12.08.2006

Nelson

Thomas Nelson
recently announced they will be requiring authors to have a clause in their contracts that says they adhere to the Nicene Creed.

Well, hello folks, the Nicene Creed is about what you BELIEVE. The big clue about that is that it starts out "I believe". Publishing contracts are about what you are going to DO.

I can just hear the arbitration suit when, horreurs, it's discovered that an Erring Author has expressed Doubt.

Nelson: Your honor, he was heard saying "Mary isn't a virgin"! That's clearly blasphemous.

Errant Author: Your honor, I was talking about my editor.

Nelson: That's not all your honor! He's been heard to say "I've evolved" in discussing his writing. Clearly an evolutionist! The Nicene Crede says God is the maker of heaven and earth.

Errant Author: Umm...I can't believe in evolution? Even the Pope says evolution is right.

Nelson: You are Non CREEDable! We're cancelling your contract for "Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged: A Guide to Faith in the Workplace".



A litmust test for belief turns everyone into hypocrites.

And if we need a little Bible verse in our contracts perhaps Romans 14:4 would be a better choice.

61 comments:

Don said...

I'm not that familiar with Thomas Nelson, but asking that people adhere to the Nicene Creed is not problematic in the way you seem to think: Many religiously-affiliated schools have similar requirements of their faculty and staff (and presumably students, but I'd only ever considered working at such, never attending).

What is strange is the fact that this is required of authors in all disciplines. A filter on belief is sensible for theological publishing, but odd in other disciplines. It would make some sense if they actually had a stricter filter so that authors would be employing Christian principles in writing in other disciplines, but there is plenty of evidence that there are people who will say that they adhere to the Nicene Creed while acting in a rather unChristian manner in their business dealings.

Bill Peschel said...

There goes half the Bible. Not only are the authors not available to sign, but I understand some of them were (whisper) j-e-w-s.

Anonymous said...

I raise you Romans, and suggest that a lot of us reading your blog cling tightly to Hebrews 11:1. Just because it's the only bible verse I've got memorized doesn't mean anything...

-Nancy

Anonymous said...

Um... Pardon me for being nitpicky, but as the Pope, Benedict XVI can't say that evolution is right. He can say that he personally believes in it, but he can't use his authority as Pope to definitively say, "Yes, evolution is correct." However, the Church itself doesn't dissuede people from believing in evolution.

overdog said...

This type of extremism gets us into trouble every time, but it's too much to ask for idiots to learn from history.

M. Takhallus. said...

Morons.

My wife and I wrote eleven books for Thomas Nelson under their Word division. They were spin-offs of the TV series Christy which was itself a spin-off of a rather horrible memoir slash novel of the same name.

We are both atheists. But we understood the gig, the money was good, and we would always include the inevitable bible lesson. This despite the fact that I don't believe my wife has ever actually opened a bible. I, as the ethnically Jewish, apostate Christian had to do the theological heavy lifting. (Sample writing conference dialog: I don't know what the f***ing Bible lesson is supposed to be, what am I, Jerry Falwell?)

There were no contractual demands, no litmus tests, and no complaints from Word or Thomas Nelson. Evidently they've gotten dumber, more offensive, and less American since then.

Anonymous said...

Efforts to police thought and homogenize religion have a long tragic history, and are still responsible for filling mass graves. I would never sign their bloody contract.

michaelgav said...

Don said, "A filter on belief is sensible for theological publishing..."

Don, I don't think it is. They purchase / publish / promote the work, don't they? They can read, can't they?

What in the world can they get from making a writer sign this provision that they can't get by, say, reading the text?

If your publishing company's mission is to promote a particular faith, that's fine. Just read the books before you contract for them, and select the ones that do the best job in your estimation.

Where is Major ________ de Coverley when you need him?

Anonymous said...

Roman Catholics can only only sign up for the Vatican-approved version, which is not the same as the Protestant version. (Okay, so I go to church every week, I know the Nicene Creed by heart. I'm praying that my kid gets into Notre Dame). I guess us Catholics will have to go stand in the corner with the Jews and Muslims.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Good scholarship is good scholarship, even if one rejects the Nicean Creed. But Nelson can do what they wish.

They aren't the publishing-house they once were. Maybe this mind set is part of the reason for their decline.

The creed was divisive when formulated, designed to define one's theological opponents as Satan's agents. Apparently it still functions that way for T. Nelson. (What ever happened to the Sons anyway. I liked it better when it was Thomas Nelson and Sons.)

My little non-Nicene but Christian Soul looks with disdain on Thomas Nelson, inc. If they were alive and seeking publication today, Nelson would reject John Locke, Isaac Newton, Samuel Clarke, William Whiston, Robert Boyle, Joseph Priestly, Thomas Emlyn, John Milton and numerous others whose thought and Christianity deviated from the Creed. And people such as Sidney Watson would find a ready home at Nelson, even though they were unscholarly idiots, because they believed the Nicene Creed.

Thomas Nelson is free to decide whom to publish, but by making this decision they cut themselves off from major and worthwhile scholarship and from a portion of Christianity older and more historically based than Athenaism.

I bet you didn't know pixie goat-herds knew this stuff, did you?

Writer on Board said...

This is stupid and scary. There. I said it.

Anonymous said...

That stinks like last weeks rotten cabbage!
I really, really hate it when "christians" try to shove there beliefs down other peoples throats, so basically these yahoos are going to only take "christian" writers, who are all just a mindlessly brainwashed as themselves.
The longer I live, the more I stop believing in humanity.
Hey, I think all just create my own religion, and sign myself to a believer clause.
*I believe chocolate is better than sex!
* I believe rainy days should be spent in bed.
*I believe Ewan McGregor should marry me!(after we both divorce our spouses...)
*I believe George Clooney should clone himself, as a public service to women everywhere.
*I believe dog's are smarter than people.
*I believe cats are smarter than all the rest of the species put together.
* Cats rule the world...I believe.
*But dogs, rule the hearts of man!
*Last but not least, I believe humans should be free to worship as they please. As long as they aren't hurting anyone else. Specifically dogs, cats, gerbals, and the occational mice...deer, antelope, eagles, horses, and baboons. Pretty much everything on four legs or knuckles.

spyscribbler said...

Oh. My. God.

Anonymous said...

I was all ready to rant on about how this could be the MOST. STUPIDIST. THING. EVER! (What next, only women can write about women, only gays can write about gays, only vampires can write about vampires?)

But then I read anon 5's "chocolate is better than sex" and now I'm just sad.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

LOL, Miss Snark at first I thought you were refering to verse 2...LOL...those vegetarians are always causing problems!

This is an example of what happens when the secular world sticks their big, fat two-cents into the Christian world.

For all of you secular people who have a disparaging remark to make about Christians and/or their publishing requirements, let me set you straight.

Nelson was bought on Feb 21th of this year by the secular media company Inter Media Partners VII. The powers that be, ran all of their present authors through this new litmus test. The ones that passed have consistently, in the last year, out-preformed the ones that failed.

So...this in essence is another way to weed out the non-preformers and put the almighty buck ahead of the Almighty God.

Don't blame the "christians" when you "seculars" are the ones that created the problem.

And as for the athiest up above...you want to talk about a moron...you profess not to believe in God, but you'll pretend to believe in him to make money...yea that sounds about right!

Inez said...

Thanks chere mlle snarque
for reconnecting me to the NT

Yasmine Galenorn said...

Obviously, one publisher I will never be publishing with. Nor would I consider publishing with any house that forced me to sign such a document, regardless of what beliefs were espoused. It's their business, they can do as they wish, but they're going to alienate a lot of good writers who don't happen to be Christian, and/or who refuse to bow down to militant tactics.

Ray Goldensundrop said...

And here I thought only the devil used contracts to collect souls.

I believe this is still true.

Anonymous said...

Is this even legal? Does anyone know what the legal position would be if they got as far as offering someone a publishing contract, then withdrew it because they discovered that person wasn't a Christian?

M. Takhallus. said...

Bonnie:

I also don't believe in Zeus, faster-than-light travel, time travel and alien parasites but I pretended to for money.

It's fiction, honey, it's all made up. Sorry if my making up your particular God was offensive to your tender sensibilities.

Anonymous said...

I think this is simply a procedure to try and make sure their authors subscribe to a traditional form of Christianity. There are some groups that insist they're Christian yet have quite bizarre beliefs and rituals (usually these exhibit cultish behaviour). Many Christian directories and webservices do the same creed thing, simply to keep to a traditional form of Christianity and avoid their readers/clients getting sucked into questionable religious groups masquerading as traditional Christians. Thomas Nelson apparently believes they have a responsibility for the works they put out to have sound theology behind them. I don't believe for a second it is an act of trying to shut the world outside.
And just a friendly reminder: being open-minded and tolerant goes where Christians are concerned, too. To call Christians dumb is not tolerant, it's intolerant. It's always fun to see that whenever Christians are on the table, those who call themselves open-minded and tolerant are the first ones to start throwing stones and call people names.

Anonymous said...

Holy moly.

Anonymous said...

Hm. When Christians act in a manner contradictory to their faith, they're hypocrites. When atheists write books with Christian messages, it's okay?

For the first time, I really understand why platform is so important for nonfiction writers. Thank goodness. Otherwise, there would be more of this kind of stuff going on. Anyway, the next time I pick up a book that professes to offer good things for Christians, you can be damn sure that I won't buy it unless the author has a credible platform.

Michael Patrick Leahy said...

Miss Snark disappoints, and reflects a certain blue state bias.

Sigh.

Thomas Nelson is a publisher of Christian books. As such, they have a right to require their authors to be fellow believers. From a business point of view, they just want their books to be genuinely reflective of a Christian view point.

As a Christian, I am not sure that I personally would set forth the same requirement if I were in the publishing business, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with Thomas Nelson making it a requirement for their authors. It's their business and they can choose the strategy that makes the most sense for them.

As a Christian author, I am not sure I would sign the Nicene Creed acceptance they require, but that is my choice. (Not to make too fine a point on this, but I would sign the Westminister Confession of Faith if required. Need to go back and read over the Nicene Creed before I let you know if I would sign on !).

Do not begrudge or belittle Thomas Nelson's right to conduct their business as they see fit. There's plenty of room out there for publishers with all sorts of business strategies.

Anonymous said...

For all of you who are going on about the publisher making sure Christian books are written by "real" Christians, did you bother to go look at the link? This is covering ALL of their books -- "even those writing in non-religion categories like business." If it were just about Christian books, I wouldn't have much of a problem with their decision, but that is not the case.

ann said...

(Shrug) Seems to me like Thomas Nelson is free to do business with whomever they wish.

And if someone doesn't pass their litmus test, well, then they hear those immortal words "Not right for me."

M. Takhallus. said...

Anonymous:

First, it wasn't non-fiction in my case, it was fiction. And it is ridiculous to demand a litmus test of people who write fiction. The only litmus test is: can you tell a story?

Second, we did not "pretend" to be Christian, we were never asked and never volunteered. In fact at that point we had dozens of books on the market many of which demonstrated at the very least a degree of flexibility on some moral questions and an open-mindedness on the subject of religion. Certainly no one was under the impression that we were Christian advocates.

Third, we didn't appproach them, they came to us, knowing what we'd written, looking for people who could sustain a series. There aren't all that many people who know anything about series and applying litmus tests of any kind just limits the talent pool resulting in inferior work.

Fourth, I didn't accuse Christians of being stupid -- pretty much everyone I know is a Christian, I used to be, and I'm just finishing a book where the smartest character is a devout Christian. I accused the the current Nelson company of being stupid. Also un-American.

Finally, I don't grind ideological or philosophical axes when I write fiction. I tell stories. When we worked for Word we told stories, same as we have for any number of publishers. We wrote dozens of books for Disney yet (gasp!) we don't really much like Disney characters. So what?

M. Takhallus. said...

That should have read "anonymouses," plural. Various anonymi can apply various points.

p.n.elrod said...

So will all agents with a specific religious and or cultural background start demanding their clients sign similar things to declare themselves on this side or that?

Hopefully never.

Diversity is a huge strength, but there will always be trogs who miss that point.

As it is a private company and a free country they can do as they please, however much we disdain their ultimately devisive 'tude. Clearly they want to "keep out the riff raff." Fine with me; I don't need to hang with 'em. I'll be dragging my mongrel belief a$$ over to another part of the oxygen bar.

Wonder if the ACLU will pop and blood vessels over this idiocy?

Michael Patrick Leahy said...

Miss Snark disappoints doubly in this post by incorrectly characterizing Christian views on evolution.

In a nutshell, believing Christians can ascribe to any of the following theories:

1. Darwin's theory of natural selection
2. Intelligent Design
3. Old Earth Creationism
4. New Earth Creationism

There are numerous books by Christian scientists who separately support each of these theories.

Subscribing to the Nicene Creed does not prohibit a Christian from accepting any of these four theories of human development.

Snarkiness may be witty and cruel, but it must also be honest !

Bonnie Calhoun said...

M. Takhallus:

The only satisfaction necessary from you will be the same that I got from the 9/11 terrorsts...one second after passing into the eternal life, they found out they were wrong!

In the meantime I will pray for you my friend.

And as a side note about Nelson, their whole line of books, both fiction and non-fiction are written and marketed from a Christian world view. Their site blurb tells you "Thomas Nelson carries thousands of titles from the top names in Christian publishing". So you would only expect christians to submit manuscripts there!

Then again...the more I think about it...LOL...who can blame Nelson on the whole...LOL...maybe their trying to weed out faux christians like our friend up above....ROFLOL!

skybluepinkrose said...

Anonymous "I think this is simply a procedure . . ." and michael patrick leahy -- right on.

Those who want the requirement to apply only to theological books don't understand that faith is not confined to its own little corner of life, separable from any other discipline the faith-adherent pursues. Interestingly, these are probably the same people who eschew religion because they feel it's not relevant to the real world. There is no such thing as values-free anything. Your worldview, no matter what it is, will penetrate your writing on any subject, and that is what the across-the-board requirement recognizes.

M. Takhallus. said...

Sky:

You don't know what you're talking about.

A good writer's "worldview" penetrates the prose only if he chooses to allow it to do so. I've frequently concealed my gender in writing, let alone my "worldview."

That's what writers do: they control the message.

Now, obviously in other things I let my "worldview" come to the fore. But your theory that I couldn't possibly write effectively from a Christian pov is effectively rebutted by the fact that I did precisely that. By your logic it would follow that only straight writers can write straight characters, only black writers black characters, only action heroes could write action heroics. You're kind of missing the point of what fiction writers do. Most of what I've written is in the pov of a 12 year old. And yet (!) I'm not 12.

By the way, not once did anyone at Nelson complain that we hadn't handled the religious message well. Not a peep of complaint. Not from them and not from the readers.

Funny side note: when they recruited us, the other writer they were considering is gay.

termagant 2 said...

multnomah publishers has this sort of statement of faith and has had for some time...i don't see anyone getting irritated about theirs. is this only dissed on a selective basis...if you were writing for a jewish publication would it be okay to ask if you are jewish

t2, whose caps key doesn't work due to an overdose of hot cocoa

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

It's time for a mild Pixie Snit.

Dear Anon:

You wrote:

There are some groups that insist they're Christian yet have quite bizarre beliefs and rituals (usually these exhibit cultish behaviour). Many Christian directories and webservices do the same creed thing, simply to keep to a traditional form of Christianity and avoid their readers/clients getting sucked into questionable religious groups masquerading as traditional Christians.

Dear Anon:

Your comment betrays ignorance both of the historical setting of the Nicean Creed and of older, alternate and still Christian belief. It also reveals a paternalism that is both unneeded and unwanted.

Do you think Methodists are a cult? At their founding they were held to be by Anglicans. Do you think Catholics are a cult? Perhaps because they believe in Transubstantiation? What about Advent Christians? Most of their churches are not very distinguishable from any other religion except they believe in Conditional Immortality rather than Inherent Immortality. They're a cult? What of the Church of God (Abrahamic Faith)?

The core question is, why do you feel the need to protect your people? Are they so under-educated in their own belief that they cannot "make a defense" for the truth? Paul requires Christians to be able to defend their belief. Your fellow believers can't? Why not?

There is a difference between Thomas Nelsons' desire to filter its writers and your need to paternalistically protect others from "sects." Most of us are educated enough to make our own informed and intelligent decisions about belief. If members of your religion are not, then you have failed as a "Christian" body.

Oh, and as far as bizarre ritual goes ... Do you think the Orthodox Easter is wrong because of calendar issues? Do you think Easter is wrong because it originates in the worship of Istare/Astarte/Artemis? Isn't it bizarre that some ‘cults' who claim Christianity worship Astarte, a fertility goddess, under the guise of Christian ceremony? Isn't it bizarre that one can find a Yoni Stone built right into "Christian" churches in Ireland and Scotland? Here is the Goddess in all her naked glory, exposing what we cover. They're your churches, dear Anon. You did that. Or your ancestors did. Isn't it bizarre that lingus spires found their way into Christian architecture?

Maybe we should start considering more traditional Christian groups as sects on the basis of these bizarre practices.

Neslon has an absolute right to choose its authors on any basis it wants. You don't have an absolute right to treat other Christians paternalistically. There is an entire history of Christianity of which you appear to be ignorant. Maybe it's time you learn of it.

skybluepinkrose said...

m. tak:

Well, yes I do.

Your writing, especially your fiction, comes out of you, no? Can you write different characters and worldviews just as an actor can play different roles? Sure. But take it a little deeper. You as the novelist have something to say about your material, whether you plan to impose a message on the novel or whether it emerges to surprise you. Do you completely, consciously, control all of the message in your novel, in every respect? No. You will, at some level, reveal yourself. Part of the nature of fiction writing is that you will reveal more than you plan, sometimes more than you like, about yourself. And what you believe to be "truth" about the human condition you've portrayed will be there.

Nothing I said implies that only black can write black, straight can write straight, middle-aged man can write middle-aged man, and so forth. You can create two characters who convincingly butt heads about opposite sides of an issue. But your writing as a whole will have something to say about all this. If you are just writing for the $ the gig will bring, you can manipulate the main message to sound right and convince most of your readership, yes. But if you continue in that vein, you will trip up. Sooner or later you will out yourself, even if only subtly. The clues will be there for those who can pick them up.

I'm not talking about what the novel portrays; I'm talking about what it advocates or celebrates.

You don't control as much as you think. And if you over-control, you risk a book that comes out pat or wooden.

BTW, I published with T. Nelson too. Fiction.

Anonymous said...

Now wait a minute--does the actual contract clause (which isn't quoted in the article) say that the AUTHOR has to adhere to the Nicene Creed? Or just that their WRITING does? There's a big difference between the two. The second one makes perfect sense. The first one...well, I can see some possible reasons for it, but it still seems a bit odd to have in a contract. It's not like you can prove definitively what a person believes, but you CAN judge whether or not their writing fits with a particular value system.

M. Takhallus:
Stop being so tetchy--you're just making everyone mad at you. "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" and all that.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Oh, and while Lit Must Test if she's a test giver, isn't it litmus test?

Miss Speller

M. Takhallus. said...

Sky:

150 books. About 70 million sold, give or take. Eight figures earned.

I appreciate the lecture about what I can and cannot do with words.

You don't seem to realize how offensive this idea is. You're telling me that try as I might I can never hope to pass for white. Oh, excuse me, you mean of course that I can never pass for "Christian." Something will give me away. Kind of like when a Jew tries to pass at the country club. You can always tell with "those people" can't you?

This is a particularly bizarre assertion given that my wife and I managed to do precisely what you say is impossible. And did it as a side gig to boot.

It is contemptible for a publisher to apply a religious litmus test. It is contemptible and un-American. Should secular publishers have the right to exclude religious writers? I'm not doubting their legal right, but their actions are profoundly un-American, divisive, discriminatory and stupid. This is not Iraq: we are not Sunni and Shiite and Kurd, we are Americans.

I often disagree with Miss Snark, but on this she's right.

Chrystalline said...

"You don't know what you're talking about."

What an arrogant and offensive thing to say. You don't like the word "worldview"? Do you prefer "paradigm"? Either way, the things you believe about the universe are, in total, your paradigm/worldview/religion, and by their very nature, are transparent to you unless you make a concerted effort to question everything around you. The downside to this is that eventually, questioning all reality leaves you mad.

To function in this universe, we must make certain assumptions and accept the word of others regarding things they've seen/heard/experienced. This blog is a case in point - we believe Miss Snark when she says certain things about the literary world because we choose to believe, either because it fits with what we've experienced, or because others we trust have placed their trust in her. We assume that she (and the universe in general) will continue to behave as in the past. We assume the sun will rise in the east and set in the west, because it always has. When things happen differently, we try to figure out why or write it off as a fluke or trick of the light. It is human nature to believe only what we choose to believe - including this statement. You chose to disbelieve Skybluepinkrose, and it remains to be seen whether further elaboration on the subject will persuade you to choose to believe in the subjectivity of human paradigms. You may choose to believe that I, too, "don't know what [I'm] talking about."

You can only control the elements of your belief that you know differ from others' views. Something you take for granted but differs from another's view can come across easily in your writing and you would never notice it, but they would when they read it.

Try removing it from religion and setting it in another issue: a racist who truly believes all people of another race are bad/stupid/worthless is not likely to notice overtones of racism in his/her writing. It's the casual, unemotional comments that highlight the depth of that person's belief in this (obviously false to the rest of us) view. You could play the same example with sexism - a man who thinks women are all dumb/incompetent won't see a problem with the following dialog:

Woman: "Hi, I was calling to find out if you have any job openings."

Man: "You have to go through the website, but we don't have any secretarial jobs right now."

Smart, educated women really hate this kind of thing. She may be looking for a job as a programmer, a salesperson, a graphic designer, a manager, or any number of professional, high-powered jobs. Sexist males think this is a normal and proper response, since it is obvious to them that women are only good for secretarial work - unless they're at home in the kitchen.

"your theory that I couldn't possibly write effectively from a Christian pov is effectively rebutted by the fact that I did precisely that"

First, you said you "used to be" a Christian, which means you already know a great deal about Christianity as it was practiced in your church/school/neighborhood and gives you an advantage most never-been-Christian writers could not have. Second, there is no guarantee that your writing disguised your disdain for Christianity as thoroughly as you claim. It is possible that your work was part of the aggregate that inspired them to make a shift like this. You don't know; I don't know. Thomas Nelson has data we do not have with regard to why they wish to make this shift. It is obvious from this post, however, that you despise Christianity and all who practice it, which isn't likely to endear your work to the Christians who are Thomas Nelson's target market.

I will say this - there are significant numbers of so-called Christian books I cannot abide, because it is painfully obvious that the writers are not Christians and have no idea what Christians truly believe, and many more that are horrible tripe that only got published because it had "Christian" pasted into the MS here and there. I do not write to the authors or publishers to complain - I simply refuse to buy those books.

"By your logic it would follow that only straight writers can write straight characters, only black writers black characters, only action heroes could write action heroics. You're kind of missing the point of what fiction writers do. Most of what I've written is in the pov of a 12 year old. And yet (!) I'm not 12."

What a childish argument. You may not be twelve now, but you were, once. There are elements of character that will ring false if the author is not thoroughly familiar with what is involved in being a person with those traits/beliefs/desires/experiences, and you're trivializing it because you don't want to believe that your paradigm influences what you write.

Chrystalline said...

"some of them were (whisper) j-e-w-s."

Psst - so was Christ. Where's the problem?

Anonymous said...

Publisher: Do you SWEAR on this BOOK you believe XYZ and not QRS?
Disagreer: Nope.
True Believer: Yes.
Lying Scam Artist: Yes.
Publisher: Okay, Disagreer, you are hereby blacklisted, your contract's cancelled, we never want to hear from you again, and don't bug me about it or my lawyer will sue. I promised the XYZ people I'd only sell books written by True Believers and Lying Scam Artists.

A Paperback Writer said...

Wow. I was first slightly amused that TN would make such a requirement, but, hey, it's their company, so they can have such a requirement if they wish. Many publishing companies have very specific requirements about what they will and won't publish about religion, sex, violence, politics, etc., so why not this agency?
BUT -- Bonnie Calhoun, you frighten me with your comments in the same way that the Taliban frightens me. The word "xenophobia" comes to mind here.
Sure, worship God in the way you choose, but I suggest learning a wee bit of tolerance for others' opinions.
Fortunately, God seems to be much more tolerant of differences than your comments make you sound.
sha'el, princess of pixies:
Oh, very nicely said. Don't forget all those Green Man images in churches in England, though. And, since it's holiday season, let's not forget that Dec. 25 was chosen because it was already a pagan holiday (Saturnalia and Yule in Rome and the British Isles, respectively), and not because the date had anything to do with the birth of Jesus. Also, any Christian who uses evergreen trees, holly, mistletoe, or gives gifts at this season is following pagan -- not Christian -- traditions. And then there's the fact that Easter (in the English language) is named after a pagan goddess and is celebrated with rabbits and eggs, two pagan elements.
So, many, many Christian religions have incorporated these (gasp!) non-Christian elements and have survived very nicely.

Michael Patrick Leahy said...

My compliments to Miss Snark for allowing this extended dialogue to continue on this topic.

It's quite fascinating to see the passion her post has exposed.

There appear to be two camps in this discussion.

On the one hand is what I will call the Secular Rights Group. In this category I place Miss Snark and Mr. Takhallus. This group thinks the Niceen Creed litmus test of Thomas Nelson is offensive to the extreme.

On the other hand is the group I will call the Christian Free Marketers. I am in this group, along with Bonnie Calhoun, Chrystalline, skybluepinkrose, sha'el, and several anonymous posters.

We say, Thomas Nelson is a Christian Publisher selling to Christians. If they want to set up a Niceen Creed litmus test, go ahead and let them.

Now, anonymous argues that the scam artist may lie to Thomas Nelson, sign the test, and get a book contract. Anonymous is right in stating this, correctly pointing out that if it is the goal of Thomas Nelson to make sure that all authors are "authentically aligned" with the Christian values of its audience, the Niceen Creed litmus test may not be the best method of achieving this objective.

That's an argument about the merits of their tactics, not the merits of their strategy, or their right to set that strategy.

I think it is entirely possible that Mr. Takhallus is capable of writing in a Christian voice to a Christian audience, even if these are views he appears to reject vehemently.

As a man of honor, Mr. Takhallus would not sign the Niceen Creed litmus test, and therefore no longer would appear to have an opportunity to publish with Thomas Nelson.

Does that prohibit another Christian publisher from publishing works by Mr. Takhallus written in a Christian voice ? I don't think so. But that is a decision for that publisher to make, in discussions with Mr. Takhallus.

The ironic element of this entire discussion was pointed out by Bonnie Calhoun in one of her earlier posts. The Niceen Creed litmus test was established by Thomas Nelson only after it was purchased earlier this year by a secular company !

This suggests that the litmus test may be a crude attempt by Thomas Nelson to make sure their authors are genuinely Christian. It also suggests that other publishers may have other, more effective methods of accomplishing that objective.

Here's a thought.

Maybe they actually get to know them first !

Chrystalline said...

"Publisher: Do you SWEAR on this BOOK you believe XYZ and not QRS?
Disagreer: Nope.
True Believer: Yes.
Lying Scam Artist: Yes."

Publisher: Is this book the product of your own effort, true to life and entirely factual?
Fiction Writer: No.
Nonfiction Writer: Yes.
James Frey: Yes.

Liars will always be a problem, regardless of context.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they'll change their stance later on, but in the mean time most of these posts are hysterical. If they want to put up a standard, so what? It's their business. Could be their funeral, who knows? But acting like it's the end of western civilization...get a grip!

No, I'm not putting up my name in case any of you particularly rabid types start thinking a rock through my window sounds good. Jeesh!

Dr. Daniel said...

I can't believe some of the bitching I've heard here. Maybe Nelson has a bad idea going on, maybe they don't. But it's still America, as many of you are fond of pointing out, and as such they can set all the standards they want for their business.

Maybe guys like Takhallus explain why the Christian fiction market has such a bad rep...all those icky sweet stories summed up in one or two verse conclusions; I mean, really, what unbelievable crap. I'm sure Takhallus was doing just what he was contracted to do, but it's not like being assigned to write about artic penguins. If you've never in your heart had a relationship with Jesus Christ you may think you've got this great 'Christian voice,' but as a reader, I'm telling you, there was something missing.

Look Takhallus, you don't believe in Christianity, you don't even seem to like it. You were just writing for the money. That makes you just one more writing 'ho that got kicked off his street corner. Quit whining and go find another.

M. Takhallus. said...

First, I'd be fascinated to learn how so many have reached the conclusion that I am "vehemently" anti-Christian. I am vehemently against this policy. Believe it or not, it is possible to be non-Christian, and to oppose loyalty oaths, without being anti-Christian.

Interesting though, isn't it, how many of you leapt to characterize me that way on the basis of no evidence whatsoever.

The majority never sees a problem with discrimination against the minority. 80% of the country is Christian, about 5% are agnostic or atheist. What a shock to discover that members of the 80% see no problem in eliminating possible economic competition from the 5%.
Quel surprise!

In addition to having written a number of books, I've hired a dozen odd writers at various times. I had no idea what their religious views were. This is apropos because a number of you 80% have claimed that my lack of religion must necessarily bleed through all I do. And yet, when I hired writers I never cared about anything but their skill. I took the crazy risk of hiring (gasp!) without litmus tests.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Miss Snark, for getting us all warmed up this morning. But I'm tired of all this pettiness now. The Nelson publishing company can put whatever they want in their contracts. As it has been pointed out, if you don't like it, no one is forcing you to sign. They're not the only publishing company in the world.

I believe God gave us life and it's up to us to take it from there. So, the sun is out, it's a nice balmy 38 degrees and I feel like taking a walk. I hope all of you can get outside this Sunday afternoon and appreciate the splendor of God's gift to us. Christian, Jew, Atheist, Muslim, whatever. Peace....CM

Chrystalline said...

"Interesting though, isn't it, how many of you leapt to characterize me that way on the basis of no evidence whatsoever."

Try re-reading your posts and turn them around to talk about atheism instead of Christianity and see what you think. You have insulted and patronized the Christians who responded to you, and disparaged their beliefs - how is that "no evidence whatsoever"? Ironically, it seems this discussion is a case in point as to how one's personal beliefs can bleed through without the writer noticing.

"The majority never sees a problem with discrimination against the minority. 80% of the country is Christian, about 5% are agnostic or atheist. What a shock to discover that members of the 80% see no problem in eliminating possible economic competition from the 5%."

Oh, come on. Thomas Nelson is one publisher out of how many? The majority of publishers are *not* Christian publishers. People have commented that it's "scary" - I find it scary that so many think it's perfectly all right to tell Christians that we can't decide who we do and don't want to publish/read/listen to. If it was a GLBT publisher insisting all authors sign a statement that they are GLBT or GLBT supporters, would we be having this discussion?

"I'm tired of all this pettiness now."

I agree, the histrionics have gotten tiresome. So, I am going, and won't check back on this thread again. Have a nice day, everyone.

William G. said...

Wow. I can't believe how much of a controversy this has become.

Personally, I think the whole thing was a move aimed at booksellers. A lot of Christian bookstores are still mom-n-pop businesses, and even the franchise stores are usually run by men and women of faith, who consider their vocation an integral part of their faith-walk. If Thomas Nelson can reach out to these bookstore owners and managers by showing an interest in making sure their authors represent the values Micheal Hyatt espouses, which in turn are the values these bookstore owners and managers espouse, then that may position the company more favorably in those markets. And since those owners and managers are the ones making decisions about what books get to occupy what real estate in their stores, it makes perfect sense to me. At least in theory, anyway.

I've seen publishing companies and divisions of companies that only contracted with authors that fit certain specific molds before--based on everything from gender to race--so I'm really surprised this has gotten so much attention. Thomas Nelson is in the position of marketing its product to Christians, they even go so far as to name their niche audience in their marketing efforts (though I suspect their true audience is a niche within the overall Christian community).

I have no objection to the Nicene Creed, so I wouldn't hesitate to sign it with clear conscious, but I have nothing but respect for those who do object and would refuse. I guess it all comes down to what the individual author believes, how strongly they believe, and how much faith they have in themselves to find another publisher if Thomas Nelson's new policy has caused too much friction.

M. Takhallus. said...

Chrys:

If it was a gay publisher insisting that only gays could write for it? You bet we'd be having this discussion and I'd be objecting as strongly to that litmus test. It would be stupid and objectionable and un-American and I would say so.

You have no basis for concluding that I am anti-Christian -- as your evasive response makes clear.

And please, spare me the self-pity of the helpless 80% majority. "We" force nothing on you.

Kris_W said...

Do you suppose Thomas Nelson is invoking the Nicene Creed so they won't have to actually read and understand the manuscripts they publish? Just ask'n, y'know.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to go with Miss Snark on this. Our minister required a similar letter of belief for people who taught Sunday School. I don't teach, but my husband did teach an adult class at that time. I told the guy when he called I found it ridiculous, 'fundamentally' flawed, and insulting to people who think. Some of us prefer to discuss and even at times cuss. Some people want more than the standard party line. God's big enough to take it. He created us with the ability to use critical thinking. I would think he'd want us to use it, to deepen our relationship with Him...by working for it, wanting it, and reaching out for it, not just believing because someone told us to. (I'm not accusing or projectioning onto anyone here who has commented. This is my reaction to our minister's decree, and by extention of this discussion, to the publishers demand for a statement of faith.)

I also disagree with those who think a non-believer's subconscious will leak out and pollute the waters. I'll be honest--knowing I'm probably going to insult Christian writers, so I'll apologize up front--just assume I'm not talking about your book. I've probably not read it. Why? Because I tried to read of some Christian novels when friends recommended them to me, and I can assure there was not enough depth in them for an ant to swim in that puddle. The ones I read were manipulative, using fear as a tool to scare people into believing their message. It wasn't a non-believer who wrote them either. I'm talking ministers and others who head or are active in Christian organizations. I'm sure none of you who write in this genre would be so manipulative. I'm just saying....

So, what's this got to do with signing the Nicene Creed? The thing is worthless. It assures the publisher of nothing but someone can sign their name. It sure won't cull out 'incorrect' theology. My 'correct' and your 'correct' may differ significantly. It is therefore possible for a devout Christian to write a book in all sincerity and still offend someone who believes and interprets the Bible differently.

Thomas Nelson can do as he pleases, but I'm tellin' ya, it's a marketing ploy, nothing more, and those who sign are being duped into believing their religion matters in this issue. Nah, they're just a wheel in moving the corporate machine forward. I find that a little un-Christian, myself.

Michael Hyatt said...

I am the CEO of Thomas Nelson. Contrary to the media reports, we are not requiring authors to sign a doctrinal statement. Nor have we included any doctrinal requirements in our contracts. You can read an unfiltered account of our editorial standards here.

skybluepinkrose said...

Here's my guess on the reason for the new policy, and it is a guess because if TN has publicized its reason, I've not seen it. Since Nelson's been bought by a secular publisher, perhaps this is their way of reassuring the Christian bookstores that they will still make some attempt to ensure their books will be Christian books written by Christians -- imperfect though any such attempt might be. Through personal experience, I am well aware that if a Christian publisher "product" is suspect in the stores, they will not stock it and you can kiss your sales figures goodbye.

Agree or disagree with the policy's effectiveness, wisdom, sanity, or Americanism; I'm just saying I suspect this is the underlying reason, and that it's not an unreasonable business decision.

I agree with Anonymous's statement that a lot of Christian novels don't have enough depth for an ant to swim. There's too much evangelical agenda in most, from their very conception, and while some Christian fiction has gotten better over the last few decades, a lot of it is no better at all. Now maybe it's my turn to be offensive, and I truly don't mean to, but I think that's probably why Mr. Takhallus's books work to the extent that they do. I don't know his work and I'm not saying he's a shallow writer. I'm saying that if he happens to be writing some material he doesn't fully believe in, he may be able to pull that off easier in Christian fiction than just about any other genre, because the Christians aren't digging very deep either. I stand by my belief that writers reveal themselves, but I'll allow that when most people involved (writer, publisher, reader) are mainly looking for the party line mixed into a bang-up plot, that revelation may be missed by the main audience (not necessarily by everybody). To paraphrase CS Lewis, we need fewer Christian writers and more writers who are Christians. A lot of thinking Christians, even pretty conservative ones, quietly eschew CBA novels.

(CBA = Christian Bookseller's Association)

Anonymous said...

Cool! Nice to know that at least one nun reads this blog. Bonnie Calhoun, I must advice you to not judge those who have a secular life as not having a spiritual one.

Termagant 2 said...

I write CBA, though I'd happily accept a contract with a Christian-content-friendly ABA publisher. Much of the time, at least in the romance world, the ABA pubs don't WANT our product, which leaves us with the CBA houses even if our books are too edgy for them. Some of us compromise and sell. Some of us don't.

But this isn't about the publisher or the author--it's about the customer. If a reader picks up a book by Nelson, s/he expects a worldview, a way of relating to life. To be inclusive at all costs would be to cheat the reader. These expectations are fine. We all shop for books hoping to be pleasantly suprised, and hoping to get value for our book-buying dollar is part of our expectations.

How many of us would buy a Harlequin Blaze, or a book by Ellora's Cave, and expect a sweet Christian romance? We'd be honked off, and rightly so, due to failure to meet expectations.

So this isn't about whether you can "write Christian" if you're not. It's about the readers' just expectations, and not failing them.

T2

Michele Lee said...

>>And as for the athiest up above...you want to talk about a moron...you profess not to believe in God, but you'll pretend to believe in him to make money...yea that sounds about right!

I'm behind here but see there's this thing called fiction, and even literary fiction is well, fiction. My MC in my friest books is a whining cowardly prat. I'm not. And see, I'm writing this story about dragons, but that doesn't mean I believe the big one sent his hatchling down to save my sins... but I'm still writing about it. So all my characters, in *Fiction* have to be my same religion? I don't believe the Nelson bull is anything more than a ploy to get support from the purists, and I strongly believe authors shouldn't get upset over this because there are other fish (and krakken) in the sea. But comments like this one are what I put on my war paint for.

Anonymous said...

I worked in Christian publishing for many years, and most of what I saw was garbage, writing-wise. Forget about the Nicene Creed -- Nelson (and all the other Christian publishing houses) would be better served if their authors signed contracts promising to be good writers...

skybluepinkrose said...

To the anonymous in Christian publishing -- I wonder how many of your colleagues feel as you do. My editor at one Christian house (speaking diplomatically and within the bounds of propriety) once confessed that she found most of their fiction to be " . . . rather average." I always strove to break out of the mold a bit, and she wanted to encourage this and said her goal was to communicate to the sales reps that my books were a cut above. Though the books had a small devoted following, they did not sell well.
After selling work to another house, I was flabbergasted to get a phone call from the Editorial Director who said my books were the best fiction of their kind to come into the house in a year, and he just wanted to thank and encourage me. Again, these books won a small pocket of fans, but didn't do well overall.

My point is to tie in with the comment by T2. If a book has overt evangelical Christian content, period, the ABA won't touch it. But if it pushes the boundaries in the CBA, they generally won't either. I'm usually a believer that good writing trumps all, but when I think about this ABA/CBA dichotomy I'm hard pressed not to think that marketing trumps all.

Which brings up the question: If a significant number of individuals working for CBA houses would really like to NOT publish bad writing, why don't things change? It has to be because they've determined their readership wants what they're already doing.

I no longer aim my writing at the CBA. My forthcoming book is from an ABA publisher.