because NYTBA1 knew that NYTBA2 and I were going to be in the same city at the same time.
Earlier this year I was speaking about my book and work, and after I finished I was hanging out with some of my friends in that city who work for a TPG—which was my next speaking engagement. It just so happened that that TPG also had NYTBA2 coming in to speak to them about his new (new at the time) book. NYTBA2 and I’s mutual friend called both of us to let us know that we’ll be in the same place at the same time so we could hang out. The day arrived. I was with my friends from the TPG and in walked NYTBA2 with his entourage. There was a small group of people surrounding NYTBA2 from TPG working out the details for the day, so I just waited for them to get done before I introduced myself in person. This is the following conversation TPG and NYTBA2 had while I was waiting:
TPG: “Are you ready to do the video before your talk?”
NYTBA2: “Ready to do the video? I won’t let anyone video anything of me.”
TPG: “But we confirmed it with your assistant that we could video.”
NYTBA2: “I don’t care. I’m not videoing anything.”
NYTBA2: “Because I talk to gay people and they listen to me and I can’t be associated with anything Christian.”
[Andrew Commentary: This TPG is faith based and what they asked him to talk about had absolutely nothing to do with the GLBT community. TPG did not ask him to talk about anything gay, nor was gay ever mentioned, not once! TPG wanted him to talk about his new (new at the time) book, which has nothing gay involved.
So then I’m thinking, did I just hear him say that he talks to gay people and they listen to him and therefore he can’t be associated with anything Christian even though he has a Christian publisher, talks to Christian groups and says he’s a Christian?! That makes no sense to use the gay community as a sorry excuse for not wanting to do something. No wonder he never wants to be videoed.]
NYTBA2 finishes putting my TPG friends in place, and then turns to me. Here is our conversation:
Me: Hi. I’m NYTBA1’s good friend and he told me he told you about the work I’m doing and thought we should meet because we’re in the same town today.
NYTBA2: Yeah, I remember he said something.
Me: Cool. Do you have anytime to grab some food or coffee or anything.
Me: I’m sure you’re super busy and all and I understand how that goes. So anyway, it was great to meet you face to face. Maybe we’ll run into each other some other time.
[Andrew Commentary: At this point everything is going great between him and I. I know he is a busy guy, and I had no expectations that he actually had time to hang, so none of this was big deal. I totally understand that. Then….]
Me: Well, I autographed a copy of my book for you, so here you go. I hope you enjoy it if you have time, and I’ll be sure to tell NYTBA1 that we got to meet.
NYTBA2: Don’t give me your book because I’ll just throw it away and not read it.
[And then NYTBA2 turns around and walks directly out of the room, leaving me and the four other TPG organizers that he was going to be speaking to later that day just standing there feeling totally stupid wondering what the heck just happened. I had been warned by every other person I know that knows NYTBA2 that he is big-headed, but I instead believed NYTBA1 because I know him well and trust him. And then I realized what happened. NYTBA1 is the only person who has sold more millions of books that NYTBA2, so he can take time for that person, and not the rest of us who aren’t on his level, which is why NYTBA1 thinks he’s a good guy, because that is all he has ever seen, and still every single other person I have ever met who met NYTBA2 thinks he’s a jerk.]
Here is What I Learned:
1. In no way, shape or form will I ever, ever become ‘that guy’ who doesn’t have time for anyone in any situation!
2. I will always respect everyone, and I will always gladly accept books that are given to me—autographed or not, written by the person or not (especially since I love to read, I don’t care what the topic or if I agree or not with the premise, because that is how intelligence and balanced worldview grow.)
3. The moment I ever think I’ve ‘made it’ or that I’m ‘big time’ is the same moment that I am also able to act like a jerk and make up excuses in my own head to rationalize terrible behavior.
4. I will never, ever, ever use anyone (gay, conservative, etc) as an excuse to why I don’t want to do something. In fact, to date, I have never turned down any request to speak—whether from the GLBT community or from conservative Christians. It’s still funny to me why he used gay, because I’ve never heard of him speaking in any gay circles anywhere.
5. I will never deny my faith, my publisher, the churches, universities, conferences or organizations that bring me in to speak. I am Christian. Period. I love be associated with Christian, even though at times it is not the best associations. The moment I deny that is also the moment I deny the core of who I am.
You all can hold me to each and every one of these promises.