The Common Good

Shane Claiborne on Rupert Murdoch, Zondervan, and Empire

Rupert Murdoch - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009photo © 2009 World Economic Forum | more info (via: Wylio)Most people know now that Rupert Murdoch presides over the News Corp media empire, and that he is fighting for his reputation after being forced to sink his scandal-laiden British newspaper News of the World, the most widely read English tabloid in the world. But few people know that Murdoch also owns Zondervan, the world's largest publisher of Bibles. For 23 years, the News Corp family has included the leading seller of the best-selling book in history.

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I know many Christians see the Bible's publishing stature as validation of their chosen faith, but a savvy entrepreneur could simply see it as a business opportunity. Or perhaps the 80-year-old Murdoch, like any shrewd businessman, wanted diverse investments -- a diversity that in his case ranged from a cleavage-saturated tabloid that ran headlines like, "F1 Boss Has Sick Nazi Orgy With 5 Hookers" to a publisher that offers Little Lamb's Storybook Bible.

Zondervan, which is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, also sells Precious Princess Bible, Camo Bible (image "Holy Bible" on a camouflage cover), Soul Surfer Bible, Holy Bible: Stock Car Racing and 500 other styles of the holy book. The company owns exclusive North American print rights to the popular New International Version of the Bible which it says has sold more than 300 million copies worldwide. Zondervan also publishes books and resources by leading Christian authors like Rick Warren (more than 30 million copies of his Purpose Driven Life have been sold), Tim LaHaye, Eugene Peterson, Brian McLaren, Sojourners, and Shane Claiborne.

Biblical profiteering
For those us of who care about the Christian scriptures, what are we to make of this mix of billionaire media tycoonery, allegations of phone hacking and bribery, and the Holy Word of God? What are we to make of the fact that every time we buy a Zondervan product we contribute to Murdoch's mogul-dom, which includes a personal fortune that Forbes pegged at $6.3 billion last year?

I asked Shane Claiborne. His books, Jesus for President (co-written with Chris Haw) and The Irresistible Revolution are number 3 and 4 on Zondervan's list of its top sellers. He has long been aware of the Zondervan-Murdoch connection and has considered it carefully.

I admire Claiborne, partly because he cares about ethics

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