Baptist Press last week bemoaned that Wal-Mart is "still dabbling" in support of "the homosexual agenda," despite warnings of a boycott by religious conservatives. A writer challenged readers to type the word "gay" into the search engine for Wal-Mart's online bookstore, reporting that more than 1,000 titles turn up.
On Friday Paul Proctor at NewsWithViews.com followed two earlier columns warning about Christian book sites that promote authors who are "heretics and false teachers" with a similar challenge.
"[I]f you go to the ChristianResearchService.com website, click on the Master List, scroll down to the section subtitled, 'Homosexual/Lesbian/ Transgendered/Pro-gay,' and enter each of the names listed there into the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWaystores.com search engine, (select keyword: 'author')," Proctor said, "you will find numerous examples of the double-standard that continues unabated in the online Christian bookstore industry."
EthicsDaily.com did just that, counting 13 of 32 authors on the Christian Research Service list in LifeWay's product database.
According to the Web site, Christian Research Service exists to "alert and warn fellow Christians about spiritual deception outside and within the body of Christ." That includes not only the "homosexual and transsexual agenda," but also "the infiltration of cultic, heretical, New Age, pro-gay and homosexual authors within the online Christian bookstores."
In October Proctor reported that LifeWay removed about 14 books on yoga and Eastern mysticism from its cyber-shelves after hearing from Christian Research Service Director Bud Press and customer complaints.
But these books are still for sale:
--The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin Through Easter Eyes and Raising Abel: The Recovery of the Eschatological Imagination by James Alison. Alison, a gay Catholic priest, is also author of Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay.
--Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity by Bruce Bawer. This title is surprising enough, since LifeWay no longer will publish books by moderate Baptists. Other books by Bawer, a conservative cultural critic, include Place at the Table: The Gay Individual in American Society, Beyond Queer: Challenging Gay Left Orthodoxy and House and Home: The polit pers Journey Gay Republican Congressman Man w/ Whom He Created, a book about Steve Gunderson, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin, and his gay partner.
--Making the Wise Simple: The Torah in Christian Faith and Practice and Ruth & Esther: Women in Alien Lands. Their author is Johanna Van Wijk-Bos, an Old Testament professor at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary who addressed a "Voices of Sophia" conference in 1999. Some of her other books include Reformed and Feminist--A Challenge to the Church, Reimagining God--The Case for Scriptural Diversity and Called Out With: Stories of Solidarity in Support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Persons, reviewed as "a wonderful book from the straight-allied point of view to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered ordination rights in the Presbyterian Church (USA)."
--Six books by L. William Countryman, including Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today. An Episcopal priest and professor of biblical studies at The Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif., Countryman is on record as saying he believes gay relationships are ordained by God in the same way as heterosexual relationships. Other books by Countryman include Gifted by Otherness: Gay and Lesbian Christians in the Church.
-- Care of Persons, Care of Worlds: A Psychosystems Approach to Pastoral Care and Counseling by Larry Kent Graham. Graham, professor of pastoral theology at Iliff School of Theology and ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, also wrote Discovering Images of God: Narratives of Care Among Lesbians and Gays. He contributed a chapter to Caught in the Crossfire by Sally B. Geis and Donald E. Messer in 1994, titled "How Should the Church Minister to Homosexual Persons and Their Families? A Personal Journey Toward Care."
--Three books by Paul King Jewett, a long-time professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary who died in 1991. In his final book, Who We Are: Our Dignity as Human, published posthumously, he wrote at length on a Christian view of homosexuality. "Something has to be wrong with teaching that evokes absolute hatred, loathing and disdain for homosexual people," he wrote. "We are left with the feeling that the church has overdone it, no matter how you cut it; and that homosexuals have certainly suffered more wrong than they have committed; and that there must be flaws in whatever theology of nature or hierarchy of sins has made homosexuality be viewed as the nadir of depravity (even as something was wrong with the theology of place that was used to justify the Crusades)."
--Angel and Me and A Joyful Theology: Creation, Commitment and an Awesome God by Sara Maitland. Maitland's work is included in The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Short Stories.
--Eight books by Jack Rogers, including Holy Scripture, Claiming the Center and Confessions of a Conservative Evangelical. Rogers is a former professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary and past moderator of General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). His most recent book, Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality, isn't offered by LifeWay.
--Several by William Stringfellow (1929-1985), a gay man, lay theologian, social activist and mentor to Sojourners and Walter Wink.
--The Truth Shall Set You Free: A Memoir by Sally Lowe Whitehead. A true story about her family's involvement in Christian fundamentalism and the shocking discovery after 20 years of marriage and six sons that her husband is gay, the book is categorized under "Gay & Lesbian" by Amazon.com.
Homosexuality is a divisive issue in some liberal Christian denominations, but the conservative-led Southern Baptist Convention has been staunchly anti-gay for more than a decade. One Baptist state convention last fall threatened to boycott Wal-Mart for reaching out to homosexuals.
Last November the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina adopted one of the strongest anti-gay policies of an American church body, authorizing leaders to investigate credible reports that individual churches act to endorse or affirm homosexuals.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.