Kyle Small, PhD, Co-Pastor of Harbert Community Church in Sawyer, MI

Posted: November 14, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

Kyle Small provides some insight from a different perspective on the DVZ issue.  Kyle addresses the question: Why I am not surprised at Zondervan’s Silence (and my complicity)?Kyle Small

Michael Emerson and Christian Smith conducted a study of evangelicals, namely white evangelicals, and the results sadly confirmed that only 4% of White Evangelicals considered race/ism an issue [Divided By Faith, 87]. I tend to agree that it is barely an issue for “us.”. I am a white male; I grew up in a white church, and served as pastor in four predominantly white communities, including two suburbs. I am currently co-pastor in a rural white community. Throughout most of my experiences race is not a problem….mostly. And if I choose to view my experiences by the nomenclature of most, I will be able to forget those few circumstances of racism in the church and forever propagate Emerson’s findings – racism is not an issue.

I am Zondervan’s target market. The churches I serve will buy their books, maybe even their recent Christian testimony about the recently divorced, high-celebrity couple, John and Kate Gosselin, Multiple Bles8ings. And when I buy their puritan evangelical literature I will hopefully dismiss Zondervan’s connections to Fox Media owner and adult industry govenor, Rupert Murdoch. All of this devilish content will fade under the publisher’s citations of Scripture and stories encouragement that nourish my suburban soul.

I am not too surprised at Zondervan’s silence to the accusations of racism. Very few in their market see a problem, and as long as this ignorance continues, why should Zondervan bother and offer any attention to questions about Deadly Viper?  The hermeneutics of racialization are absent from the marketing and profiting practices of the media giant.

Yet regardless, the whiteness of Zondervan is creating a hell that lacks cross, ecclesiality, and conscience. And the hell we (White Evangelicals) have created is continually foreign to our imaginations fed by the publishing cocoon Zondervan has created in protectionist response. It often appears that Zondervan publishes in order to cocoon their market and save us from the liberal and angry voices of outsiders, especially Angry Asians (who have graciously been adopted into dominant culture and how ungrateful some will be – satire). This cocoon eliminates entrance into the hell that we have created for marginalized others; it has saved us to believe in a resurrection “in a body not bearing the scars of its own crucifixion” (cross – Perkinson). The cocoon has eliminated any calling out (ecclesiality) but merely a calling within to be more white, more pure, more sectarian – more cocooned. And as long as Zondervan continues the cocooning of White Evangelicals, there will be no conscience to even conceive of the complaints lodged against them. When we are finally released from the cocoon we will hopefully emerge as big white butterflies who can fly from the suburbs into the heavens unaware of the divisive hell we propagated on earth.

I wish I was not one of Zondervan’s marketing groups; I wish I could find a quick and easy way out or even adopt myself into a marginal group (especially as justice for marginalized is a trendy topic in some sub-groups of evangelicalism), but I cannot. What remains is James W. Perkinson’s claim: “any talk of race by white folk must begin with lament, terror and rage.”  Zondervan is free to ignore the voices of the Asian, Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities – they believe that you don’t consume their stuff. But Zondervan cannot ignore the voices of their major marketing segment – White Evangelicals. Unfortunately, we remain all too silent, but now is the time to speak with and for Others and enter this hell of publisher’s racism with lament, terror, and rage, otherwise the words already spoken too easily fall on deaf ears.

See James W. Perkinson. White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004.

  1. Jody says:

    Well stated, Kyle. As someone in a similar context, I can heartily appreciate your words. This is part of the reason I stick closer to IVP books – even before this situation, it seemed that Zondervan lacked conscience and ethics and was driven far more by marketability than by integrity. Sadly, this situation only reinforces my previous stereotypes of Zondervan as a publisher. What a sad thing for the white evangelical community to remain uninformed on such an important issue because of $ and marketability…

  2. Kyle Small says:

    Jody, thank you for the response. Ironically, within 30 minutes of sending this post, I noticed Scot McKnight’s blog post on Zondervan’s contract to publish a three-book series from Tim LaHaye. The greatest challenge is that Zondervan’s marketing and profitability makes them a temple of publishing and the priests of the industry. As a local pastor, I am stuck between the gospel message and Zondervan’s (and Christian news radio) more often than I desire. I don;t mean to simply criticize, but the powers within our ecclesial structures are so often accepted without questions.

    I am grateful for groups such as IVP who have worked to ask their own internal questions as they continue to publish with others across race and ecclesial tradition.

  3. […] contain — particularly in their marketing and image use — Asian stereotypes. A HUGE hat tip to Kyle for getting me connected to the discussion, one piece of which can be found at Professor […]

  4. eliseanne says:

    Thanks Dr. Rah for providing a prophetic white voice to the discussion, too. Preach on, Mr. Small. It encouraged my white heart to hear one of our own speak like that.

  5. Bo says:

    Kyle, thanks for the courage to say these things. Yours is the only non-AA voice that I can think of (I’m sure there are others that I’m not aware of) that has publicly denounced the book. I realize you do so with some level of risk to yourself and your ministry.

  6. Kyle Small says:

    An additional note of connection. Zondervan has partnerships with Willow Creek and Saddleback – two Church Orgs that have taken up the question of Kingdom Justice, and I think they could be helpful to the conversation. connect with people we know in both places, and ask them to make their voice known to Zondervan.

    Both WCA and SB have sought to be representative to multi-perspectival participation in their conferences, and this core value could speak to their publishing partnership at Z.

    Sample email:
    I am a local church pastor and fellow sojourner of Willow Creek’s work on church, leadership, and vision.

    I also applaud Willow Creek’s efforts on justice and Kingdom perspective. I know that WCA has worked diligently to represent God’s many colored Kingdom in its Leadership Summit and other conferences.

    With this in mind, I would ask that Willow Creek hear the voices of Asian Americans and others who are asking your publishing partner, Zondervan, to consider how some of their publishing continues racialization and stereotypes.The current work on Deadly Viper, for whose efforts are to be celebrated (grace and integrity) propagates stereotypical Asian images.

    There has been a conversation over the last several weeks regarding Zondervan’s work with Deadly Viper, and we are looking for additional support to encourage Zondervan to consider its understanding of justice for all peoples. The current state of Evangelicalism, specifically, and Christianity, generally, necessitates faithful witness to a watching world. And we believe WCA has the values and the voice to pursue reconciliation.

    Please see the ongoing conversation at We welcome your help to the conversation and resolution.

  7. Eve says:

    It’s perfectly clear that Tim knows how to make LaHay while LaSun is shining and before the San Andreas Fault gets a big jolt out of his theological skullduggery. And Blundervan Publishers up in Grand Rapture, Me-Itch-Again, knows which multi-millionaire to team up with for more of that “cankered” stuff they’ve been “wanton” for their “last days,” according to James, chapter 5!

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