Publishing Weakly

Those of you who aren’t professional religionists might not understand the cultural impact of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting. Every November a largish city (New York and Los Angeles are too expensive, but many of the other biggies have hosted us) is inundated with religion scholars. Nearly a literal myriad of them. Church attendance spikes, that weekend, as do the takings in the local bars. Restaurants near convention centers are swamped and tips, I expect, aren’t that great. And publishers show up in spades. We tout our recent books, attractively displayed for the book-hungry, and hope the cash rolls in. It’s not a cheap conference to which to send your staff. Books, though, make you think and we have to get our ideas out there.

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The conference is big enough for the book industry that Publishers Weekly, a standard periodical for the biz, generally has a story about it. Even when people were worried about the election results, we had to get together and discuss what’s God got to do with it. Or so it would seem. In the story by Emma Koonse and Lynn Garrett, it is noted that InterVarsity Press, a stalwart of conservative Christian publishing, has generated its own Trump-like crisis. Owned by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the press has been instructed that anyone who disagrees with the parent company’s stance against gay marriage must resign. They hasten to add that this doesn’t apply to their authors. There is such a thing as a double-standard, you know. You need to bring in that money, otherwise you can’t afford to oppress your employees.

The idea behind publishing is that ideas should be—must be—shared. There is an educational imperative. Many IVP readers may be surprised to learn that the Bible says nothing about gay marriage. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mention Donald Trump either, although reading the account of Balaam I might have to admit being wrong about that. It’s funny what you can make the Bible say when your theology is merely thinly veiled prejudice. Perhaps we should put belief meters on our government houses. Of course, if we did that I’m not sure the national budget could cover the cost of all the lie detectors they’d need to install as well. Publishers, of all people, should be the ones with the most open minds. Unless they find the wallet more compelling than the truth. Let’s just ask Jesus’ wife about that.

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