“Deidra has always been one of my favorite leaders, and with ONE she’s become one of my very favorite storytellers. In ONE, Deidra leads her readers toward reconciliation, justice and peace with urgency, wisdom, and deep compassion. ONE is a vital contribution to the cause of peace and Deidra’s voice is a lighthouse beckoning us home to love.” – Glennon Doyle Melton, #1 New York TimesBestselling Author of LOVE WARRIOR
I have wanted to tell this story for a very long time. Living it broke my heart and, while it is sometimes good to write in and through the fresh hell that is broken-heartedness, I’m not so sure that would have been the best course for anyone in the telling of this particular story. I cannot say my heart has healed. What I can say, is that it’s time. The people who are closest to me know this story well. They have counseled me and they sat with me and listened to me and spoke wise words to me. It’s time for me to tell.
Any story impacts more than a single life. I am aware of this as I write. I haven’t asked anyone’s permission to tell this story because, while it involves and impacts others, this is my story.
If you’ve written a book, or plan to write a book, and if you do so with a traditional Christian publisher, that publisher is going to expect you to get people to endorse your book. This is probably true for non-Christian publishers, as well, but right now I am only familiar with Christian publishers. The publisher wants “big names.” The bigger the better.
Before the book has even been written or a contract signed, publishers want to know the people you know who will endorse your book. So, as you write your proposal, you are also talking about your book with people to gauge their interest and to determine if their support of you includes the willingness to write an endorsement of your book.
When I look back on the story now, I wish I’d pulled the book. I wish I’d told the publisher, “Never mind. I’ll find a different way to get these words into the world.” I don’t know what would have been different if I’d done that. I think, when it comes down to it, I’d still be in the same place because the Church is in a precarious place and she would have shown her true colors, I imagine, just as she did as the story unfolded in the way it did.
So, I sent my list of endorsers to the publisher and they were pleased with the names included there. The final list included six names, among them, Glennon Doyle Melton. You don’t have to think hard to figure out how things went down. The publishing team were thrilled to have Glennon as an endorser of ONE: Unity in a Divided World. I was honored when she said she’d endorse the book.
Ours was a new friendship. Glennon had put out a call on her Facebook page, asking for people to connect her with people of color who could help inform her journey. She’d looked at the people in her life and realized she wasn’t really learning from people of color and she wanted to change that. She wanted to learn, and she wanted to introduce her tribe to people of color she thought should be heard. A mutual friend connected Glennon and me as a result of that call and we began talking with one another on Facebook, sometimes as part of a group, and a few times one-on-one.
Glennon’s speaking schedule took her to a High School in Nebraska and she invited me to meet up with her there. Before she went on stage, she and I sat in the Phys. Ed. office on a gigantic couch that practically swallowed us both and we chatted and hugged and took selfies. I admit, I was starstruck, even though I tried not to be. But I think it showed. Of course, her talk was spectacular.
At some point, my publisher contacted me to say they loved Glennon’s endorsement of my book. In fact, they loved it so much they put it on the cover of the book. When I read the endorsement, I cried. The words she wrote are stunning. Absolutely stunning.
And so it went. Rounds of edits. Choosing a cover design. Setting up a website for the book. Approving graphics to share on social media. Trying to figure out how to promote this book about unity in a way that felt true to who I am and true to the message of the book. And then, an email from my publisher arrived in my inbox, informing me Glennon’s endorsement would not be included. At all. Not on the cover. Not on the inside.
I was the one who had to tell Glennon. The publisher, who had so enthusiastically added the endorsement to the cover, said not a word. I was devastated. Glennon was wonderful. Of course she knew this could happen. She was not surprised. She wrote to me, “I love your nervous publisher:) I love us all and I forgive us all and I’ve got nothing but hope for every last one of us.”
In the meantime, an Advance Reader’s Copy of the book was sent to the others who’d said they’d endorse the book, but now, half of them were telling me they couldn’t do it. They were gracious about it. They said they had too much on their plates, and I get that and have to believe what they say is the truth. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say a part of me wonders…
So much irony. A book about unity would not include an endorsement from Glennon because the Church has a twisted relationship with capitalism. You’ll tell me that’s not true. You’ll say it’s about something else. But, I will beg to differ with you. I’m open to the conversation, and if you know me, you know I’m an advocate of both/and. So, maybe it’s about something else, but it’s also about money, which is about power, which is about how the Church has become twisted.
When Glennon announced her relationship with and subsequent marriage to a woman, a segment of the Church drew a hard and fast line and put Glennon on the other side of it. Specifically, a particular retailer “was concerned about the endorsement initially and even checked with [the publisher] to see if it was still being included.” For what it’s worth, I believe readers are smart and can make up their minds for themselves. But we all know that’s pie in the sky thinking because the bottom line is the bottom line. I actually think the book would sell more with her endorsement on it. But, what do I know?
Whatever you may believe about same-sex marriage, know that I respect where you are. But, our hard and fast lines are harmful. They hurt people. They divide us. They make us weaker. They subvert the message of the actual Gospel. Our finger pointing and shaming and casting out and away are antithetical to the Way we’ve been called to live. When we close ranks around ourselves and only allow in the people who look and live and think and talk the way we do, we are playing God rather than living into the very image of God in which we were actually created.
I have the hardest time promoting my book — not because I don’t believe in the message, but because, every time I look at it, I see a big, blank space where Glennon used to be. I can’t get past the cover because it nullifies the message inside, in exactly the same way our erasure of those we wish were different (because the way they are scares us, it rocks our faith, and makes us ask questions whose answers we know we’re too afraid to hear and accept) nullifies the actual Good News.
We’ve got to get our act together.
I’ve thought a lot about how these hard-and-fast rules make us disappear people we don’t agree with in Christianity. How if you disagree with their theology or their marriages, they suddenly can’t be mentioned or used in anecdotes or on book covers. I have self-censored myself from mentioning people I respect because of this (I try not to…I’m not sure I’m doing that perfectly). And the disappearances are truly troubling. How can we tell the whole story of who we are at church if we can’t name people, name disagreements, name all our stories, even the ones that make us uncomfortable or whose conclusions we heartily disagree with? We think overt violence is the worst way to hurt people, but sometimes I suspect that it’s the quiet shunning that really undoes people (and our own hearts).
Jody Ohlsen Collins
“the quiet shunning.” Yes, indeed.
I’m sorry this happened, Deidra. I can only imagine how frustrating and infuriating this has been for you. I do believe your assessment is correct. Having worked in Christian Publishing a long time, I can imagine exactly how this went down and the conversations that were had behind closed doors. It’s disappointing there wasn’t more of a dialogue and that you couldn’t have had a voice in that decision. Thank you for your words and teaching and writing. I’m grateful ONE is in the world and I hope your words and message have impact far beyond this experience.
John D Blase
Damn. I had no idea.
Jody Ohlsen Collins
oh my gosh, I had no idea… of course. We had a discussion in our Festival Circle about the state of Christian publishing and the reticence to engage with touchy, hard subjects and the ever loving focus on the bottom line. This corroborates all our conclusions.
This is so hard and there is no answer. All I’m doing right now is shaking my head. I am very, very sorry for you and for all of us, really. But thank you for bringing this to the light.
I wish it was different, Deidra. I wish a lot of things. But thank you for sharing this. I’m praying for new readers who’d appreciate an endorsement from Glennon, and who’ll support the broader discussion about changing beliefs, and how engaging opposing ideas is foundational to truth. Plenty of readers want that message, despite the resistance.
And wow. What an amazing endorsement. I completely agree–your voice “is a lighthouse beckoning us home to love.”
That endorsement was beautiful and should have stood on its own
Dang. I’m sorry, Deidra.
As always, Deidra, you step forward with integrity and grace. I appreciate every line of this story. The hard and fast lines HAVE TO GO. I’m grateful for Glennon’s response of forgiveness toward all who were involved.
I’m sorry for all of us this story. Makes me sad.
Matthew Paul Turner
Oh, Deidra… I wish I was surprised. But my soul, it’s crazy how deeply these kinds of events hurt us. And of course, Glennon was gracious. God bless her. I just love Glennon and Abby so much. But I’m sorry because I know this hurt your heart… I do hope that the church is becoming a more inclusive body, but as we know, the church moves and evolves so damn slowly… love to you.
Oh, Deidra. I didn’t know. I’m so sad to read this, but grateful you shared it. This exclusion of people seems to be getting more acceptable, and I just do not understand it. I don’t know how you’ve stayed quiet about this experience this long. You are wise and wonderful, and I hope our real-life paths cross again soon. I love learning from you and staying internet-caught-up with you online, but it’s been much too long since we sat next to each other.
Deidra, I’m so sorry. What a painful thing to have to go through with a friend. I’ve not had an experience like this, but it’s so disappointing to hear. I wish we could love each other through the differences and give one another the benefit of the doubt. I’m reminded of the quote credited to St. Augustine: “The church is a whore but she is my mother.” In this case, a whore to capitalism. Blessings to you!
I’m so sorry for this Deidra, so sorry that we … aren’t better. I’m with you – the “almighty dolla” (‘For the Love of Money’ by the O’Jays rang through my head as I read your words), is an evil taskamaster and the body of Christ remains under its thumb. This is not the dream of God, it not not the love or the radical and empowering grace and forgiveness we’re called to. Prayers up for us all.
Thank you for sharing, and for your honesty. <3
I’m so sorry this happened, both to you and to Glennon, but also to the Church. We’re losing out on critical and necessary voices like hers – and like the myriad of voices the Church so often silences – when we don’t put the imago Dei into practice. Mourning alongside you.
I’m not surprised to read this, and I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I have nothing but respect for you and your work to get conversations started. This is one that we need to keep having. And if the conversation isn’t happening, independent publishing is a snap these days… I will help anyone get going who needs help.
Even in righteous disappointment, you are Grace-filled. You inspire me, even when I want to be petty and small. Jesus loves you; you are His Testimony in a broken world. I thank Him everyday that you are my friend.
The ugly underbelly of Christianity.
IDEA: print Glennon’s endorsement on adhesive labels and apply them to as many book covers as you can. We could send out a template for people to use in their printers and then head out to bookstores across the country.
I would totally help with that.
I am not surprised at all and so deeply saddened for you. And for the institution. How quickly we draw our lines in the sand and miss mercy all along. You, your story and your voice need to be heard. I am so glad you told the truth. thank you.
Thanks you for making us aware. My book club read your book a couple months ago. I will be sharing this post with them.
Christy Tennant Krispin
Thank you for sharing this, Dee. I’m not surprised at all, sadly. I hope you find some healing in having shined the light on this. And we can all learn a lot from Ms. M’s gracious response.
This is so hard, but so true. I see this in the church, and outside of the church. I see this with conservatives and I see this with liberals about whatever the issue is of the day is.
We are so afraid of those we are polarized against that if they don’t live/communicate X, Y, and Z in the way WE perceive is best they are OUT. And those who stay by the side of the “Outs” are at best considered “questionable” and at worst excommunicated and publicly berated as well.
This is this reason your book is so important. Because we teachers like you to teach those us on whatever side of whichever hot button issue can walk BESIDE not AGAINST a person on the other side.
As always it will be painful, messy, and full of a need for grace and forgiveness.
Grace, peace and gratitude to you. Thank you for your story.
I’m interested in learning about Doyle , now..and sad that space above your book reminds you of such a painful memory. Let this be fuel for your subsequent writings.
Peace be unto you
Enlightening. I wonder is this why so many turn to self publishing?
I am significantly impacted by your article “The Great Indorsement Debacle”; unfortunately, it is a reflection of the world’s great divide on so many fronts. The chasms seems to be widening by the day, and their disastrous effects extend to every facet of life and living.
I am white, but I see the dastardly prejudices that exist, but, as your article so clearly states, bias goes beyond skin color, with its tentacles reaching into sexual orientation. Furthermore, I submit to you that the deadly grip of prejudices today go much further than these two leading examples.
I see it on a daily basis, people being evaluated by their weight, height, political affiliation, religion, even by the cars they drive or the home in which they live. It would appear that humanity is in a constant search to alienate those with any differences, so they might set themselves apart and above others.
I do not wish to say this minimizes the issues of skin color or sexual orientation but only to say the pervasiveness of these discriminations have woven themselves into the very fiber of existence.
Some time ago, I was led to write something I think addresses this wide-spreading infection and I send it to you, in some way, hoping it will speak to your hurting spirit.
Be blessed and continue in your loving way to encourage us all.
By Larry Brook
April 25, 2013
This is for those who have a constant struggle internally.
Who have confused who they think they are with their true identity.
This is for lonely ones who have no friends for fear of being hurt again;
for angry ones lashing out because wounds won’t heal;
for those who are shy and not sure enough to try.
“What would the world say if it knew the secret me inside?
Would I become a laughing stock, or a hideous thing locked away, forever forgotten?”
Yes, this is for us all when we are in the pit of darkness
yearning to let the sunshine on the someone lost within.
For no apparent reason to cause it
there once was a stranger who lived in a closet.
He would shun the light of day
And only came out in dreams to play.
He thought of himself as quite brave
But spent his days in a dark and dank cave.
Others roamed in the sunlight and had their friends,
while he stayed within to contemplate his sins.
What, he pondered, if one day I just showed up
laughing, singing and drinking tea from a cup?
He pushed the thought aside cause deep down he knew
no matter how hard he tried he’d never see the morning’s dew.
Time passed, and all stayed the same
as the stranger kept up his hiding game.
It’s not easy living within behind all these walls
filled with knob-less doorways and endless halls.
Does anyone enjoy the black dark and the bitter cold?
Where no one lives and there’s no one to hold.
Day after day and tears without end
kept in hiding and forced to pretend.
Lonely without any to understand
your grief and misery always at hand.
But one day without so much as a hint
out he came to speak of his hidden discontent,
Not a one knew what they should do
as around the filled room he flew.
Telling everyone all that he knew.
Not waiting for a response, he said what he had to say,
thinking I’m exhausted are they going to let me go all day?
Surly they understand what I have to say?
At last he had said it all, completely done-in, he ceased,
knowing for sure it was all for naught this short life he’d leased.
Stunned, surprised, disgusted, repulsed what did they feel?
Angry, hurt, sad, confused was it too late for a repeal?
Then the silence broke and one of them spoke,
“Welcome friend we’re glad you finally awoke.”
Alicia San Nicolas
Ugh…just ugh. There is a lot here, Deidra, that I just don’t understand and much that saddens me. There’s much I could say about that. But most of all I want to pray right now to the GOD and Father of us all, that this bitter cup you’ve been given will somehow bring good fruits through the work of His Spirit. Deidra, any words you have to say that are His true word won’t go forth void – His Word never does. May Jesus, the Word if God, walk in all our words as well!
Tracy Stephens Kelly
As the proud mom of a precious, brilliant, beautiful Christian daughter, I’m going out to buy your book today! Thanks for the good fight and sharing your story.
Deirdra, I’ve just watched you on the HopeWriter interview and had to hop over here and read this story. First off, I’m so sorry this has clouded how you see your book. I’ve just handed in my manuscript and I know as a writer our books (heck, our words) are our babies. You should love you book baby, so I’m sorry.
You’re right, we draw a line around us. Then we focus on the line, the rules. When we do that we take our eyes off Jesus and spend time tending the line and worrying about which side we’re on and what side someone else falls on.
What if we all lifted our eyes from the line, trusting God with the messiness of it all, and fixed our gaze and our stride on Jesus? What if He goal, always?
Thank you for sharing your story. I for one will buy the book with its beautiful space at the top that invites us to add our own endorsement.
I usually don’t even comment on blogs, but I just want to be part of this chorus. You are seen. You are heard. We are for you.
This is actually a much more nuanced situation than is presented here. However, those shades of fault and virtue are obscured by all of the enthusiastic shaming and guilting offered up here, driven by the “chorus” (term borrowed from a poster, below). But, Deidra is right. In today’s publishing ventures, the actual quality or legitimacy of a manuscript is not a deciding factor in publishing decisions. The network, “platform,” and other factors like race, ethnicity, and gender orientation are at least equal or deciding determinants. Sometimes it works to one’s advantage; sometimes not.