Faces: a pet peeve

One of my pet peeves involves Christian publishers who are allergic to presenting faces of lesbian or gay Christians.

There’s an old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover. And for those who don’t know the publishing business, I should add that you can’t judge the author by the book cover, either. Authors usually have very little control over the cover design of their book. In most cases, the fault for the cover designs I critique below lies with the publisher rather than the author.

So here, presented with some comment, is a rogues’ gallery of homosexuals without faces.

We begin with Harvest House Publishers and God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door: Reaching the Heart of the Gay Men and Women in Your World by Alan Chambers and the Leadership Team at Exodus International:

Gods Grace and the Homosexual Next Door

Apparently at Exodus, when you want to reach the heart, you have to reach in through the back. I’ve never studied anatomy, but I’m guessing you would find it just under the “u” in the word “Homosexual.”

Next, we have the Deseret Book Company, which published In Quiet Desperation: Understanding The Challenge Of Same-gender Attraction by Fred Matis, Marilyn Matis, and Ty Mansfield. The book itself is actually better than God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door. Still, it’s good we have the title there to protect us from having to make eye contact with this young man:

In Quiet Desperation

Next, we jump in our time machine and zoom back to 1987, to Pacific Publishing House’s You Don’t Have to Be Gay: Hope and Freedom for Males Struggling With Homosexuality or for Those Who Know of Someone Who Is, by Jeff Conrad:

I’m not sure that either “hope” or “freedom” are the most obvious associations I would form while looking at that photograph (it suggests “middle-aged corporate wage slave stuck in the office” more than anything else). But at least the photo insures that You Don’t Have to See Gay.

It has been my experience that in normal human social interactions, we wear clothes, and we look at each other’s faces. (There are rare exceptions, like surgery, but we’ll leave them aside.) So far, the covers we’ve seen only flout half of the convention: clothes, but no faces. With Andy Comiskey’s Naked Surrender: Coming Home to Our True Sexuality, the cover designers at Intervarsity Press decided to go whole hog, and went with a no clothes, no faces look:

Naked Surrender

I suppose it pays to know your audience’s tastes.

And finally, moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, we have Alan Medinger’s Growth into Manhood: Resuming the Journey, published by Shaw Books:

Growth into Manhood

One hardly knows where to begin.

My first comment, I suppose, is that if one wishes to remain chaste, it is not wise to wander around viewing the world from the perspective suggested by this photograph.

Second, I think that there is a universal lesson to be drawn from this cover by anyone who aspires, one day, to design a book cover. Remember that Amazon.com is transforming the book business. So you really ought to consider how your cover design will look when displayed on the Amazon website:

Growth into Manhood - Search Inside

That is definitely not a promise you want to make to readers who are trying to be chaste.

*          *          *

Some might see this as a comparatively minor point. What difference does it make whether book covers show faces?

The philosopher Emmanuel Levinas thought that we discover our ethical obligations to others through the face-to-face encounter with other human beings.

If Christian publishers avoid putting a human face on gay and lesbian people, they enable readers to avoid confronting their full humanity and the moral demands they make.

But it would be foolish to try to argue this point in the abstract. The most effective way to see the point is simply to contrast these covers with the cover Our Sunday Visitor Press designed for Melinda Selmys’s Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism. What does this cover reveal that is missing from the photos above?

Sexual Authenticity

Ron BelgauRon Belgau is completing a PhD in Philosophy, and teaches medical ethics, philosophy of the human person, ethics, and philosophy of religion. He can be followed on Twitter: @RonBelgau.

13 thoughts on “Faces: a pet peeve

  1. Thank you for this astute and sensitive post. I think it should be emailed to Christian publishing house execs everywhere!

    “If Christian publishers avoid putting a human face on gay and lesbian people, they enable readers to avoid confronting their full humanity and the moral demands they make.”

    Spot on. Thanks again.

  2. Melinda Selmy’s book is as wonderful as the cover of her book. And thanks for the great laugh about the Amazon book cover! We all have to keep a sense of humor when it comes to this issue, or should I say most issues in life. Thanks for a great post!

  3. We all know that anonymity is sometimes titillating . Funny how these authors who claim to believe in personal wholeness are using bathhouse tactics to allure potential readers.

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  5. I just came across this. Brilliant! You brought into my awareness something that I had noticed only subliminally. The significance of these faceless homosexuals is huge.

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