The Dark Side of Christian Publishing
By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
Within Christian publishing there is a dark side to this business. In over 1600 entries, I’ve never written about it--until now. Recently I traveled to a small Christian writers conference in Alabama. There were about 100 people at this event and I knew a number of the faculty. Besides meeting with a number of writers one on one, I taught two workshops and gave a keynote address during the event.
At the first meal, I sat beside an older gray-haired man who was clean shaven and well-dressed. Almost immediately we engaged in an interesting conversation. He was a former missionary in South America and a retired pastor writing a book. We exchanged business cards. It was a brief and common exchange which I’ve had with many writers at numerous conferences over the years.
For my flight home, I traveled with several other faculty members who were also headed to Colorado. We were changing planes in Dallas and waiting around in the boarding area for our flight. One of them mentioned possibly doing some writing coaching for the retired pastor I met the first night. To prepare for the possible coaching, he did a simple google search of the writer’s name. He was shocked to find a website dedicated to the sexual abuse victims and tied to the writer's name. He watched a couple of the YouTube videos and saw the image of the same conferee we met at this event. In the boarding area of the airport for our flight home, I learned about this conferee. A writers conference is a public event and anyone can attend.
I tell this story to point out the dark side of Christian publishing. Most of us presume a Christian writers conference (and the church in general) is a safe place to meet new people, form relationships and grow in your personal life. I read the news and know about people (even leaders) with wrong motives who do terrible acts to the people who cross their path--even in the church.
The majority of the time among Christians, we believe people have good motives and reasons for their actions. Yet the reality is each of us have a sinful nature and that is my reason to point out this dark side of Christian publishing.
Several years ago, my journalist friends Ann Byle wrote about this element in a magazine article in Publishers Weekly. When the article came out, I was shocked because I know each of the conference faculty named in her article. I had no hint from my relationships with these people that they were bent this direction. Ann’s original article had a follow-up piece which had 3,000 comments in response.
As a result of these articles, some conferences have started including a signed “Code of Conduct” statement from the faculty and attendees. Here’s an example:
“By participating in ______, we expect you to live out 1 Peter 1:15 and act according to these guidelines:
Behave in a biblical manner, treating all individuals with respect and consideration at all times.
Refrain from any behavior that is threatening, violent, aggressive, or sexually or morally improper. Examples of such behavior include but are not limited to:
• verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, including sexual advances, propositions, requests, or comments (or anything that could be reasonably construed as such)
• visual conduct of a sexual nature, such as leering; making sexual gestures; or displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or cartoons
• suggestive contact, such as inappropriate touching or impeding or blocking movement
• inviting a member of the opposite gender to meet you in or accompany you to a private place, such as your conference dorm room, an off-site hotel, an unoccupied room, an empty hallway, or a basement corner
• use of coarse, vulgar, or profane language.
Avoid being alone with a member of the opposite gender in any private location.
Reporting Inappropriate Conduct
Report to _______ right away any behavior you witness that does not meet these standards or if you feel threatened or are made to feel uncomfortable by a conferee or another faculty member. Don’t wait until after the conference when we can’t deal with the situation.
All complaints of inappropriate behavior will be investigated as promptly as possible, and corrective action will be taken where warranted. All complaints will be treated with as much confidentiality as possible, consistent with the need to conduct an adequate investigation.
I agree to abide by this code of conduct.”
It’s a sad day that such a code of conduct is explicitly needed for a conference but it’s a reality of our world.
Let’s wrap this article with several explicit lessons:
Be aware of the potential danger--it’s really everywhere. You would think a Christian writer’s conference would be free from such a situation, but it isn't. Our reality is we live in a fallen world and have to take responsibility for our own actions. I encourage each of us to guard your own heart and life
How do you handle the dark side of Christian publishing? Let me know in the comments below.