Writer’s Dilemma

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

I am a Conservative evangelical Christian. I’m 52, unmarried, no children, and I live with my mother and father. And sometimes, my grandmother is here too. I have a moral dilemma that is NOT the end of the world. It’s nothing major, but it’s something that’s been bothering me. My question, simply put, is when/at what point/how do you decide to draw the line?

I am a writer. I am a member of a professional writers organization. I used to be a member of more than one group, but as each organization had a woke meltdown, literally labeling members like me as “white supremacists” etc. ad nauseum, I finally had enough and walked away. After all, why should I pay to be treated so? That line was easy to see.

My question is about the group where I am still a member and have been for 15+ years. Every year, this group presents awards for outstanding new works as voted on by members. When I became eligible to vote, I was very excited. I expected to read really outstanding works in the genre. Unfortunately, instead, I often read very well-written stories that were mediocre but where members were nominated by their fellow members and thus the same people got nominated over and over again. BUT there are excellent works that I have really enjoyed, and I take the reading of all the works very seriously [approximately 32 written works ranging from short stories to novels].

People have asked why I take this job of reading and voting so seriously… which to me is a strange question. I am a member and members read the works and vote. The fact that friends nominate friends has nothing to do with me. I have an obligation and a responsibility. Furthermore, if I am ever so lucky to be nominated [not gonna happen but IF], I would hope people would take reading my work as seriously I take reading these works.

In general, I have no problem reading a work and judging it on its quality. The film Platoon is an excellent example of what I mean; I did NOT like the movie, but it was very well-done and deserved the Oscar. This idea applies to the works I read; even if I don’t like a work, I consider how well-done it is and judge it on its merits.

Unfortunately, recently, the common themes running through the vast number of nominees is Wokeness. Particularly [but not limited to] LGBTQ and Trans issues. There are even stories where an individual character will use the pronouns “they/them/their”, which makes for incredibly difficult reading. On one hand, I wouldn’t care and just read through, but it’s the overwhelming nature of it all. It’s not just one or two stories but every single one. These are not my values. But I read through and judge as best as I can, endeavoring NOT to dismiss any work for these themes. Always for the quality.

Now, the problem. About the time President Biden took office, members of the publishing industry put out an open letter stating, essentially, that they would blacklist anyone from the Trump Administration who tried to work in the publishing industry or tried to publish a work. While the letter specifically referred to people who worked in the Trump Administration, it concluded that the signers would do everything in their power to root out the “monsters” in their midst in the publishing industry. I took this to mean not merely former employees in the Trump Administration, but anyone who was a conservative or espoused traditional values, like myself. Approximately 600 people signed this letter. Among them, to my disappointment, I found several writers I had read for awards in the past, as well as the head of a major publishing company in my area of interest.

Now, award season has returned, and I find some of these same writers who signed this letter are among the nominees. These are people who have openly said they wish to drive me from my chosen profession. Granted, maybe I am reading more into their words than they intended, but I suspect, if my traditional Christian faith and Conservative politics were known, I would not be welcome in this organization.

Now I am questioning why I am even bothering with reading and voting. On one hand, I’d like to read through without taking the authors’ statement into account, but that is difficult to do; I can’t unsee the authors’ names. I’ve also considered just not reading the works by those authors. But that seems unfair.

At what point, do I say “Enough” and just stop? I am putting in all this time and effort for people who would rather I wasn’t a part of this organization. Thus the question– should I even bother?

I’m sorry this is so long. As I said, this is not the end of the world. I’m just unsure how to proceed and need some moral guidance. And maybe you and Susan can see something in all of this that I am missing.

Thank you so much for your time!!

Isabel D.

Dear Isabel,

We hesitate to start our response by arguing with you, but we are going to brashly do so. Twice you stated that your dilemma isn’t “the end of the world,” and we disagree with that. It isn’t a natural catastrophe or a World War, but it is the end of a specific world as we have known it, where individuals are allowed to have freedom of religion, freedom of thought and freedom of association. Instead, societal pressure (and sometimes the law) is pushing us to follow a specific way of thinking and acting or to be condemned as “unfit” and made into pariahs.

Your specific example of what is happening in your industry is exactly that—a specific example. But similar things are happening in businesses, organizations and groups around the world. As we see it, the real question is whether you draw the line and withdraw from judging these works and/or from the organization at large or you wait for the organization to kick you out when you refuse to sign a statement or pledge fealty to certain ideas.

Recently a father wrote a long explanation detailing why he was withdrawing his children from a very expensive private school. Basically, it was because he saw the school implementing racist policies in the name of anti-racism, and he didn’t agree for his children to be indoctrinated in hatred. His dilemma is another facet of yours. These challenges are facing so many of us each day. That is why we say that yours is not a minor problem but a major one.

Our best advice to you is to seek like-minded individuals and associate with them, even if the few of you will not have the prestige of your large, well-established group. Read each other’s works, share motivational tips, and feel comfortable standing for freedom of expression. The more relationships you develop with those closer in age to you, and even much younger than you, the richer your life will be. You are blessed to have your parents and grandmother, but peers and friends are valuable as well.

From your letter it is evident to us that your affiliation with these writer groups has been very important to you and that taking care of what you saw as your obligation to these organizations and their programs has been very fulfilling. What we read in your letter is that you have already decided that you cannot separate your values and your professional persona. You simply haven’t yet activated that withdrawal. If you see severing these relationships as better than waiting for them to be severed for you for being honest to your convictions, we can foresee a bit of a vacuum in your life. Here’s our suggestion: Start doing far more writing and far less judging. We think that over the years you may have started investing increasing time and energy into your organizational work at the cost of time and energy invested into your own skills and creativity.

Use this time as a blessing to walk away from the world of choosing awards recipients and into the wonderful world of developing your own writing regardless of whether or not it wins awards. We promise you that in the long run, readers are far more valuable than awards. This could really open up a thrilling new time in your life.

We are sorry that this important area of your life has been self-destructing. So many people today are needing to adjust to new realities. You are not alone.

Wishing you joy as new doors open,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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32 thoughts on “Writer’s Dilemma”

  1. Isabel’s dilemma spoke to me quite voluably. I am also a writer and have been involved, or at least a member of, several writers groups, including the Author’s Guild (which not that long ago sponsored a trip for members to that bastion of literary freedom, Cuba), and others I will not name. I struggled for years to maintain some open communication with some of these writers through our group’s online discussion boards and through Facebook. To say that I was a minority because of my social, political and social views would be a massive understatement. A few times, other like-minded writers wrote to me offlist to tell me how brave I was to speak out on certain issues but while they agreed with they would never admit to it on the boards. I did not fault them in any way and appreciated hearing from them in their stealth emails.

    Recently, as Isabel pointed out, all the rage in editorial circles is about more “inclusive” and more “sensitive” editing, but only for the most marginal of groups. I saw with my own eyes notices from book publishers announcing they were only accepting new manuscripts from Blacks for a certain period of time. And after the George Flloyd protests exactly one year ago, the writers’ and editors’ groups scrambled to be the first to announce that they stood by the side of. . . no, not the police who were trying to keep some order in cities on fire, not the small (or large) business owners whose storefronts were smashed in nihlistic rioting and looting. . . not frightened citizens who began ordering mace and stun guns and looked to see how long before we could prepare to arm ourselves against the mobs, but on the side of the protesters. Yes, most were peaceful, but enough were violent to have caused traumatic injury to the social fabric.
    I was incensed. I wrote a letter to one of the organizations expressing my dismay at their gross insensitivity to the victims of the riots and heard back. . . nothing. I followed up a few weeks later, because it seemed rather against the spirit of open communication among a community of communicators not to have even received a boilerplate brush-off. But again, no one chose to respond.

    For professional reasons I remain a member of two groups but have dropped membership in others. I also gave up trying to maintain friendly dialogue on social media with the vast majority of other writers who hold differeng opinions, even though I really, really would prefer not to live in a bubble, but I could no longer tolerate their own intolerance, a real irony given how staunchly they considered themselves so sophisticated and. . . tolerant.

    While I would like to expand my reach with my work, I have now made peace with the fact that, in the times we are living in, I will be read by a smaller and more select group, and will be able to communicate with those who are open enough to my ideas to find them worthwhile.

    As always, Rabbi Lapin and Susan, my dear friends and teachers, thank you for your incredibly important work.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Judy–
      Can one still fight or is all that is left, weeping at what has been lost?

      1. Rabbi Lapin,
        I greatly fear that now, minds and hearts are closed. We are so shut off from one another, the divide feels unbridgable. I am grateful each time I hear about someone who has (finally) heard, or read, points of view they had never considered before, or simply seen the results of reflexively leftist policies, coming around to see a more moderate or even conservative POV. As to journalism, I see no hope for the profession as it once was. I wish it were otherwise.

  2. I’m 61 years old. Here is what I have found to be true and it’s very exciting in my lifetime. Sometimes we have to close these doors and we become afraid we will miss it. When in fact, God will lead you down a new path. Why? Because he LOVES us and because we chose to follow HIM and not the world as we see it. Trust me, He will provide you a new direction, a new writers community. It may not happen overnight, be HE is already putting it together. I guess this is when we practice our faith in HIM. Release it to HIM, you will not regret it.

  3. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

    This is from Isabel [name changed for privacy reasons] who submitted this week’s question to Ask the Rabbi:

    Please tell the Rabbi and Susan thank you…! and the direction their advice took [which I hadn’t expected] was dead on. Over the course of the last year and a half, partly due to the Covid response and partly due to other commitments, my own work has been neglected. This message was undoubtedly one I needed to hear. (And they are welcome to “argue” with me anytime!)
    Thank you,

  4. I will read your writings Isabel from Australia.
    Spot on RDL about focus on writing and reaching out to people around the world who Isabel can inspire with her writings regardless of what’s happening in her writing group in the USA.

    The world is a big place. 🙂 Share your creative Christian thoughts and opinions. You will be surprise how many people around the world will support you.

    The underground persecuted Christians hiding in China will find your writings as a source of hope.

    All the best.

    1. Raymond, you are making a good point that writing is easily read around the world today. Thanks for joining us from Australia!

  5. Thank you for including this letter, it’s very similar to things I’ve experienced this past year. I’m a blogger and content creator, and I’ve withdrawn from networks because of statements that were made by networks (one network basically said if you think all lives matter, we don’t want you in our network, I promptly left). Last year, some people in my blogging groups promised to ruin the businesses of other bloggers who didn’t post anti-racist messages on social media. When I complained about it to the admins, I was essentially told to get woke.

    I’ve turned down partnerships with organizations and brands because one of them led workshops on how to unlearn whiteness and I couldn’t agree with that. Now I have to do a lot of research on any brand or company I partner with to make sure that they aren’t pushing messages that don’t line up with my personal beliefs.

    Part of my struggle is that this is a portion of my family’s income, so I’ve had to turn down work from companies that don’t align with my beliefs. My main income is ad income, and they are getting very woke as well, so I feel that it’s a matter of time before something happens there (but hopefully not). God has blessed us though even through that and I’m finding work on my own outside of those networks!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear SJ-
      As Moses said to Joshua—“Be strong and of good courage!”

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Really important advice, Jeff,
      You’re exactly right. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be constantly trying to improve ourselves but we shouldn’t be trying to appease the incompatible. Vegetarians should not be angling for invitations to the annual cannibals picnic.

  6. My best friend has just had his first book “Colors Running” published. I think that he may be going through the same problem. His book is about a white man who saves a black man from a hanging and mentors him. I’ve read several of his unpublished books and found them to very interesting. The writings have all shown his conservative christian background.

  7. I needed this advice too… but in a more subtle way. I often let mental arguments or frustrations from others beliefs/foolish choices fill my mind and hinder my own actions; as I spend more effort thinking about ‘their’ things (which I cannot change) instead of thinking about and acting on what I can and should. I was able to stop my unhealthy thinking just this morning after reading your advice. Thank you again Rabbi and Susan!!

  8. Dear Rabbi Lapin, I think your advice is right on to Isabel. Western Christians have taken their place in society as a given and many people haven’t paid attention to the trends in Western society especially America since we haven’t had the wars over religion or much else in society. We haven’t been pushed away from our country and made to live in other cultures that are hostile to Christianity as the Jews and other cultures have had to do. We truly don’t know how to live life in a world that is hostile to Christianity. Christ taught us to be in this world but not to become like this world. But NEVER did he tell us to withdraw from the world.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      True, Marie-
      many can’t even believe the intensity of the hostility.

    2. Dear Marie, You are 100% correct. Unfortunately, Christians and Jews in America are now receiving a minuscule taste of what is inevitable. Churches are being burned down, synagogues are being defaced..not to mention the attacks on the Jews in New York, New Jersey, California, Idaho, Delaware and Pennsylvania! This is only going back to Oct. 27, 2018!! We must pray like we never had before…

  9. What a thoughtful answer to a dilemma that we all will be facing sooner than later. I really liked that you encouraged him to focus on his own writing. I am finding the more that I focus on the work I am called to do and less on the disintegrating culture around me, the less I am affected by it. I feel stronger and less impacted. Hopefully, as I make progress in the work I am called to, I will hold up my corner of the world against this changing culture. Or perhaps I am naïve and will be overtaken by a cancel culture attack. What strange times we are living in!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Barbara–
      The great South African wartime leader, General Jan Smuts used to say, “The dogs may bark but the caravan moves on.” It is easy to become distracted and even discouraged when the dogs bark, but the important thing is that your caravan, what I call ‘your 5F’s’ in my podcast, moves on.

  10. Alfreida Moore

    Dear Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin,
    Thanks so much for the insightful encouragement you provide for so many.
    Mrs. Moore

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      You’re so welcome Mrs. Moore,
      and we thank you for writing.

  11. Finding kindred spirits is very important. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where being a conservative feels as if I am one of the few normal people in an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” movie. Fortunately I belong to a number of Christian and conservative groups that have various activities, some social, some political. I have made a lot of friends and acquaintances.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Exactly, Derrick,
      Connect with like-minded people.
      This is the path forward.

  12. Such a well written letter and an insightful, timely response! Grateful to you both for shining a light on the new reality we all are, or soon will be, facing.
    Rabbi and Susan your answer truly blessed me.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Happy to hear from you, Wendy,
      Thank you. We always appreciate knowing that we are helping, even just a little.

  13. Elijah Gershom

    Great advice. Applicable for many of us in the new ” normal “.
    The Rabbi wrote
    ” what you saw as your obligation to these organizations ”
    Many of us are being forced to reevaluate our obligations and loyalties.
    If anyone is familiar with the classic advertising campaigns for Coca Cola ? ( If not Google\ YouTube : Coca Cola Commercial – I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony) – 1971 )
    Generations who grew up wanting exactly that, to ” teach the world to sing in perfect harmony ” are now finding they are subject to coercion and an assumed collective guilt for vague and ill defined sins. Its best not to ignore the echoes of distant mobs. As they grow louder and closer. The lack of logic and the love of force is not reason to dismiss them. Rather all the more reason to be aware and begin taking slow cautious steps to back away slowly without startling them.. As one would on encountering approaching wild animals.

  14. Michael E Burton

    This response by the Rabbi and Susan is really what I was thinking as I read the question above. Many of us are going through the same things in our workplace, school, gatherings. Most of us are implementing what the Lapins suggested.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks for your note, Michael,
      Connecting with other like-minded people helps remind us that we are not alone.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Mark–
      There was a time I thought I was trying to write for the whole world. Nobody read a word I wrote. Then I decided to start writing for friends, family, and fans. Much better.
      So, you’re right. Not for everyone. Nothing is.

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