Thursday, March 26, 2015

Calling Christian Publishers to Account

The most recent Christian Research Journal has an item at the end that offers some particularly disturbing observations about the book The Boy Who Went to Heaven, by Alex Malarkey. I don’t mean revelations that the book’s account of a near death experience by Alex were fraudulent. That’s old news by now. 

The article is written by Hank Hanegraaff, who has been in touch with Alex’s mother, Beth, and reports some of the things she say about the book and its success.  Mrs. Malarkey is extremely regretful about the success of the book, and is doing all she can to erase its influence.  However, one of the saddest reactions she reports is from a pastor who balked at her news, because the book was “blessing” people.

This is not a new sort of reaction. I’ve seen the same thing said of Colton Burpo’s NDE account, and no doubt will continue to hear that about it even if someday Colton steps to the plate and declares that he, too, made the whole thing up. I’ve also seen and heard similar excuses for Hitler’s Cross, the execrable work of Erwin Luzter which badly misreports the truth about Hitler’s religious beliefs.

I wrote Hitler’s Christianity in part to correct such mistaken ideas as Lutzer’s. But the example of what’s happening with the Malarkeys confirms that I shouldn’t expect to see my analysis in print anytime soon. I did have one slight nibble from a reputable publisher, but was told, in effect, that they didn’t want it because they couldn’t see the point of it. That’s nice to know.

When the news about Alex’s story first came out a couple of months ago, it went everywhere. Secular outposts like NPR covered it. And there are some good indications that at least one major retailer knew that the book was false months before that; and that Beth Malarkey was warning the publisher of inaccuracies even years before now. You can see here how a Christian apologist tried to get people at Lifeway to answer some simple questions and got nothing but a stone wall in reply. 

I don’t expect I’d get anything much different if I approached Lutzer or Moody Press about removing Hitler’s Cross from bookstore shelves. But I’ve been inspired by Alex and Beth Malarkey’s gumption, and maybe it’s time I tried, and recorded the results publicly for all to see. It would also be nice to see the evangelical publishing award that Lutzer’s book got rescinded. If we have more people like the Malarkeys who take a stand on falsehoods in Christian publishing, and if we have more embarrassing revelations posted in secular sources, maybe we can get these popular Christian publishers to be less concerned about making a buck and more concerned about fulfilling the Great Commission. And maybe we can also get it so that popular pastors stop writing books about subjects they know nothing about.