“I HAVE JUST THROWN OUT YOUR BOOK.”
That’s how the email started.
I got it about a week ago, just before going on a short vacation.
It’s a wonderfully engaging lead. The gent, I’ll call CM for his actual initials, got my attention right away.
The book he threw out was one of my best-sellers, which has sold over half a million copies: Complete Guide to the Bible.
Here’s what he wrote to me:
“I have just thrown out your book as opposed to returning it for a refund, lest anyone else be poisoned by it.
The arrogance and condescending tone is truly reviling. You should not be writing anything whatsoever about God or The Holy Bible as they both plainly come across as alien if not altogether troubling to you.
In fact, you would do far less harm with your time if you just outright spray-painted graffiti on holy sites. Your Complete Guide to the Bible is a shining example of secular pagan heretical exploitation.
Repent, lest you have to explain this travesty to someone far more punitive than I.”
I wrote back.
I usually respond to each email I get, though I don’t typically respond to follow-up emails. I can’t make time to carry on pen pal relationships with everyone who writes me.
I said, “Could you calm down enough to tell me what you’re talking about? I really am curious about what would get a professing Christian upset enough to say these kinds of things to a person they have never met.”
Pushing a little harder, I added, “Yet you haven’t given me one example of what you’re talking about. It’s like you’ve called me on the phone, said a bunch of swear words, and then hung up.”
“It [my first email] was designed to be precisely as you read it.
Asking me to give you specific examples is akin to asking me what part of burning down the church bothered me. Was it the gasoline? Was it the time of day? What precisely?
Read your work as if you were reading it directly to Jesus Christ. If you can’t do that with great joy, stop. You have a responsibility to recognize that some readers may think it to be educational instead of anecdotal.
Don’t confuse clarity of thought with anger. You laughingly deny both the content and source of the Bible, then profit from it. I can’t imagine that no one else has cared enough to reach out to you. If that is indeed the case, consider this extra effort a blessing and wake-up call.
I will pray for you, that your eyes may be opened and your awareness be refined.
And you may be surprised if you think Christ would think first to cuddle you up some as a higher priority.
That too speaks for itself.”
I couldn’t quite follow CM there at the end, with Jesus not cuddling me and something speaking for itself.
I could see that CM says he’s praying that my “awareness be refined.”
But why would CM ask God to do something that CM could do himself, I wonder. CM could refine my awareness by telling me what in the dickens he’s talking about. Jeepers guy.
What have I put in my book that bothers him?
That’s what I’d like to know.
People have given me constructive criticism throughout my career. I have revised some of my books on the basis of that criticism.
But with CM, the only thing I know to do is dress light for the afterlife. Because where I’m headed, it’s going to be warm.
Criticism: the how to
A little advice: When you catch mistakes in a book, or get confused or angry about something you read there, feel free to write the writer. They can sometimes make changes in future printings of the book. My publishers have been wonderful about that.
Most of us have skins as thin as anyone else. So it’s helpful if the criticism is stated kindly. But criticism is welcome among writers who want to get better at what they do.
Email nukes aren’t quite so welcome. But I do find them entertaining from time to time.
My daughter, however, reads them and says she wants to punch someone in the face.
She’s a good daughter. Not quite a pacifist like Jesus. But I’ll keep her.