When I was in college, my Sociology professor said, "You stop being prejudiced when you realize jerks come in every color." That statement has stuck with me all these years. I'm not sure everyone fully understands it when I quote it, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't sink as deep with a lot of people as it did with me.
What that statement means is:
We tend to overcompensate when we feel prejudice. God forbid we think a black person is mean or dishonest--that might be racist. But let's face it, some black people are mean and dishonest. So are some white people. Jerks come in every color. Once you recognize that, you can start judging people based on their behavior, not their skin color.
This holds true for religious and political demographics as well. Having friends who are both atheists and Christians, both Republicans and Democrats, I have noticed that the most vocal are the ones that are most opposed and offended by the other group. I remember posting on Facebook that my one take-away from the election experience is that people groups judge each other by their extremists.
All that said, I'm going to switch topics a bit. Sorta. And in a way that is probably going to have my words misconstrued. I'm going to be accused of calling Jerry Jenkins a jerk. I'm not, I promise. But here goes....
Jerry Jenkins recently announced that his company, Christian Writers Guild, will be opening a publishing house, but it will run rather differently from traditional publishing. It's only being sorta-kinda called self-publishing by Jenkins/CWG. Essentially, a writer pays nearly $10,000 for a six month writing course and then will receive for "free" a publishing package.
First of all, $10,000 for both a six month course AND a self-publishing package is on the high side. A writer in a Yahoo loop I belong to quoted Jenkins as saying, "Anything with that kind of a price tag will appeal to only a certain market segment. In fact, we'll vet all applicants and cheerfully steer many to other, lower cost suppliers before we would hurt them financially. I would not advise anyone to stretch beyond their means for services they can find elsewhere for less." (Emphasis mine, and yes, this is second-hand, and I cannot directly verify the accuracy, but I do trust my source.)
That quote tells me he's fully aware that he's over-charging. He's trying to "appeal" to a certain market segment. I'd like to know what that segment is. My guess: the segment willing to pay $10,000 to say they were published by Jerry Jenkins.
So here's the connection. We judge by our extremists. Our extremists are all too often the jerks. Our extremist jerks end up inadvertently becoming our group representatives in other groups' minds. So the *real* representatives and leaders in our groups need to tread extra-carefully to balance that out.
Jerry Jenkins is a Christian fiction icon. He and his company, CWG, are seen as one of the biggest examples of the Christian fiction industry. In a way, he represents the CBA to many people, both inside and outside the Christian market. The idea that he is charging more for supposedly better quality and supposed opportunity for new Christian writers is not going to matter. The secular world sees it as a joke. Just check out this post on Writer Beware.
The head of any company becomes personally held accountable for that company, especially when that person's name is as big as the company itself. Walt Disney knew that. Sam Walton knew that. Jerry Jenkins ought to know that, and I believe he does.
What is happening now is Jerry Jenkins putting his name on this kind of practice is like him stepping up and saying, "This is how we do things in the CBA. This is what Christian writing is all about. Not letting talented writers land real traditional contracts, so they are forced to come to me and pay through the nose for what they want."
It may have truly started as a way for him to meet a need in the CBA. I am not judging Jenkins' character. I know nothing about him. But the only exposure I've had to CWG left me sick to my stomach. For a year, they joined forces with my main writers group, Word Weavers, which is a non-profit group. Things were supposed to be separate--WW members were not required to join CWG, and vice versa, but supposedly got discounts going either way. Discounts on over-priced webinars, the solicitations for which filled my inbox on a regular basis, leading me to drop my WW membership until WW and CWG parted ways.
So you have to see where I'm coming from on this. I'm not personally attacking Jenkins. I am not trying to spread gossip about him. I am merely evaluating a service offered by him and his company, and seeing things that don't add up. It's true that no one is being forced to choose this path he has laid out. But I know so many will choose it, including a lot of people that can't really afford it.
So, while I'm not calling Jerry Jenkins a jerk, the secular publishing world is, and Christian writers are being made out once again to be naive and gullible.