If you know me, you know that people joke I can make the Pope look pro-choice. I am pro-life to the nth degree, so much I irritate other pro-life Christians sometimes. There are places I won’t shop and things I won’t be involved with because of abortion ties. I research, read, write, and breathe LIFE. I say all this to say that the last thing you will ever find me doing is covering up for anyone in this arena.
That said, I am disturbed by a blog that is going around social media, in which the writer, Mike S. Adams, asserts that LifeWay’s book division is not pro-life. In his critical blog, Rightly Offended, Mr. Adams details his shopping trip to buy the new book on late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, entitled, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer. After his attempt to order the book on Amazon was met with a lengthy shipping delay, he goes to Barnes and Noble to purchase it. Critically commenting on the store itself, he remarks his journey to a far corner of the store that held only one copy of the book, which was not discounted like other new releases (since it is on the main B&N site, he doesn’t say if he asked for the discount in case it was a store mistake). Upset, he headed to his local LifeWay store, which is the real subject of his blog—using the missing book to make a parallel with the church’s silence on abortion. He says:
After looking through the small section and not finding Gosnell, I approached the woman working at the register and asked her to direct me to the pro-life section. I was disappointed when she told me Lifeway doesn’t have a pro-life book section. All they have is a section called “current issues.” She assured me that I could find the pro-life books there.
I took a look through the entire “current issues” section. There were a few books on homosexuality and a few dozen by authors telling us they were sure the world was about to end. But there was no Gosnell and only one book on the issue of abortion. It was on how to share the gospel with a woman after she had an abortion. It was only about 100 pages long. Just to the right of the book, I found a “finance” shelf with close to fifty different selections.
That pretty well sums up the state of the American church. For every Christian committed to defending the unborn, there are fifty “Christians” who are only committed to defending their 401k.
I wish Lifeway would make a statement by putting a pro-life apologetics section in all of their stores. But they are a just a business that serves and reflects the interests of churchgoers rather than proactively shaping the Christian culture.
Regardless, the book selection at Lifeway is a crude reminder of the indisputable fact that abortion only exists with the consent of the church.
Some of you may be surprised to hear me counter this blog because I absolutely agree that the church, overall, is silent on the issue of abortion. But LifeWay isn’t. Let me take you back to the day I made history without even trying. LifeWay had published a Here’s Hope Breast Cancer Awareness Bible, but it donated some of the proceeds to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, who funds the nations number one abortion provider, a fact LifeWay, like many at that time, did not know. I wrote an article about this—and suddenly it was on the front page of every major media outlet in the nation (and some outside the nation). So horrified was LifeWay to realize they were funding a direct abortion connection that the pulled the Bible off every retailer and ceased the sales taking a heavy financial loss. LifeWay head, Thomas S. Rainer issued an apology:
That action became a catalyst for Komen making a decision to defund Planned Parenthood. The head of Komen at the time Karen Handel wrote about it in her book Planned Bullyhood, saying that article was one of the last straws. (Eventually Komen caved to the bullying and reinstated the abortion giant’s funding, and Handel left and wrote her book).
I have to admit, I was stunned that LifeWay did what they did because Adams is right that usually even Christian businesses can tend to focus on the bottom line of the almighty dollar in cases like this, but not LifeWay. I realized then that this was a corporation that was truly Christian. The moment they realized the connection with abortion they apologized and reversed the action—true corporate repentance.
But the story didn’t end there. Many months later, it turned out that some employee in a Walmart warehouse found a box of the Bibles that were to be sent back and somehow got overlooked—and he put them on walmart.com for sale. I can’t even recall how I came across it, but I did. I was shocked. I ordered one (with the intention of returning it for a full refund) to be sure it was a legitimate order and not leftover. It shipped, and I contacted LifeWay, ready for a fight if they went back on their word. But there was nothing to fight about. They got to the bottom of it, the employee error, having those Bibles sent back, as they were supposed to be. I had managed to come across it the very time the rogue employee found them, so the Bibles were never sold. Except the one that got through to me.
During this time, I had a conversation with one of the heads of LifeWay. I had left the company a voicemail the night I found the Bibles, and he called me back at 10 a.m. the next day—apologizing for taking “so long” to get back to me. Of course, it wasn’t long at all, but that’s how urgent he saw it. When he received my message—which had to be sent from whomever checked the voicemail on to him, he headed to meeting of the leadership team at LifeWay who would be the ones to contact about the issue. He explained he finally found the leadership team and they were in a prayer meeting so then he had to wait longer while they finished. He was offering this by way of apology for his “delay” in returning my call. Then he explained how they had tracked down the Walmart mystery and there would be no sales of that Bible. Either way, they had pulled out of Komen, so the pink organization wouldn’t be getting anymore blood money, Bible or not.
I forget some of the details of our talk, but for some reason he had to email me something related to it later in the day. I will never forget that afternoon. It was a Wednesday. I was in the prayer room at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, laptop open, getting some work done, but enjoying the atmosphere. I can recall where I was sitting and the “feel” of the room based on the Wednesday regulars I would always see at the 4 p.m. intercession set. I have such sensory memories of that day because of the email exchange between the LifeWay leader and me. We had a brief email conversation the afternoon of our phone call, and then at the end of it, he added something I will never forget. He thanked me. He thanked me for writing the first article and exposing the connection because they would not have known otherwise. Because of that, he said, they were able to get that book off the shelves and not be a party to funding any place connected with abortion.
The man who is a leader in a business thanked me for costing him money and horrible publicity. I wrote an article that got them criticized and had the media descending on them. My article was quite critical, though it was also quite true. It cost them publicity, popular opinion—and cold hard cash. And that afternoon one of the heads of that organization thanked me for doing it because they had more interest in the truth and being no part of abortion than they did money.
And I cried.
Right there in the prayer room, with happy music coming from the stage, and intercessors pacing as they prayed, tears flowed from my eyes. They thanked me. They loved truth.
I’d just come out of a season of losing friends and even ministry because I had been so determined to stand pure in the area of abortion that I eschewed eating or drinking foods connected with its funding. I had refused to be associated with compromise, and it cost me (by the way I don’t regret that either). And people were upset with me because they felt “judged” or that I was too “self-righteous.” In truth, I could do nothing else because the Lord had drawn me into the pro-life movement with a powerful and unmistakable call. And then He gave me both a voice and a pen to speak. But it costs you to do that. And on that day, here was a man whom I had cost thousands of dollars, and he and his organization loved truth more than cash. He helped heal some of that pain with that thank you.
Let me be clear: He got nothing out of it. The stories had been written; the tale was complete. It was all after-the-fact conversation. He wasn’t thanking me to get good spin on a new story, for there wasn’t one left. In fact, this is the first time I have publicly written about that event.
Since then I have gone out of my way to buy from LifeWay when I am in areas that have their stores. Every time I see a LifeWay store my spirit soars a bit as I remember the bold witness they took for LIFE.
So tonight when I saw that blog from Mr. Adams, I felt righteous indignation. I don’t know all the facts. LifeWay may not be carrying this book, but I assure you the reason is not that they are afraid to take a stand for LIFE. The publisher of the Gosnell book is Regenry, a conservative book publisher, but not an overtly Christian one. Maybe Lifeway doesn’t have regular connections with them or a distribution contract. Maybe they only sell Christian or inspirational books since they are a niche store and not a general bookstore. The Gosnell book is an important work and a best seller already. But a Christian bookstore doesn’t always carry secular best sellers. I actually would not expect to find it at a Christian store. That doesn’t even make sense to me.
I am also troubled by the fact that Adams’ n=1. He went to one store and then wrote a blog. Did Mr. Adams call LifeWay? I can assure him that LifeWay is responsive to bloggers’ inquiries.
Mr. Adams is correct about the lack of books on abortion. But that’s not LifeWay’s fault, nor should the Christian company be the scapegoat for Adams’ frusrating shopping experience. A few years ago, I was in a private meeting with the publisher of a major Christian imprint and a Christian speaker who is a household name in the church world, who wanted to write a book about abortion. I was going to help write it. The major publisher (whose name you would also know) told us that people don’t want to read books about abortion. And while I found that a sad fact, it was not surprising to hear.
Indeed, our pulpits are all-too-silent. I was in Christian ministry before I ever heard a sermon about abortion. It surely did not happen in my local church, though my churches would acknowledge abortion was bad, but that was the extent of it, usually. Last year I was privileged to be part of a pro-life apologetics class at Oklahoma Wesleyan University. I read multiple books on abortion for that course—and none was easily available in the mainstream. This crisis of knowledge does not exist because of isolated incident like one LifeWay store not selling a secularly published book.
I agree with the indictment of the church’s silence and have said as much many times, but I vehemently disagree with singling out a business of great integrity in the pro-life arena over one incident that probably has more to the story than he sought to discover.
My friends, LifeWay is not the problem, and Mr. Adams is not “rightly offended,” as the title of his blog says. LifeWay most certainly is pro-life. Its leaders have great integrity and love Jesus more than money. Someday I hope to meet them in person because the last email with that man was an invitation to contact him if I were ever in the Nashville area so he could give me a tour of LifeWay and meet me in person. Know why? Because LifeWay loves LIFE.