It’s hard to be a writer these days. There’s this unwritten rule that says you’re only allowed to write about things that you haven’t done well–ways that you have failed or ways you struggle. If you write about the other stuff–the ways you’re naturally gifted or strong–you are labeled as ‘preachy’ or ‘condescending’. We don’t like those kind of writers.
At least not those kind of Christian writers. It’s fine for professional athletes or fitness instructors or billionaires or successful entrepreneurs to be confidently lay out their ten steps to success. But Christian writers who talk like that stay on the shelf (if they ever get there in the first place).
And I understand the cultural demand to some extent. Jesus was a beautiful example of humility as he laid down his life on the cross. But then, Jesus did tell people to follow him. He said, “Do what I do. Be like me.” And Paul did the same thing in his letters to the churches. It makes me wonder if Jesus and Paul would be best sellers in today’s Christian market.
I bumped into this unwritten rule a few years ago, when I submitted a magazine article about a common misconception that I saw among Christians. I developed the article by detailing the effects of this error in three different types of people.
The magazine wrote back and asked if I could rewrite the article, following the ‘rule’. They wanted a voice that was broken over these problems, not condescending or preachy. (They didn’t use those words, but that’s what they meant.) But, when I went to try, I was stumped. Because while I could relate to the errors of one type of people, I couldn’t relate to all three–no one writer could!
In essence, the magazine knew their readers would only read about the ways I am weak and prone to sin. If I haven’t experienced difficulty in an area, I haven’t ‘earned’ the right to talk about it or make suggestions.
Which seems a little backward to me. I mean, who do we want to learn from–the guy who’s fallen back into his porn addiction six dozen times, or the one who has honored his wife by never clicking even once? I’m pretty sure book on finances won’t sell if it’s written by a guy who’s gone bankrupt six times. (I’m not sure if that’s possible, but it probably will be soon.) We want the book by the guy who’s built a Fortune 500 company.
Now, please don’t think I’m on a rant. I’m completely content to write about the areas in which I’m broken, because there’s plenty to write about. I just think that we, as readers, would do well to give special credence to those who had walked faithfully, and have done well in their Christian life. Do you wonder if those type of people are even out there?
They are. They’re just not allowed to talk.
3-29-13 Update: Ok, ok… I need to change that last line. Maybe they don’t feel like they’re supposed to talk. Or they don’t feel like they’re being asked to talk. But we can change that!