Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Regarding The Brandan Robertson Controversy And My Relationship With Destiny Image

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.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

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  1. My publisher said he wasn’t very impressed by Spring Arbor and is not even trying to have his books stocked there though many of his books are solidly “Christian”. He works with Ingram and has gotten books into the Barnes and Noble pipeline.

    So my question is why couldn’t Image Destiny walk away from Christian book distributors and publish the book in the general market? Barnes and Noble has a big religion section.

    Brandon Robertson has gotten publicity to die for even before this. I bet it’s only just beginning for him too. What a lost opportunity for Image Destiny. Even back in the eighties I remember how mean the evangelical book industry could be, how they could tar and feather an author for stepping outside the bounds of what they thought would be a proper evangelical book.

    My response to this Lord have mercy on us. I’m stunned by how very mean some evangelicals have gotten. One wonders what fear lies underneath.

  2. It does not take an MBA in marketing to see how this controversy has the potential to drastically increase the number of people who will read Brandan’s book. Every author wants to be read… And I hope he’s fielding frequent calls from other publishers. If I was in the business of printing and selling books, I’d certainly want to talk to him right about now.

  3. there will only be a change when evangelicals face the same discrimination, abuse, and death threats that LGBT experience everyday. Some days I wish they would experience the hatred and rejection that I have felt. There are some days that life is not worth living and I just wish a lot of day that if Jesus really loves me to let me go to sleep and die. Life is so hard, being abused and having PTSD is so hard, giving my life to my family elders instead of living for myself….now I’m 59 and not worth a plugged nickel in the LGBT world. Heck I have had a “friend” tell me that I should not expect to get a life, husband or even experience love and I should be OK with that. Yes, dear sir I wish for the day I get to see Jesus in person. May it come tonight.

  4. I completely agree. I mean, disagree.

    Let me clarify. I believe, currently, that homosexuality/gay sex/whatever term or nuance you prefer is sin (long process to get there, study and prayer etc). This isn’t my main point though. As a consequence, I don’t believe we as Christians should marry or give our seal to, homosexual marriages.

    BUT, that has little to do with the legal side of things. Divorce, as a rule, is wrong, yet few would fight divorce laws, since even Moses gave them so that there would be peace/order in the land. A legal piece of paper means little as far as God and faith and practice are concerned. So I think the legal law bypasses the issue, and so I have little issue with homosexuals marrying under the law, as I have little issue with non-Christians or anyone else from marrying. Whether we as believers honour or approve of such unions, and whether God recognises them, are very separate issues.

    But, and if you’ve read this far you’ll appreciate, my main point here is that I totally agree with the inclusion of, well, everyone, in the church. If we allow adulterers, liars, vain, alcoholic, prideful, sinful people to live in or around us, come to our services, studies etc, there is no reason whatsoever not to extend the same love and welcome to homosexuals as anyone else. What happens later, if they decide they believe, want to call themselves Christians, be baptised etc….are other issues. For me personally, if you want to continue in an affair, or conduct your business dishonestly, etc after its sinfulness has been drawn to your attention, then after appropriate counsel, warnings etc, eventually, if you persist in unrepentance or fight against such sinful lifestyle, THEN exclusion from the believing community may well be appropriate.

    Prior to such a process (which would look different depending on your view of sexuality and sin), homosexuals, liars, prostitutes, con artists, drunks, everyone, ought to welcomed by us, believers, the Church. In following Jesus, and His example, there would seem to be no other option.

  5. So, it boils down to: he’s queer and you’re not. Hence, no probs with your book. Not saying that with malice – it just seems to me to be the plain facts of the situation.

  6. Want out of your contract? Send Destiny a picture of you kissing a dude. They’ll drop you like a hot potato. Keep the advance.

    But seriously: I appreciate your predicament. If it were me, the key question would probably be not if Destiny would keep me after I deliver the Christian Outsiders manuscript, but why I would stick with Destiny after that, knowing that they kicked out an author because he is gay.

    Think of your African asylum seekers, and about (hypothetically) what you’d say to them if they heard that you were continuing to publish with a company that kicks out African or African-American authors because they’re black.

    You would bolt from that publisher at the first confirmed instance of that kind of racism, would you not?

    Is there an appreciable difference?

  7. And, unfortunately, the typical responses are appearing over on Brandan’s post about the subject, him getting told he doesn’t qualify as an Evangelical and everything.

    sigh.

  8. Am I the only one who sees a really creepy disconnect here? Christianity is supposed to be counter cultural. We are supposed to kick against the goads when it comes to peer pressure in any form. Yet, look at what folks are doing. Why won’t they publish his book? Because it disagrees with some minor theological issue? Make no mistake, it is an iffy issue, if one at all, and is mentioned far, far less than loving one another and feeding the poor. I wonder how the publisher does at obeying those particular strictures?
    Or are they refusing to because they fear a backlash? I suspect that is the issue, whether they wish to admit it or not. And as Christians, frankly, that’s a terrible reason.
    Ben, you are in an awkward position. But not one of your own creation. Don’t wear it, dude.

  9. When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.

  10. You know, with the publicity this is gathering, this seems like a good opportunity to crowd-source promotion/publication for Robertson’s book. I know that’s not really relevant to this particular blog (but I definitely do agree with you, BLC)

  11. You’ve heard of white privilege as amazingly described in “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh and “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander. Now we have citizen privilege (born a natural citizen), class privilege (born into a specific class), straight privilege (born straight), etc. This article is pretty helpful: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gina-crosleycorcoran/explaining-white-privilege-to-a-broke-white-person_b_5269255.html

  12. I think it’s brilliant actually. I had no idea who Brandon Robertson was or anything about this until I read this article. It’s situations like this that can raise more exposure and put the spotlight on exactly that which they were trying to quell. <3

  13. In some respects this is very,very simple. The distributors are succeeding in silencing minority voices because the publishers are moral cowards. Will they take a financial hit? Yup. Is that important to Jesus?

  14. perhaps the mighty interweb can foster a rally and outcry in brandan’s favor….there has to be someone who could form a fundraising kickstarter for him to be able to self publish maybe…#SupportBrandanRobertson #PublishNomad #StepUpDestinyImage #CantSilenceTruth

  15. What never gets discussed in all of this concerning LGBTQ are those who disagree, biblically, with these lifestyles but do not want to throw anyone out of church or hate any of them at all. The only people that ever get discussed are those “right wing”, “fundamentalists”, “evangelical establishment” people that do hateful things. Everyone either gets thrown into the box of hateful, spiteful, bigot or loving, kind, accepting individuals who welcome and promote these lifestyles. There are people who disagree (and have biblical grounds to do so), but still love and would not seek to do harm to those living this way.

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