Over the weekend, a news story obviously exploded across the internet regarding Brandan Robertson and the cancelation of his book that was slated to be published by Destiny Image, the same publisher I am currently with (Destiny published Undiluted and is currently in mid-production with my second book, Christian Outsiders). The story has quickly escalated to receiving international attention, regarding Brandan- an evangelical and a member of the LGBTQ community- and how his book was snubbed by distributors in the Christian publishing industry, and ultimately pulled from production by Destiny Image, over his activism in support of civil marriage equality for LGBTQ individuals. (If you need to catch up on the situation, the original story as broke by TIME, can be found here.)
However, the synopsis of the story is: Brandan had a contract to publish his book, Nomad, with Destiny Image. Upon turning in his manuscript he was called and told that distributors had concerns about his activism on the issue of marriage equality. He was then asked to affirm a theological statement condemning LGBTQ, and refused. A few days later, his book was canceled from production and released back to him.
Let me say, believe it or not, I hate controversy and conflict. I’d rather have no part it in. However, many on the internet have been asking me for a statement on the situation and my relationship with Destiny Image, so I feel that silence in this situation is not an option for me. And so, here is my official statement on the matter.
First, I am grieved over the situation. While I grieve many things, what I grieve the most is the tendency of the evangelical establishment to exclude those from the LGBTQ community– something that I ironically critiqued in by book, Undiluted, which was published by Destiny Image. While I haven’t had a book canceled over my inclusive LGBTQ position, I have experienced what the conservative evangelical establishment does to anyone who strays from the company line. I recently had a local pastor threaten to kick my congregation– a congregation of African asylum seekers who have nowhere to go– off his church property because I was unwilling to denounce LGBTQ individuals. He later made good on his threat to evict us, but cited the real reason was that we forgot to plug a microphone back in after using the building for a funeral. So, I’ve seen first hand the kind of games the establishment likes to play- and they’re ugly. I have long said that one’s position on marriage equality was not a litmus test of orthodoxy, and that there should be room for charitable Christian disagreement. The evangelical establishment disagrees however, and is pushing forward in a culture war to pronounce anyone who disagrees as being “out”. This is precisely the cultural force that ultimately creates situations such as Brandan’s book loss.
Second, I am grieved because Destiny Image is not a faceless corporation to me, but real people with whom I’ve built relationships with over the past year and a half. While I profoundly disagree with their corporate position, they are still people I know and love and consider many to be among my friends. This fact makes the entire controversy evermore difficult for me, and I have absolutely no ill feelings towards any one individual at Destiny. If the day comes that we part ways, it will be a sad day for me.
That said, however, I want it to be clear that: (A) I have never been aware of a corporate position against LGBTQ individuals- this has never come up in the year and a half I have been with Destiny. The first time I saw the corporate theological position was when it was shared with me during a text conversation between Brandan and myself before this story became public. (B) I have never been asked to sign or verbally affirm any theological statement by Destiny. (C) In a phone conversation with Destiny the day before this news story became public, I directly told them that I disagreed with the theological statement and would not sign it if asked to, and that I would continue to be a public advocate of LGBTQ inclusion in the church, and civil marriage equality. I was told that my positions on these matters would not be a problem in continuing to publish with Destiny.
In my conversations with Destiny, they have also told me that they sincerely like Brandan, and actually really like his book. I think it is easy to see this situation as Brandan getting snubbed by a publisher, but I think the situation is more serious than that: I think this is being driven by the establishment itself- evangelical distributors blacklisting Brandan, which in turn silences the publisher who prints it, who then in turn must try to either fight the system itself, or release the book back to the author. I’m obviously a fight the system kinda guy and that’s what I wished had happened. But, there are so many factors involved in a scenario such as this that I don’t even know how to sort it all out… all I can say is that it really sucks.
I will also admit that I am somewhat confused as to why Brandan’s book has been canceled, and not my own book scheduled for release in August. My understanding is that Nomad doesn’t even touch upon the issue of homosexuality, yet my book that is currently in production with Destiny actually does (albeit briefly):
“The LGBT issue isn’t really an issue at all; it is that teenager in the youth group who is suffering in silence because he realizes he is gay even though he never chose to be gay, and realizes that “unchoosing” it (repenting) is completely impossible since he didn’t choose it in the first place.” Christian Outsiders, page 168
I have a similar line in Undiluted, which criticizes LGBTQ exclusion in the church. No one at Destiny has ever raised issue with these statements, nor have I ever been asked to edit these pro-LGBTQ statements out of either book. This leads me to believe that they are willing to publish works that disagree with their corporate statement, but that such envelope pushing would depend on distributors buying them– and that’s where Brandan, and not myself, has been shut down.
So, I think the real question is why will evangelical book distributors buy my books– which have taken a more direct stance on LGBTQ than Brandan’s, but won’t buy his? Brandan and I are very similar theologically- and in many ways he is actually more conservative than I am. The only real difference I can see is that I am heterosexual, and he is not. And that fact grieves me tremendously- because that’s what I think the real issue is. Distributors and Christian bookstores are trying to shut him down, not because of what he says, but because of who he is. We saw conservatives complain that Matthew Vines was even published, and now it seems they’re being a bit more proactive to shut folks down before publishers can even send them to print.
The whole thing sucks– the machine is shutting down LGBTQ voices, and regardless of where and how this machine works, it’s wrong.
What does the future hold for Destiny and I? I honestly don’t know. I am in a contractual relationship with Destiny Image to release my next book, so it’s not a simple scenario for me, nor is it one that I control.
All I know is that I support Brandan and am saddened by what has occurred, that I will continue to support the LGBTQ community, and that as of today, Destiny is slated to publish my second book, Christian Outsiders, which includes a pro-LGBTQ statement that I wouldn’t remove even if asked. What happens now, or if any of this changes, will have to be determined in the days to come through dialogue with my agent and publisher. I have poured my soul into Christian Outsiders, so my chief desire is that it be successful- no matter who does or does not publish it.
I wish my friend Brandan well, and reiterate my sadness and frustration that the evangelical machine is still determined to squash voices like his.
It won’t work, but in the meantime, I share in his disappointment.