Coming up with the title or summary of this post was pretty difficult. After all, we usually and exclusively talk about reading, writing, editing, and marketing books. But the connection between religion, faith transitions, creativity, inclusivity, and online activism has really been on my mind lately.
Last year, George Floyd’s murder sparked a huge conversation in the book community. We did a lot of talking and a lot of listening. We wanted to know how to diversify our shelves. Unfortunately, a few notable authors took huge steps back. Instead of going into detail, you can watch this YouTube video that describes the whole mess with J.M. Buckler.
I bring up Buckler’s mess because she declared her Christian faith after she doubled down on some weird, hurtful statements. If I remember correctly, she compared her plights to early Christian martyrs and Jesus Christ. She definitely compared her stance with MLK’s, which spurred that initial video I shared earlier. I think she hoped that this sentiment would get folks to back off or sympathize with her.
It bugged me that she used her faith as an excuse to avoid apologizing and avoid advocating for other marginalized authors and bookstagrammers. That’s what started all of this, anyway. She claimed the right to comfort—even though making covenants with God was never meant to be comfortable or easy.
Now, listen. I am also Christian. Specifically, I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So when I saw this all unfold, I knew I needed to say something. Because my activism stems from my faith. My testimony is the foundation for my activism. And I didn’t want folks like Buckler to speak for me or let her be the figurehead of modern Christians.
For years, I have been encouraging my friends and family—regardless of their spirituality—to care about current events. Instead, people say they’re “not into politics,” push less “righteous” people out of their congregations, and gaslight those who are hurt by bigotry.
I know these experiences are very real and very damaging. Church used to be “easy” when I didn’t realize how certain traditions or interpretations of scripture are used (intentionally or not) to hurt people. And I don’t want to excuse bad behavior because someone calls themselves a Christian.
Back to Buckler. Instead of ignoring the well-deserved feedback from Black and brown Bookstagrammers, Buckler could’ve repented from what she did and sought restitution. Instead, she buckled down and dug a deeper hole for herself. In a business sense, she had an opportunity to step up as a leader and set the standard for how to address goofs and make things right for the community. Instead, she rage quit social media. She essentially showed us she’d rather delete her blue check on Instagram than learn more about discrimination and do something to address it.
And you may wonder: okay, so if you’re hot and bothered by Christianity, why stay? Why let these people speak for me? It’s much more productive to ask myself: you know what you know—so what will you do now?
I decided to really open up and talk about my answer to this question in an Instagram Live video. It was really cathartic for me and I hope it helped my community.
Overall, my hot tea is that spirituality should inspire folks to speak up for justice and mercy rather than an excuse to stay silent or ignorant. It’s insensitive and ignorant for anyone to believe we just write our stories or post cute bookstagram shots when our communities are hurting and pleading for our help.
If this topic/my perspective interests you, I’d encourage you to watch my Instagram Live or read part two of this post. The post is not a word-for-word transcript but rather my notes/outline that I used for the live video.
You can also reach out. I’m open to one-on-one discussions whether you’re still religious or not. Let’s grow together so we can create together.