Writers, for all their talk about bravely speaking truth, are sometimes just whiners. Those who most loudly claim a noble calling to write truth, also complain most loudly when they believe they’re being persecuted. Writers tend to enjoy drama and some love to play the martyr, it seems.
I used to think it was only general market writers who whined about being censored. YA writers with gritty, sexually graphic, or disturbing books about aberrant behavior, are quick to cry, “Censorship!” when people complain about their books. I expect it from them. Recently I came across a Christian writer claiming that she and her friends were being censored by Christian bookstore owners who didn’t like sex shops, wine, or frank language in the books they sold.
This accusation bothers me. It feels manipulative. It reminds me of when people say Christians engage in hate-speech when they don’t affirm sinful lifestyles. It’s meant to shame the other guy into lowering his standards, I think.
I came across the accusation of censorship on a Christianity Today blog when I followed links from one of Steve Laube’s News You Can Use posts. The author of the CT post, Caryn Rivadeneira, suggests that Christian publishers and bookstore owners sin when they ask faithful Christian writers to remove certain words. Christian writers are, after all, present-day prophets, in Ms. Rivadeneira’s estimation, and they should not be hindered in getting their stories out:
The problem with Vaginagate—and any other effort to remove specific and frank language from books written by faithful Christians—isn’t that bookstores don’t have the right to decide what types of books they will or will not sell. They are businesses after all, and to be successful, businesses need to sell products their customers will read without getting up in arms. The problem with Vagina-gate and similar forms of “censorship” is that, in an attempt to protect customers, publishers and bookstores are making it a lot harder for writers to tell the stories God has called them to write. And when Christians are barred by other Christians from serving God, it dishonors God. In fact, it’s sin.
As an aside, is it clever or clichéd to link a woman’s reproductive organs to a political cause?
Ms. Rivadeneira illustrates her blog post with a picture of a girl with duct tape over her mouth and with a “censored” stamp.
This is hardly helpful.
First of all, is Rachel Held Evans [the target of the aforementioned, “vagina-gate”] a faithful Christian? I don’t know her so I’m not saying she’s not. I’m only saying that if I was a bookstore owner or a publisher, I wouldn’t assume that everyone who sent me a book was a faithful Christian. I would look at the book and judge whether I thought it was edifying. How would I know if the writer was faithful or not?
Secondly, I can’t see that anyone is being censored. It’s not like there aren’t other publishing options, as Nicole Petrino-Salter said recently. Publishers and bookstore owners have a right and a duty to obey God to the best of their ability, and to protect their brands. They are under no obligation to help writers who don’t fit their brand.
Even if Rachel Held Evans were a prophetess, to refuse to publish or stock her books is not to “bar” her from serving God.
Imprisoning her? Maybe. Beating her senseless? Sure. But refusing to sell her books in your store?
Implying that publishers and bookstore owners bar Christians from serving God is the same thing as bearing false witness against a neighbor, isn’t it? Where does this accusation of censorship come from? Is it justified? What am I missing? When Christian authors take offense at Christian publishers and bookstore owners over the content of books, how do they differ from Christian readers who take offense over the content of books?
Sally Apokedak has published short works in a number of places, has won various and sundry contests, and has received an SCBWI Work in Progress grant. She’s between agents at present, and can be found blogging about young adult novels at sally-apokedak.com.