We are a new kind of media network.
We are David Crumm Media LLC, a
multi-media publishing company focusing on religion and spirituality
that is headed by partners David Crumm and John Hile. But,
ReadTheSpirit also is a network of professionals — writers, editors,
photographers, artists, clergy, scholars and people from other
disciplines, as well, who are building cooperative partnerships to
produce books, Web content and videos. Seventy of our friends gathered
for a national conference in Ann Arbor in August and collectively we
“nailed” these 10 Principles to a portal, a deliberate echo of the
nailing in Europe half a millennium ago. As our new portal,
ReadTheSpirit, expands through early 2008, we will become a global
gathering place for people who find these voices helpful in their daily
Here are the principles that we “nailed to a 21st century portal” on August 11, 2007:
The Ten 21st-Century Principles of Religious Publishing
Principle 1: It’s about the Voice, not the book.
religious truth cuts across spiritual traditions. Our Scriptures talk
about Voice, Message and Word. And, today, this principle remains
profoundly true. In this new century, power lies in the message, not
the specific packages, which are constantly evolving. So, we are not
merely a community of writers; we are a community of Voices preparing
ourselves to speak in a variety of media. Recognizing that the power is
in the message, not any specific media product, gives us tremendous
freedom and speed – because our messages begin to have impact the
moment we voice them, not merely on some arbitrary, fleeting
Principle 2: If we are people of Truth, then we have nothing to fear from creatively, vigorously searching for Truth.
books (or videos, broadcasts and Web sites) don’t need to answer every
question. We’re not replacing the fullness of Scripture. That’s not our
role. We only need to truthfully seek and helpfully point people along
the journey with us. This gives us an enormous territory in which to
work, because we can boldly and creatively look for truth anywhere –
and we should do that, because other people are already out there in
the most unlikely places – looking on their own. Ultimately, this
principle relieves us of the impossible burden of trying to act and
talk and write like gods ourselves. We can be humbly humorous about our
own occasional failings – and that realization, in itself, is an
expression of Truth, as well.
Principle 3: We must look for Truth in every stage
and condition of life — and in every corner of our human family —
because our traditions call us to overturn false assumptions about the
For example, just as Dr. Benjamin Spock
overturned truths about child care at the dawn of the Baby Boom, it’s
time to overturn the belief that aging is a disability to be suffered
or, at best, a problem to be solved. There are spiritual gifts in every
stage of life – and America is poised at the precise moment when
millions will be searching for that new truth about “The Gifts of
Aging.” Just as we have deceived ourselves about the spiritual nature
of aging, we have fresh work to do in seeing the truths among millions
of people within our so-called religious minorities. The 21st-century
truth is that we are all religious minorities. And, contrary to popular
belief, this strategy actually can be Good Business in media – as “Baby
and Child Care” proved in 1946 by becoming the most successful
English-language nonfiction bestseller other than the Bible itself.
Principle 4: It’s about connection, not competition. Our Voices should call people together, not separate them.
building community, not marketing niches. During the boom of “church
growth experts” in the 1980s and the explosion of religious publishing
in the 1990s, we bought into marketing principles that may have helped
us spread the word for a time – but that ultimately run counter to our
core religious principles. All of our religious traditions call us to
connection and cooperation. In religious publishing, fragmentation and
competition has led us only to reduced margins, a confusing torrent of
messages and an uncertain future.
Principle 5: The most powerful spiritual stories are in the lives of the ordinary people we meet.
truth was demonstrated repeatedly by Jesus and the world’s other great
religious teachers, but we have forgotten this enormously important
lesson in our chase for tales of celebrities, powerful preachers and
exotic heroes. As American media fragments and publishers cut back on
their budgets to send reporters across the U.S. and around the world,
we risk missing out on telling some of the greatest spiritual stories
of our age – the stories of real people who may be sitting next to us –
or may be living in villages half way around the world.
Principle 6: Millions of people are looking for the best path toward a spiritually satisfying Home.
Americans, we’re a restless, rootless people searching for Home.
Compared with the rest of the world, religion matters deeply to the
vast majority of Americans – but a restless desire for individual
choice and self-expression also is nearly universal. The good news is
that this is the perfect opportunity for reintroducing highly motivated
readers to the often-forgotten treasures of their own religious roots.
Principle 7: We are in an era of profound cultural
change that raises spiritual questions, across the spectrum, about our
relationship to our planet – and the meaning of the place in which we
Americans are already asking – and answering
– these questions for themselves. In our daily habits, we have
transformed Starbucks coffee shops into the most successful new
denomination of urban temples. Buzz words like green and eco-theology
are rising from the Orthodox and Catholic churches all the way to the
far end of the evangelical world. We need to explore what our religious
traditions – including largely overlooked realms, such as Native
American wisdom – can teach us about the sacred meaning of place. And,
we need to creatively seize this opportunity to rethink spaces in our
communities. Perhaps bookstores themselves, which are endangered in
many areas, can be celebrated as sacred spaces – an idea that could
transform the religious community’s relationship to many local stores.
Principle 8: The Spirit moves in community.
Scriptures echo this truth, but we don’t act like we believe it.
Religious media currently segments and separates spiritual Voices,
often rejecting promising work for a lack of resources to shape these
voices and frequently boxing voices into preconceived niches, thus
crippling them. Writers, filmmakers and artists usually work in
relative isolation, in many cases experiencing real community only in
brief periods like author tours or festivals, if they are so lucky. We
believe that, in religious publishing, we can form diverse communities
of Voices who work in different areas of our communities and explore
widely divergent spiritual issues. This timeless principle of community
also reflects emerging theories of social networking in this new
century. Almost without realizing it, each of us carries a network of
people wherever we go – and linking our networks into spiritual,
creative community will produce wiser, more creative work that can
reach a far larger audience than any one of us can reach alone.
Principle 9: Radical transparency is good business.
From Open Source software to crowdsourcing projects like Wikipedia,
millions already are throwing open the doors and windows to flood the
creative process with sunlight. We must do the same, because even the
technology of book publishing is radically changing through tools that
finally are democratizing even the printing, binding and distribution
of books themselves. Publishers no longer control this means of
production – even though the book remains a remarkably flexible,
mobile, universally celebrated product. We intend to connect and
promote important spiritual Voices both with existing publishers – and
through these new means. We also intend to reinvent the way spiritual
books are presented online with simple domains that are easy to
remember, easy to access – and become places of community. In this new
century, the doors and windows are opening already – and the truths of
our religious traditions suggest that our calling is to bring light,
Principle 10: Peace is possible.
This is The Ultimate among all the ultimate truths of faith. But, most
often, we voice this claim only apologetically in media, especially
after troubling religious claims are made in defense of some new
hateful or violent act. Why don’t we boldly seize this truth and see
where it leads us in religious publishing? We agree that there is value
in exploring and understanding the nature of conflict so that we can
chart fresh approaches toward making peace – but, too often, we merely
publish shrill and angry voices or report suspenseful tales of
religious conflict deliberately calculated to raise anxiety. There’s
enough of that on bookstore shelves — and a new millennium ahead of
us. Let’s form a vanguard of Voices, talking to the whole world about