The Dangers of Writing in Candor — The Butterflies in the Belfry Goes to Press

This morning I signed the legal document, to start the presses rolling, to print Butterflies in the Belfry, Serpents in the Cellar. I have written books before, taking months. This project has taken over 25 years, including the research. The actual writing has taken almost 10 years. The best way I can describe this moment is, anticlimactic. A simple e-mail came with a “Doc-u-sign” link and I signed it.

Part of my recovery from evangelicalism was to seek candor. I found my old world being made up of smoke and mirrors, of illusions and delusions. But living in candor is very hard. Writing in candor is even more difficult. I am sure there will be days ahead, when I stir up the anger of the protectors of the old evangelical way. On those days I may regret publishing this book.

But I feel that candor is a must, if I want to accomplish my book’s intention. That purpose is to help those, also disillusioned with the brand of Christianity they were raised with, to know that they are not alone. I also want them to know that there is an explanation and a sensible path out. But to reach them, I have to allow them to know . . . that I know them and where they are coming from. The only way to help them see that is to share with great candor—although not so flattering—stories of American evangelicalism.

Finding the right level of truthfulness is hard to do. If someone was to live in total honesty, they would be offensive to others and corrupt the social mores. The best example, (and this is a real-life—although simplest—example), is where someone ask you to do something that you don’t want to do. For example, someone ask, “Would you come to a dinner party at my house?” Then you reply in total honestly, “No. I would rather sit at home, read a book and watch some TV. I’ve been with people all week and just want a break from them.”  That host may try to read more into it. They may think, “They don’t like me.” Or “What’s wrong with them that they don’t like people?”

The proper thing that people, including Christians do, is to lie . . . or to go, out of guilt. If they lie, they say, “I would love to. It sounds wonderful. However, I think I have the flu.” Then there are no questions asked.

So, trying to live in total candor is very difficult. Writing in such a way is more difficult because they have your words in front of them, to use against you . . . forever. It is a paper trail.

Now the caveat to this book’s over candor (if that is possible), is that I had to go through a very rigorous legal review. While I am publishing it under my own publishing company logo, the press required lawyers to read it cover to cover and to have me make sever huge revisions. For example, when I spoke of my childhood pastor having a mistress (and it was public knowledge . . . and actually, after all of these years I just ran into him and his mistress at Thanksgiving), that had to be axed. There were many other stories, which I wanted to tell, that had to be edited out as well.

To avoid all of this scrutiny, I could have written under a false pen-name. I could also have “fictionalized” the story, as did Frank Schaeffer did in his Becker trilogy. But even his Becker series caused a lot of heart burn among his family (mostly his sister and her husband). I know because I was around them (at a distance) during this time.

I am not a good self-promoter. Maybe I am and just don’t see my own narcissistic tendencies. I know a lot of people write books, just like a lot of people want to be pop stars. Few succeed at either. I really don’t seek “success,” unless success means that I could quit my day job and write for a living. When I write now, just like I’m doing here, I have to always write in a great rush with people mad at me because I took so long. Already, in writing this short piece I have had several interruptions (I’m at work but am not schedule to start work for another 30 minutes). So, I almost never have time to proof-read. Writing with proof-reading would be a wonderful luxury.  I am dyslexic and can make blatant mistakes when I type fast. I’m often taken behind the shed for the errors I’ve made in my haste. But, if I don’t write in haste, I could never write. I digress.

So, the point I was about to make, is that I am not seeking financial success and certainly not recognition. I do, however, have an intense desire to get this book in the hands of the thousands who have given up on Christianity.  I wrote this book for those people. I have to concede, that those people are not the ones who will be offended by my candor. It is those who still hold up the facades that Christians are all decent people and to suggest otherwise, is a mortal sin . . . those are the ones I will really piss off.

Mike

 

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