Blogger Cameron Dobbins wrote a post recently about an alleged email that was sent by LifeWay to all employees outlining a list of banned authors/ musicians/ resources. Dobbins says he was given the list by a LifeWay employee but LifeWay won’t confirm that the list is authentic. According to Dobbins, books and resources by banned authors will not be available for purchase in LifeWay stores or on LifeWay’s online site. You can review the list here.
Commenting on the list, Dobbins writes, “ If its true then I want to applaud LifeWay for this decision which will encourage Christians to be more discerning about what they read and share with others. It blows my mind how Christians will believe something just because it’s in a book or in a movie without diligently searching the Scriptures to be sure their receiving biblical truth and not mysticism and other unbiblical nonsense.”
I will agree that there are authors on the list who, I believe, mislead through harmful theology. A few examples of this are: Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Gloria and Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen- to name a few.
However, there are authors on the LifeWay list that who’s work I have read and appreciate. The following is a list of authors on the alleged banned list and the number of books I personally own by each:
- Karen Armstrong- 1
- Rob Bell- 1
- Marcus Borg- 2
- Tony Campolo- 2
- Rachel Held-Evans- 1
- Tony Jones- 1
- Brian McLaren- 4
- Doug Pagitt- 1
- Phyllis Tickle- 1
- The Voice Bible- 1
- Henri Nouwen- who I don’t own but want to read
I guess I’m a sucker for “unbiblical nonsense.” The larger issue behind this alleged banned list is the question of censorship. LifeWay, as the official merchandise seller of the Southern Baptist Convention, should be able to choose what they do and do not want to sell. And people seeking to find works from these authors are able to purchase them at other retail locations or online. However, it is a slippery slope when a single person can deem something heretical and unbiblical nonsense for an entire group of people. We only need to look back through history in order to see that censorship never, ever leads a more free, open and intellectual society. Censorship that begins as an attempt to save the population from corruption ends up being a way for the one in charge (in this case the CEO of LifeWay, I imagine) to silence any voice they disagree with or simply do not like.
One of the beliefs of Protestants is that each and every believer has the privilege and responsibility to read and interpret Scripture, commentary on Scripture and works that apply Scripture to life for themselves. I wrote about this in a little more detail here.
I don’t think that people need to support Creflo Dollar and his quest for a multi-million dollar private jet. I don’t believe Benny Hinn is able to heal people. I don’t believe Joel Osteen preaches anything more than a glorified self-help seminar and definitely not the gospel of Jesus. But I also believe that voices like Phyllis Tickle, Marcus Borg, Tony Campolo and others challenge Christians to expand their idea of what the Christian faith means and what it means for the world.
Most of all I believe in each Christian’s responsibility to decide for themselves, and hopefully through their Bible study, prayer life, pastor and church they have help in knowing what to believe and not believe. Overall I don’t think our churches and pastors do a good job of that, but it’s through those means- along with Scripture, prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit- that should form our beliefs, not the author of a list of banned authors.