“I don’t agree with everything the author says”
is Christianese for
“Knowing you, you’ll find something wrong with this book. Don’t burn me at the stake when you do.”
I’m a reader. I read so much people even know I’m a reader. I’m not one of those readers who wanders around telling everyone how much they read. I’m reading.
I’m also a pastor, which means everyone is trying to prove to me how spiritual they are.
When you combine those things, it results in many people giving me “Christian” books to read, but then they get nervous because what if pastor doesn’t like my book? Then I won’t be spiritual.
Therefore, every book a Christian has given me to read has been prefaced with, “I don’t agree with everything the author says.”
I’ve heard this so often I’ve begun saying it myself.
I’m not even sure it’s possible to be a Christian who loans books and not say this. It’s kind of what has to be said.
Part of it is because not everyone is perfect, surely there are things the author says that are wrong. I think we can all agree on that.
But I think this phrase exists for another reason: Christians are massively judgmental.
We feel no freedom to be real with each other. We feel no grace to just recommend a book and have a person work with ya. We’re afraid of being judged, condemned, lectured, and thought to be one of those “crazy Christians.”
The unity of believers is not based on lockstep agreement, but on grace, mercy and forgiveness. To let some things go. To not always cast stones. The church is perhaps the last place in the world one would expect to find that mentality now.
Thus we’re terrified of each other. We can’t just say, “Hey, I think this book is good, you might enjoy it.” That leaves us too vulnerable, too open for attack. We can’t take stands on anything without backing it off a little bit, just in case.
I feel this all the time as a pastor. If I recommend a book and it has a part in it that is nuts, I know that will be the part the person will remember. “Oh, pastor likes that. Hmmm.” A person may end up in hell if I recommend the wrong book at the wrong time to the wrong person.
I’ve completely stopped recommending fiction books because of this and movies are right out. I don’t share my opinion on TV shows, movies, music, or anything else. Too much trouble to wade into. I’ll just keep it to myself.
This isn’t all bad. Romans 14 says we should keep lots of stuff to ourselves before God. If my heart condemns me not, then I shall continue. But that doesn’t mean I have to tell everyone.
Christians are a funny lot. I wonder what unity would truly feel like. I wonder what a community of people willing to show grace to one another would look like. What books would they read?! I bet it would be awesome.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one. (Disclaimer: I think Imagine by John Lennon is the stupidest, awfulest song ever written. I do not agree with anything John Lennon ever said.)
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
6 thoughts on “The Terror of Being a Christian Who Is Asked to Recommend a Book, Movie, Musician, Etc.”
Is there someone you talk about movies and books with though?
I’ll talk to anyone about it. I just gauge what I say, and particularly my recommendations, by what I know about the person.
I take seriously the notion of not causing a brother to stumble. As a pastor, I have a larger responsibility there. It’s very easy for people to say, “Well, my pastor said it was ok, so guess it’s ok.” I take that responsibility seriously.
So true. I have nothing insightful to add, I just agree with your assessment here. I did an article a while back called “Disclaimers and the Christian Outrage Mob” on the same topic. Interesting that we approached it two different ways, but the with almost the same conclusion. Thanks!
I would not always recommend having the same conclusions as me!
There is an out that lets you talk about your favorite books, movies, music, etc.—Like really weird things that no one else does.
Them: “Pastor, what kind of music do you listen to?”
Me: “Rave Music.”
Bonus effect: It shuts right down any attempt to ask for the style of music they like in the worship service in the fear that maybe I too would like to do that. (I don’t.)
At our church we have worship music wars, the contemporary crowd versus the we-have-to-read-the-words-out-of-the-hymnal-or-it-doesn’t-count gang. I tried telling them we just need to sing psalms right out of the Bible so we never have to worry about the author ever being tainted by sex scandals or murder charges.
So this is why I always have my own pew.