Saturday, January 07, 2006

01/07/06, The Book

The book is within easy reach. “The Evolution of the Idea of God (and other essays).” The link under “Links” will carry you to it. The bird, as the story goes, is in your hands.

Here’s the way it is in two parts. The first part is the book. It says what I have to say (at this point in my life) as well as I can say it. Whether it is worth saying is your call. I don’t know if it is worth saying. I can’t tell. How am I to know? I have to say it and see. “The response,” says Deena Metzger, “determines everything that follows.” So, I wrote it to see if it was worth writing.

The second part is marketing the book; getting it “out”; putting it “within easy reach” of folks who might want to read what I have to say. It’s easy enough to place it with Amazon (and it should be there within two weeks); and it is easy enough to get it on the “Local Interest” shelf of the Barnes & Noble just down the street (But not so easy to get it into Borders, also down the street, which is interesting. Why not? I don’t know.). But, when it comes to Barnes & Noble in High Point, NC (15 miles away), or Winston Salem (30 miles away), or Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Charlotte, it’s a story with a different outcome. The people at Barnes & Noble are kind, gracious, and genuinely want to be helpful, but they have to make a buck, and they wonder how I plan to pack ’em in at a book signing in Charlotte, or Raleigh, or even Winston Salem. Where is my audience in a location where I am a “complete unknown”? How do I sell a book to those who have never heard of me? I’m sure you see the problem. It’s a visibility problem. It’s a promotion problem. It’s an advertising/marketing problem.

Writing the book is the easy part. Wrestling it into shape to be printed is a bit more difficult. Selling it, now that’s a bear. This, of course, is where you come in. Is it worth buying? You don’t even have to buy it to know whether you would be interested in buying it. But, the number of sales generated by this blog and my web site ( will determine how much effort I put into regional promotion. And that would take a lot of effort, and I have better things to do than waste effort at this point in my life. So, here’s my spiel about the book:

Everybody knows what they are supposed to think about God, and everybody knows what they think about God, but not everybody knows what to do with the discrepancy. Everybody in the church discounts, dismisses, discredits, diminishes, disappears, denies the discrepancy. Nobody in the church talks about it. If the discrepancy is such that you cannot ignore it, you just leave the church, because no one there will listen to your problem, or admit that discrepancies exist.

William Hamilton says there hasn’t been a fresh idea about God in 2,000 years. He is quick to amend that by saying there hasn’t been a fresh idea about God allowed into the church in 2,000 years. There have been plenty of fresh ideas about God. Most of them were burned at the stake. After the stake was disallowed, the fresh ideas about God were ostracized, tarred and feathered, run out of town. They were condemned from the pulpits and promptly ignored. They were not permitted to enter the “main stream” of the church.

Source Criticism has known the Bible isn’t what it appears to be—what it is believed to be—for, what, four generations, at least. Do you think that is reflected in any of the Bible studies conducted in any of the churches of the land? Source Criticism may be taught in some of the seminaries, but it doesn’t “work” at the “local level,” because, while people there pay you to talk to them about God, you can’t tell them something they haven’t already heard.

Rudolph Bultman’s “demythologizing the Bible” was a fresh idea that created a ripple, and disappeared. No one in the churches of the land talks about “demythologizing the Bible.” Probably, no one under 35 has even heard the term. The “God is Dead” controversy was a blip on the smooth surface of how the church likes things to be, and then it was gone. “Liberation theology,” produced a small wave and was lost. The Feminist movement made a run at transformation, yet the number of churches today that make a concerted effort at something as simple as inclusive language is pitifully small. The Jesus Seminar presented the church with the possibility of recasting the gospel story, and the church wasn’t interested. The church is interested only in perpetuating the fiction it wants to be true.

“But it IS true!”, proclaims the church, dismissing and denying the discrepancies which crack, rend and shatter the truth it holds so dear. “The Evolution of the Idea of God” is a book about those discrepancies, and about forging a new synthesis between some of the old ideas and some of the fresh, new, insights generated by the work to reconcile the contradictions between what we know about how the world works and what we have been told about how the world works. It offers a fresh way of being the church to those who are interested in a church that is quite different from the church of their experience. The hope of the book is that there are those who are interested.

So. What do you think?

1 comment:

rrusso said...

Wish I could help you out with the marketing problem. I started reading it after church Sunday and of course am loving it so far but then you're preaching to the choir. Typically, those churches that need it the most won't touch it with a ten foot pole. You know. Blasphemy and all that. Sometimes it's all about the language. I remember reading books like this years ago and would simply dismiss it all as some liberal hogwash at best and a demonic deception at worst.
Well good luck. I'll pass the word as best I can.
Ron Russo