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HarperCollins Christian Publishing: Is Logistical Chaos God’s Judgement?

OPINION

This is an opinion piece and should not be treated as a news item.

 

It’s easy to fall into the dichotomy that church is church and business is business, and that, while the content of the books Christians publish is definitely related to understanding and applying the ways of God, the business practices should not be over-spiritualized.

But lately, I’ve listened to a couple of podcasts from journalist Julie Roys and wondered if I can connect some dots. First, let’s look at the problems that we, as Canadian stores are facing getting resources from HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

  • A single order can result in four different types of shipments with each one having a separate invoice generated and mailed separately, resulting in
    • an onslaught of mail, each invoice bearing a $1.30 US cost, plus printing; creating another statement line item
    • individual shipping costs and packaging costs; this in an age where “green” consciousness is constantly rising
  • long delays getting books back on press, sometimes six months
  • useless, one-time corrugated shipping cartons, which need to be recycled immediately after opening and thereby can’t be used to re-ship/deliver larger product orders to customers; again, strange in a world where “green” awareness is so important
  • insistence that “monitored” or “golden” bestseller product be released manually, sometimes resulting in a delay of an extra week; incongruous considering that these are bestsellers
  • insistence that orders as small as one or two copies of “monitored” stock not be released with small orders
  • invoices bearing what are sometimes retail prices, and sometimes are net prices
  • a website option which promises “invoices and statements” but is incapable of showing account statements
  • statements which cut off early in the month, only to re-classify invoices from the 27th to 31st of the month as overdue in subsequent statements
  • website product listings which do not immediately indicate the difference between a key product and its study guide, or a key product and its Spanish equivalent
  • invoices and packing slips sent with shipments which are for other stores in Canada and the U.S.; or there is simply no paperwork

So is all this simply, as they would have you believe, a result of staff-shortages, bad weather and a worldwide pandemic?

This is where it gets spiritual. Is God withholding his hand of blessing from Zondervan and Thomas Nelson? I’m sure they would disagree and would have us know that everything is moving up and to the right. Which of course, with the recent tidal wave of price increases, it would be.

This morning I looked again at the Tower of Babel narrative in Genesis 11:

NIV.Gen.11.5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” 8a So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth…

Maybe that’s an unusual case in terms of God’s dealings with us. Perhaps a better analogy is God simply allowing Israel to wander for 40 years for what, as Deuteronomy 1:2 tells us, could have been an eleven-day journey.

What might call God to withhold his blessing, or, as above, do more? This is where the Julie Roys podcast fits in. I want to suggest you listen two specifically,

These are but two of many examples of situations where HCCP stands “weighed in the balances and found wanting.” In the case of Carey Scott whose content was plagiarized by Christine Caine, there was a settlement of a lawsuit in 2018, but there has never been a formal apology from Caine or the publisher. Dennis Swanson’s print acknowledgement of writing/editing material for John MacArthur was removed and for over a year, the publisher simply keeps saying “we’re still looking into it.”

Consider also the HCCP authors whose brand was damaged in 2020. We listed many of them in this article. Ravi Zacharias, Eric Metaxas, Dave Ramsay, John Ortberg, Franklin Graham, MacArthur, etc. were all high-profile authors with Nelson or Zondervan.

It’s important that we not think that because bookstore staff are “in the ministry” that our publishing partners, as with every human endeavour, are not free from corruption. If you’ve been associated with Christian publishing for any length of time, you probably have stories, too; some of which perhaps even I am not aware of.

But when problems are systemic over a prolonged period of time, you have to wonder if God is “confusing the movement” as he did at Babel; or simply withholding blessings which we normally experience everyday without realizing the degree to which God is orchestrating events to make “things work together for good;” and the times God “makes your paths straight.”

 

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