Amazon cancels evangelical book on the transgender issue: A "digital book-burning" and the power of holiness

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Amazon cancels evangelical book on the transgender issue: A “digital book-burning” and the power of holiness

February 25, 2021 -

Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, at the introduction of the new Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Paperwhite personal devices, in Santa Monica, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, at the introduction of the new Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Paperwhite personal devices, in Santa Monica, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, at the introduction of the new Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Paperwhite personal devices, in Santa Monica, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Ryan T. Anderson is one of the most perceptive writers and thinkers in the evangelical world. His research has been cited by two US Supreme Court justices. A magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University with a doctoral degree in political philosophy from Notre Dame University, his work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, and numerous other outlets.

His book on the transgender issue, When Harry Became Sally, is one of the foundational works on the subject. I have found it enormously helpful in my work. I agree with Anderson’s description of his book as “a thoughtful and accessible presentation of the state of the scientific, medical, philosophical, and legal debates.” In 2018, it hit No. 1 on two of Amazon’s bestseller lists before it was even released. 

However, you can no longer order his book on Amazon. If you search for it there, you’ll see “Sorry, we couldn’t find that page” and a picture of a dog. You can, however, find Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto on Amazon. Both have an average rating of 4.5 stars. 

John Stonestreet and David Carlson explain why Anderson’s book is so important and compelling, perhaps the very reasons Amazon blocked it. The Federalist calls Amazon’s cancelation of Anderson’s book a “digital book-burning.” The Wall Street Journal responds to Amazon’s action by warning that “tech censorship is accelerating.”  

Bill Hybels’ daughter apologizes for her silence 

Willow Creek Community Church Senior Pastor Bill Hybels stands before his congregation, Tuesday, April 10, 2018, in South Barrington, Ill. (Mark Black/Daily Herald via AP)

Amazon clearly intends fewer people to read Anderson’s seminal work on the transgender issue. To the degree that their intention becomes reality, their sin will affect far more people than the sinner. 

That’s how sin always works. 

No pastor in the evangelical Christian world was better known or more trusted than Bill Hybels. Hybels founded Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, creating a model for relevance in ministry that has been studied and emulated around the globe. Then came the horrible news: Hybels was accused of sexual misconduct three years ago and forced into early retirement. 

Now Bill Hybels’ daughter, Shauna Niequist, has apologized for her silence following the allegations against her father. Niequist explains that they “shook me to the core, & I shut down.” Since then, she has been “trying to find the words to write about my dad & our church.” She was taking time to “grieve & listen & recover,” but stated, “I now understand that my silence communicated to many that I defend my father’s actions and his ongoing silence. I don’t. I grieve both of those things.” 

She is just one of the innocent people who have been injured by sins they did not commit. 

Restitution and Step Nine 

How should Christians respond when Christians sin? 

As I noted yesterday, we need to separate the message from the messenger, hold each other to the standards of Christ, and balance grace and consequences. To the last point, I wrote that “sinners can be forgiven, but they must seek restitution.” 

Let’s expand on that fact. 

We know that God will forgive all we confess (1 John 1:9). Why, then, should we not simply sin and confess, sin and confess, sin and confess? One reason is that God also calls us to make restitution to those we have harmed. 

Jesus taught us, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23–24). As an example of such restitution, when the notorious tax collector Zacchaeus came to repentance and faith in Jesus, he announced: “If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8; cf. Exodus 22:1). 

Of course, there are circumstances where seeking restitution may harm further those we have hurt. Step Nine of Alcoholics Anonymous’ famous Twelve Steps is to “make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” We should seek the wisdom of God and the counsel of others in knowing how best to help those we have harmed. 

Our works “will be revealed by fire” 

Restitution is one aspect of repentance. The loss of rewards is another. 

While God forgives all we confess, he cannot reward sinful behavior. His word is clear: “Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on that foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:13–15). 

Every hour we spend in sin is an hour we lose forever. Every time we refuse to obey Jesus, we forfeit the eternal reward we would have received for such obedience. 

So, the time to refuse sin is before we commit it. The next time you are tempted, turn immediately to your Lord. Ask him for the strength to defeat your enemy (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 4:13), then join him in choosing the holiness that leads to freedom and joy. 

If you are living with unrepented sin, the time to repent is now. The cancer will only spread; more innocent people will be hurt; more restitution will be owed; more reward will be lost. Turn to God now, knowing that he has already turned to you. 

The hand that held the nail 

The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson’s deeply moving depiction of Jesus’ trials and crucifixion, opened on this day in 2004. Gibson personally invested millions of dollars in the movie and directed it. His face nowhere appears on screen, but he does make a very strategic cameo: his hand holds the nail driven into Jesus’ hand on the cross. 

His point was simple: Jesus died for his sins. And for yours and mine. 

Will you choose holiness in gratitude to your Savior today? 

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