Your book is coming along nicely. The stories are great. My favorite is the worthless kid whose lenient father welcomes him home for no reason. That one makes you think.
We love the introduction. Everyone adores babies. The shepherds are an excellent touch. Maybe you could do a little more with Gabriel. What’s he feeling?
We think this can be a big seller, but, as you know, the buyers of religious books are pretty conservative. We spotted a few details that could get in the way, so we made a few minor changes you probably won’t even notice.
The story about the rich fool who builds barns and dies is now about a poor fool who cleans barns and gets a better job. The widow and the unjust judge are a single woman and a charming lawyer. The good guy who helps the mugging victim on the road to Jericho is Norwegian rather than Samaritan.
We have a few questions. We don’t understand what’s happening on the mountaintop where Moses and Elijah show up. We can talk about it, but is it even necessary?
Could Zacchaeus be more reasonable when he’s repaying everyone he cheated? We think it would be more realistic if he paid back what he stole with interest rather than four times as much as he took.
The story of the rich man and Lazarus is one-sided. We need to make it clear that there is blame on both sides.
Would you consider changing Martha’s name to Karen? Just a thought.
Use this as a general guideline: Every instance of “Blessed are the poor” needs to be “Blessed is everyone.”
Try to be less in your face. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” could be, “Whoever wants to be my disciple needs to stop being so selfish and be nice.”
Again, we love, love, love what you have written, but there is a tone that concerns us. For instance, right after Satan leaves (Satan, by the way, could be a really interesting character) there’s a section that might raise questions. The crowd tries to throw Jesus off the cliff because he says he is there to “bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and let the oppressed go free.” The phrase “good news to the poor” suggests “bad news to the rich.” And “release to the captives” is also problematic. I know prison reform is one of your issues. Maybe you could recommend an end to cash bail, but opening all the prisons is over the top. When you say, “Let the oppressed go free” you are assuming that someone is the oppressor. No one wants to think of themselves as an oppressor.
“We would like to sell a few copies to the oppressors. We want your book to get as wide an audience as possible.”
What if the theme of the book was “good news and freedom to all people”? I know what you’re thinking —that not all people feel the same need for good news and not everyone is oppressed. That’s true, but we would like to sell a few copies to the oppressors. We want your book to get as wide an audience as possible.
For instance, let’s say a group of protestors are upset by the murder of someone whose family has been persecuted for generations by someone whose family has been privileged for generations. These demonstrators decide to march to the mayor’s house. They are surprised when a rich couple comes out of their mansion and points loaded guns at them, because rich people feel oppressed, too. Doesn’t everyone get to feel oppressed — even if those feelings are completely unwarranted? There are very fine people on both sides.
If we limit our attention to those who are truly oppressed, we are going to offend those with easy lives. The very word “oppressed” implies that the wealthy have profited from the subjugation of others. Readers might think you’re saying that the rich don’t deserve their comfortable lives.
People who have lots of money have more money to buy books. Let’s go a little out of our way to include these people who are not oppressed. Let’s proclaim good news to them, too. That could be your title — Good News: All Lives Matter.
Your thoughtful editor
Brett Younger is senior minister of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the author of the new book Funny When You Think about It: Serious Reflections on Faith.
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