Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Publishing Switch and Bait

Over the last fifteen years Greg Stielstra, author of Pyromarketing, marketed hundreds of Christian books including The Purpose Driven Life. During that time he noticed a disturbing trend. Some Christian authors sought fame because they believed only celebrities could influence culture. What's more, they thought selling lots of book required hiding their Christian content. In a sort of publishing bait and switch, some authors thought that if they must achieve a platform with secular books--or at least books that minimized faith content before they could use their new platform for good. The formula was, "First become famous and then make a difference."

Greg saw things differently. He saw authors like Lee Strobel achieve tremendous success by writing books that helped people with clear biblical content. The formula was reversed; first make a difference and then the platform will follow. "Aim at Heaven," C.S. Lewis correctly noted, "and you get Earth thrown in. Aim at Earth and you'll get neither."

Greg wondered how to alert authors to this insidious deception and decided to copy a tactic first used by C. S. Lewis in a book called The Screwtape Letters. The book was a collection of fictitious letters from a retired demon named Screwtape to his young nephew Wormwood on how best to manipulate the human he was assigned to tempt. The book provides a look at temptation from the devil's perspective and can help us see the battle with new and often clearer eyes. As you read Greg's modern-day warning to Christian authors remember that because it is written from the demon's perspective, phrases like "the enemy" actually refer to God.

I wanted you to see Greg's letter with you in case you have ever struggled to overcome a similar temptation:

My Dear Bookwormwood,

I note with great excitement that your patient has become a Christian author. This is splendid news. Your last letter was a disappointment as you indicated your patient had shown great devotion to the Enemy and a sincere desire to meet other people's needs. I feared you might fail at your assignment and be subject to the punishments such failures require. But this new development presents an unequaled opportunity for you to change his course. In fact, the temptations now at your disposal are so numerous I feel compelled to apologize, in advance, for the length of this letter.

It is with trepidation that I suggest what you must do first, for it requires a subtlety you may not possess. You must slowly and deliberately turn your patients mind from one kind of thinking to another. Each step along this process is itself a small victory and brings us closer to accomplishing the whole thing. As I mentioned at the start, it appears your patient desires to meet other people's needs, and in so doing to bring glory to the Enemy. This is where we must begin, but perhaps not in the way that you might think, for we do not aim to change his desire to help, but rather to alter his view of people. Our record of success with this method is impressive. It has been the undoing of many whose names you might recognize. That is why I am confident that you can make it work with your patient as well.

Plant in his mind the idea that thinking of people as individuals is limiting. Better to think of those who may buy and benefit from their book as groups of people instead. From groups you must expand his thoughts to large groups and from large groups to masses, and so on. Each successive step increases people's anonymity and further insulates your patient from the reality of the reader's situation. If your patient is allowed to think of them as individuals, then he may accurately imagine the reality of their need, or of their family's concern, or, worst-of-all, the Enemy's love for them, and determine to help at any cost.

So long as your patient is thinking of masses he cannot consider individual needs and will search instead for a characteristic common to the group. At this moment you must suggest the idea of money so that your patient thinks of the masses as a source of revenue. Then, before he has the chance to question this thought or consider it further, lead him on to the idea he should divide the masses into groups called Christians and Non-Christians. Done properly, this will all seem quite natural and your patient may even congratulate himself on a brilliant market analysis, or something of the sort.

Now, once your patient has divided the masses into Christians and non-Christians, he may begin to wonder about the relative size of the groups. At this moment you must be ready with a lie your patient is eager to believe. Persuade him that Christians are few and non-Christians are many. "Since non-Christians are the larger group", he will reason, "I must concentrate my efforts there."

It is best if you can shelter him from research studies that show how 142 million Americans attend church weekly, or that 187 million Americans attend church with some regularity, or that 252 million Americans consider themselves Christians. However, it may not matter if he discovers these truths, since, thanks to the work our brother Mediawart has done with the national press, he is not likely to believe them. He is more apt to think that, since stores like Barnes and Noble or Wal-Mart are not overtly Christian, that the millions of people wandering their isles cannot be Christian either. This error of logic is precisely what you must reinforce. Don't let him ponder the idea that the customers in those stores are a cross-section of America and must, therefore, reflect the nation's religious affiliations and practices to the same degree.

Once your patient believes his book must appeal to "non-Christians," then you must move him quickly to a second conviction--that it is necessary to dilute, or disguise, or otherwise hide the biblical underpinnings of their message in order to appeal to this audience. Encourage him to imagine this is somehow evangelistic by using terms like "crossing over." Crossing over feels like progress, since, he will reason, taking even a diluted version of the gospel message to those who haven't heard is better than nothing. Once he has "crossed-over," he is ready for you to suggest the idea of "pre-evangelism" which goes beyond crossing over to crossing out. The fools are ready to believe the ridiculous notion that the most effective way to recruit for the Enemy is to avoid talking about Him whatsoever.

Diluted Christian content leads readers to believe there is no real difference between the Enemy's approach to finances, or sex, or marriage, or parenting, or business, and anything else in life, than the approach favored by our master. With no apparent difference, readers are free to imagine Christianity irrelevant and to happily ignore it.

When the difference is startling and clear, however, so are its benefits. What's worse, the reader may conclude that because the Enemy's perspective helped them with one life problem, the Bible's advice may apply to other areas too. Before you know it they are living successfully by its principles and recommending it to others. Need I say that it would not go well at your performance review were this to eventuate?

To solidify the separation between Christian and non-Christian, you must cause your patient to discount the affirmation they receive from other believers and especially "average people" who have found help and comfort in their book, and to covet instead, the approval of those least likely to give it. Our most proficient tempters have used this strategy with great success in high schools for years. It goes like this: A young girl has a group of good friends and the love of her family. They tell her she is beautiful and adore and respect her just as she is. We, however, convince her that this is not enough--that her friend's familiarity somehow invalidates their love and praise--that to be truly significant, she must win the admiration of "the popular boys." And so she abandons her friends, compromises her convictions and sacrifices her virginity in the vain pursuit of their acceptance. They, in turn, take her purity, and then toss her aside when she no longer suits them, and all without granting the acceptance she sought in the first place. It's really quite brilliant.

Be especially careful not to let your patient realize that the "average people" are loved by the Enemy and that when his book helps one of them, it is as though he is helping the Enemy himself. Such a realization could cause him to concentrate on eternal rewards and lose sight of the temporal acclaim which we want as his focus.

In the same way, it must not be known that the "popular boys" work for us. For with this realization, our strategy may become apparent. Distract him instead with the pursuit of popularity. Popularity is un-tethered to eternal truth and thus we are free to change its qualifications just as your patient seems about to achieve it. In this way we can lead him about, willy nilly, wasting his whole life, while averting the serious threat he might otherwise have presented. Not only is this strategy effective, it can be quite fun.

Popularity makes an excellent goal for the additional reason that no one is ever quite sure when they have achieved it. Its pursuit, therefore, can occupy their every waking hour and persist without end. Use this to your advantage.

Return again to your patient's mind the desire to help and make it stronger than ever, but with the additional conviction that he cannot make a difference until he has achieved a great degree of popularity--especially among non-Christians. This has the effect of making his pursuit of popularity seem noble, further bolstering him against advice to the contrary.

At this point his conversion is nearly complete for you will have turned his focus from individual people's needs, to the masses, and then to non-Christian masses, and finally to himself. Your last task is to make your patient forget that his worth is secure in Christ, and to think instead that it is determined by his performance which, in turn, is measured by bestsellers lists, or appearances on Oprah, or book sales, or the size of his book's marketing budget, or best-of-all, depends entirely on the affirmation of the masses whose individual needs we have convinced him to ignore. Do you see the brilliance of this plan? It is a trap from which few escape, especially if you can arrange for him to be surrounded by, and receive counsel from, others whom we have already tricked in this way.

Oh, Bookwormwood, I have painted the picture of an entire campaign, though I realize you are still at its beginning. But, let me encourage you that it is possible. If you are successful then your accomplishment will be double, for you will have prevented your patient and his book from doing any real damage, while giving him every opportunity to unwittingly exhibit the kind of hypocrisy which has caused so many to turn from the Enemy and join our ranks. Such an achievement would not only remove the stains from your past record, but may even warrant a promotion. How does, "Director of Televangelists" sound?

Your affectionate uncle


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10 Comment:

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Unknown Left a note...

Now that hits home. I've felt this temptation many times. It's so easy to get caught up in the idea that it's okay to write for the worl and for His glory. But Jesus makes it clear that we are to first seek the kingdom of heaven. Thanks for the reminder, Terry. I'll re-calibrate as often as necessary to make sure my writing is aimed at the One who gave me this talent to begin with.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Unknown Left a note...

That's supposed to be "world." Some writer.

At 7:51 PM, Blogger Dena Dyer Left a note...

Wow. I'm so glad I read this today! I think every aspiring and professional Christian writer should read this. Thanks, Terry and Greg, for an astute and convicting post.

At 10:24 PM, Blogger Bonnie S. Calhoun Left a note...

Very cool post, LOL...and I'm hijacking that quote from C.S. Lewis!

At 7:11 AM, Blogger Brandy Brow Left a note...

Thanks Terry. Just what the Doctor ordered.

Brandy of The Building Brows

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Ronie Kendig Left a note...

Oh very good! And challenging! Thanks for posting this, Terry.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Catherine West Left a note...

That was great. Very true and thought provoking.
We need to be reminded often of Who we are writing for.

At 6:18 PM, Blogger Deborah Left a note...

Well said, indeed!

At 9:22 PM, Blogger Bonnie S. Calhoun Left a note...

Yea..you got labels! Good job!

At 8:04 AM, Blogger Karen Left a note...

This is SO awesome! Those words really convicted me, it's so easy to fall into that line of thinking. Being popular and famous isn't everything.

This is my first time at your blog and I'll definately be coming back!

Thanks again.


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