Maybe you’ve heard by now or have seen this in stores recently but Lifeway Christian Stores have done it again in their quest to play the role of Holy Spirit in the lives of readers. In January, they put this disclaimer on their website and began placing “Please Read with Discernment™.” stickers on select books by select authors. (Please note the trademark on that phrase.)
Shouldn’t everything be read with discernment? If not, then we could save a lot of money by returning to a few select religious leaders having the only copies of the Scripture and just telling us what it says. (Hmmm.. wait a minute… that sounds familiar.) Of course, that would impact sales as well so perhaps not. To their credit, Lifeway does state that:
While we recognize that almost every title requires some measure of discernment, certain titles should clearly be read with extra discernment.
Who has earned this sacred sticker indicating the need for extra discernment? Well, so far, the lucky winners (in no particular order) are Rob Bell, Donald Miller, and Brian McLaren. Bell is most known for Velvet Elvis, Miller for Blue Like Jazz and McLaren for … well, several heretical works that encourage loving God, loving others, and kingdom living this side of death. The nerve…..
I only wish that these stickers had been on these books when I first discovered them. Perhaps I wouldn’t have bought every book currently published by each of these authors. I would have saved money and an entire row on my bookshelf for safe, Lifeway-Spirit endorsed books that can teach me that God wants to bless me with money and stuff; that I was destined by God to buy that book by that author on that day; that I’m not fulfilling my purpose in life by staying single and childless; and that I want to be like Kirk Cameron and not be left behind.
Unfortunately, there were no stickers available at the time I saw those flashy titles calling to me from the various displays. I love Jazz and the Smurfs. How could I not pick up a copy of Blue Like Jazz? Jazzy Smurf was one of my favorites. Imagine my surprise when I started reading. And don’t get me started on Bell and McLaren.
Without the aid of the discernment labels, I was exposed to such unsound theology as:
- God is love.
- God is mysterious.
- It isn’t about me.
- Jesus wasn’t joking when he said “Love God with everything and love your neighbor. Everything hinges on these two commandments.”
- The Kingdom of God is the here and now, not just the everafter.
- The grace of God shows no partiality and has no limits.
- Penguins have good sex.
Thanks a lot, Lifeway. It’s too late now. I’m obviously screwed up.