and, as expected, there’s been a flood of angry emails accusing us of all sorts of things, questioning if we’ve lost our souls, and wondering about our discernment. most assume (not surprisingly) that the book — written for teenagers, in our “invert” line — is a political book (which it isn’t).
so, let me attempt to unpack this a bit, giving some background as to why it is we published this book.
it all started when our parent company, zondervan, was getting set to release a quick-to-press book on sarah palin. about the time this book was going to the printer, we had a discussion about how engaged teenagers seem to be in the election this time around. and we were commenting on how so much of this seems to be due to the unprecedented nature of this election — that we were either going to end up with the very first female vice president, or the very first african american president. either way, this election was going to be, of course, rather historic, and allow entire segments of the youth population (girls and non-white guys) to consider the notion that opportunities for them are not limited.
(as an aside, one of my fellow middle school small group leaders at church shared a story about how wild the discussion was in his 8th grade guys small group last week. a bunch of the guys were talking smack about obama, and one of the two african american kids in the group was getting visibly annoyed. my friend tried to get him to verbalize what he was thinking and feeling, and he declined, saying he didn’t think he could do it without totally going off on the other guys. during a short break a few minutes later, the leader had a chat with the guy, and he said something like: “for me, it’s not just about whether or not he’ll be a good president. i’ve just always heard that i could be anything i want to be — but i’ve always known that there were limits, because of my skin. obama being elected changes all of that for me. and i have a hard time even knowing how to put that into words.”)
back to the storyline of how our book came to be…
knowing that teenagers were more engaged than ever, and that with palin and obama in this election, it was bringing up issues of gender and race that were buzzing amongst teenagers, we thought it might be helpful to have life-story books on both of them. we discussed that it was a bit weird to have a book on a vp candidate and another on a presidential candidate (rather than a book on mccain to go alonside a book on obama). but we weren’t interested in creating books about political issues, per se. we were talking about these life stories of people (both of whom seriously claim to be people of faith, of course).
so, we set out to create a youth edition of the zondervan palin book, as well as have a book about obama’s life story written very quickly (like, in less than one week). our original plan was to crank these out and release them a few weeks prior to the election. but within a couple weeks, we’d hit too many snags on the palin book to make it a reality (which is funny, because we’d originally thought it was going to be the easier of the two to get done). we’d also heard from buyers at store chains that they thought it was too late for pre-election books, and they didn’t think they would carry them. they only thought they would carry a book about whichever one won the election.
so, with the obama book manuscipt already written and in the edit process, and no palin book on the horizon (and, by this point, the polls were slanting significantly in obama’s direction), we held off on sending anything to the printer (remember, the buyers only wanted something about whoever won). on the 5th, we pulled the trigger on the print run, and the book became real.
so, what was originally intended as 1/2 of a paired set of life stories became a stand-alone product about the newly elected president.
now, many of the dozens of angry emails we got today (so far — i’m sure there will be many more) say things like:
– why is youth specialties getting into politics?
– how could you support a baby-killer? there is no way he is a christian.
– we will no longer have anything to do with you, and will tell all of our youth working friends to avoid you also.
this breaks my heart, in so many ways. but let me start with this: i don’t have to agree with someone to find inspiration from their life story. i read a fascinating book about houdini last year, and loved it. and there was much about him i found myself admirable. there was even more about him i found distasteful. but i’m glad i read the book!
second: i find it so difficult to understand my fellow followers of jesus who question another person’s salvation because they disagree with them on a particular issue (or, on more than one issue). let me offer an illustration of this…
ron luce is the national leader of an organization called “acquire the fire“, and a nationally known author, speaker, and trainer of youth workers. ron and i have publicly talked about the many ways we disagree — some of which are quite strong, to be sure. but i don’t, for a second, question ron’s salvation (or even his heart or motive, for that matter). and, i think, based on our previous interactions, that ron would say the same about me.
the reality is, palin and obama were the two candidates who spoke publicly about their faith on a regular basis (moreso than biden or mccain). it is god’s role to decide on salvation. yes, i am to be discerning in my understanding of truth, but it’s not my place to decide who’s a christian and who isn’t.
in addition, while the bible isn’t exactly prescriptive about our engagement with elected officials (or royalty, for that matter), it does have these things to say:
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
at youth specialties, we have democrats and republicans and independents on staff. we do not have a political agenda. we have a christ agenda. and we have an agenda to provide resources for youth workers. we know that every resource we create won’t be your cup of tea (shoot, as a youth worker, not everything we create is my cup of tea, that’s for sure!). so we ask you to use your discernment, yet remain open to a new thing that god might want to do in your heart.
for more on this book, here’s a pdf from our publisher about why we did this book, including a bunch of helpful embedded links.