HERE’S ONE OF THE REQUESTS I’ve gotten—over and over—from publishing colleagues:
Write for Christian conservatives. They buy books.
Throughout my writing career, spanning several decades, I’ve listened to that request phrased politely, feverishly, even bullyingly.
I’m delighted that Christian conservatives read my books. Ditto for the liberals. But I give no thought to either of them when I’m writing.
The people I’m thinking about are either not Christians or they are new Christians.
That’s my take on Jesus’ commission to his followers: “Go and make disciples of all nations. . . . Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
He didn’t say, “Hey guys, go hang out in the choir loft and sing to each other.”
Certainly it’s important for Christians to meet together. But our job starts when the meeting’s over.
That’s why I don’t write for the Sunday crowd. That’s also why I raise the uncomfortable questions and report the variety of possible answers. And that’s why I pick the best art I can get my hands on—it’s a visual world out there.
I get push-back from my colleagues. Always have. One publicist called my target audience my “imagined audience.”
It’s an excerpt from an email I got from a college kid who had just picked up one of my Bible handbooks while “trolling the aisles” at Barnes & Noble.
“I haven’t read the book yet, and for all I know it majorly sucks; but after reading the intro I felt compelled to email you.
Your introduction hit my situation right on the head.
I am grateful that someone out there, who can write simply but not stupidly, took the time to put this together for someone like me.
It is much easier and less daunting to start here than to just straight-up pick up a bible.
….I am Vietnamese and grew up in Los Angeles. My parents are immigrants from the Vietnam War, and I believe both were Buddhist at some point, and neither practice now.
They do some rituals whenever someone dies but that’s about it, and nothing about religion (theirs or anyone else’s) was taught in our household.”
The young man later posted a review of the book on Amazon.
I think about him when I write.
Not because he gave it five stars. Because he read the thing.