Jesus Manifesto as a Product

Avast, me maties...

I don't normally go a writin' two blog posts in a fortnight, nay less in but two days.

But this one has me mind all a-swoggled, and that with nae any mead.

Yesterday, just after writing about the problem of "Jesus as a product" on this blog, what should appear in my Facebook and Gmail inbox, as well as on Twitter, but three different attempts to get me to buy The Jesus Manifesto, a new book by Frank Viola and Len Sweet. (No, I'm not linking to it directly here, and yes that is intentional). Two of those attempts came from Frank and Len personally-- and from Len twice. Len was exulting by day's end that the book had made it to #6 on's bestseller list.

I'm glad the book is selling well. Heck, I'm glad any book is selling well. I'm a fan of books-- paper or electronic. And publishing has been in a very hard way of late. So this is genuinely good news-- for him, and Frank, and for publishing in general.

And if you write a book you really do want to sell it. I can speak from personal experience on that. 

(Anyone here purchased Living into the Mystery: A United Methodist Guide for Celebrating Holy Communion from the Upper Room Bookstore? It's really good. I wrote the study guide and basically knit the rest of the volume together. And it's a download, so you don't have to use up any paper if you don't want to-- but I'm not providing a link for that here either-- just want you to know I get it about wanting things you have some involvement with to get out there! I'm completely serious about that!).  

And if you can, you want it to do really great-- like The Jesus Manifesto did yesterday. Getting anywhere in's top 20 is a huge feat, and if you're in the top 10 the book can still be sold (as Frank reminded in today's Facebook message) at a 45% discount (i.e., Amazon isn't making as much off of it as the publisher and author are). So if I didn't buy it yesterday, I could buy it today and still get the discount and still help the book do well. After all, as the first reviewer of the book (favorable) also pointed out at the sales page, only 4 books in the top 100 were about Jesus at all, and before this, none in the top 10. So yes, maybe we DO all need to buy another book about Jesus.

But.... Huh?

Help me out here. One of the things this book is noted for saying is that Christians have become too enamored of sales and success. Here's the way that first reviewer put it:

"Sweet and Viola believe we have created a "narcissistic" and a "best-seller" Christianity which is "self-centeredness wrapped up as `spirituality,' which has become the latest fashion accessory for the person who has everything" (p. 100)." 

Um... how is this different? Isn't it still selling Jesus as a product in some way, even if it might be a more really Jesus-centered Jesus than other products are selling?

What am I missing here?

Well, if you don't want to miss out on all the great doo-dads this product comes with, surf on over to Yes, THE Jesus Manifesto dot com. Not to be confused with That one has been up longer and is more community (rather than commodity) driven. 

And yeah, the name thing-- we all know that THE Jesus Manifesto just has to be more important than Jesus Manifesto (look, there's no definite article in front of it), especially since THE Jesus Manifesto comes with iPhone/iPad apps and endorsements and wallpapers and all.  And a book tour... don't forget that. (It'll be in Nashville in August!).

I seriously considered buying this thing yesterday and even today. But then I evaluated why. It was only because I didn't want to miss out or not be in the know on "the next big thing." And yes, this was very much (and still is very much) a BIG THING... at least in the publishing world. Well, at least yesterday and today.
As if publishing success means truth... or value. I'm with the brother at the site without the definite pronoun whose first installment of the review includes these words:

I have a strong suspicion that it is the Holy Spirit who should decide what gets read in the Church, not the Invisible Hand. In other words, I don’t believe that publishing should determine our apostles.

Though, of course, if you're selling something, especially if it's Jesus, I guess maybe it does?

It's all got me a wantin' to talk like a Pirate-- Arrgh! And it's not even September 19, me hearties!

Peace in Christ,

Taylor Burton-Edwards