Back in 2012, LifeWay Christian book stores banned author Rachel Held Evans’ best-selling book A Year of Biblical Womanhood. She’s not the only author or artist that had products the chain refused to carry. Jen Hatmaker’s books, Sho Baraka’s album The Narrative (which contains the word “penis” in a song about battling lust) and even RELEVANT magazine have been banned by the chain.
Yesterday, LifeWay’s president announced they would be closing all 170 remaining brick and mortar retail stores around the country. LifeWay is run by the Southern Baptist Convention.
In a thread on Twitter, Rachel Held Evans said, “I’m truly sorry to everyone for whom this means the loss of a job or a publishing partner. But, at the end of the day, this is good news for writers of faith and Christian publishing.”
Thread. Lifeway is closing all of its physical locations, and I’m truly sorry to everyone for whom this means the loss of a job or a publishing partner. But, at the end of the day, this is good news for writers of faith and Christian publishing…
— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) March 20, 2019
She explained, “My hope is that this news will reinforce to writers, editors, publishers, and marketers in the industry that we don’t have to conform to Southern Baptist culture and theology to sell books and that fear of getting banned from LifeWay shouldn’t drive editorial decisions.”
She also addressed the chain’s decision to sometimes ban books, seemingly arbitrarily .
“I hope it sends a message to retailers that banning books for not conforming to strict, fundamentalist standards is an ineffective strategy because readers of faith want books that reflect the diversity of the church and the complexity & nuances of the faith experience,” she said. “The average reader has no idea just how large Lifeway loomed over Christian publishing, & just how many voices & ideas it managed to stifle, even outside conservative circles. I hope this unleashes a new era of freedom, creativity & diversity for writers & readers of faith.”