Hollis explained that her editor at Thomas Nelson, a Christian imprint of HarperCollins and one of the oldest and largest Bible publishers in the world, initially told her: “ ‘You don’t understand how many fans you’ll get, you don’t understand how famous you’re going to be. But NOT if you include this. You can believe whatever you want to believe, just don’t tell everybody what it is.’ ”
In the chapter titled “Lie: There’s Only One Way to Be,” Hollis writes: “I am a Christian, but I fully love and accept you and want to hang out with you and be friends if you’re Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist or Jedi or love the opposite sex or love the same sex or love Rick Springfield circa 1983 . . . One of my best friends is gay, African American, and Mexican American. Three incredibly powerful narratives have shaped the woman she is, and there is much strength, history, beauty, confidence, pain, empathy, anger, truth and courage in her story. What if I’d never heard it? . . . Doing life with people who don’t look or think or vote like us is the whole point — it’s our call to arms! Love thy neighbor wasn’t a suggestion; it was a command, you guys.”
Hollis, the daughter of a Pentecostal preacher, explained on Facebook and Instagram this week that in standing up for the inclusion of these words, she even threatened to sue her publisher. “Finally,” she writes, “they agreed to keep chapter 19 in the book.” Hollis’s publisher did not respond to multiple phone and email requests for comment.
Hollis and the friends she was writing about got tattoos of “19” on their wrists in celebration of her victory, and “to remind us to always fight for what’s right and to use our platforms to speak the truth and testify to love,” Hollis wrote on social media, under a photo that shows her body art (and perfectly manicured nails). It stands for the chapter “where I spoke about diversity and inclusion and inviting everyone to share a seat at your table . . . you know, just like Jesus would do.”
Online, the response to Hollis’s post was plentiful — and mostly positive:
“This post means the world to me,” wrote one follower. “Thank you for advocating for the lgbtq community.”
“This straight white semi-conservative girl loved that chapter! It was one of my favorites! Thank you for fighting for it and standing up for what you believe in!” wrote another.
Others chimed in: “I am a very conservative Christian, I was not offended by chapter 19 at all. I am of the belief that you do not have to agree with someone in order to love and respect them. Jesus did not agree with everyone’s lifestyle but he showed the same love to ALL.”
“I still find myself naively shocked that this is an actual 21st century conversation. Thank you for not compromising the seats around your table.”
A few commenters took issue with Hollis’s perspective, sparking discussion about Jesus, the Bible and sin.
Hollis, who said in an interview last fall that her message is apolitical, has not shied away from divisive subjects. Her latest best-selling book, “Girl, Stop Apologizing” — published under a business imprint — promotes female empowerment in “our patriarchal society.” In January, some of Hollis’s fans expressed concern when she announced that she was interviewing the vice president. One Instagram follower thought she was referring to Mike Pence; in fact it was former vice president Joe Biden. Another responded by urging her to stay out of the fray: “I know you lean more liberal Christian but please for everything that is holy don’t turn this into a political space. It’s a nice escape.”
Nora Krug is an editor and writer at Book World.