I’m not sure when the first book was published, but I’m almost certain that when it was, a self-appointed guardian of the community read it, was incensed, and put a match to it. Had I been living then, and seen the flames eating away at the words, I would have been all the more eager to read them. That has always been my pattern. When I was 14 and my mother told me never to look at Playboy, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one.
To have one’s words condemned and burned is an exhilarating experience, especially if the criticism spurs sales, which is what happened to me when, after writing four books heavy on charm and nostalgia, I began dabbling in theology, co-authoring a book with Jim Mulholland, in which we gleefully, and may I modestly say masterfully, poked holes in the notion of hell. The book was called IF GRACE IS TRUE, and before it was even published, the critics boiled out of the woodwork. The kinder among them said they were praying for me. It is one thing to be prayed for when one is dying of cancer, and another thing to be prayed for when the one praying wants your mind to be changed and is enlisting God’s help to do it.
As I said, those were the kinder responses. Others, faithful Christians all, called for my horse-whipping, the revocation of my pastoral credentials, and my expulsion from the church. One lady rushed to her public library, checked out the book, burnt it, and sent me the ashes. It was, I suspect, the highlight of her censorious life, and I was so pleased to have supplied the opportunity that I mailed the library a new copy so she could do it again.~ read more ~