Honor Codes for the Deconverted

I just finished reading “The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen” by Kwame Anthony Appiah, thinking I might gain insight into social change. The book did not disappoint, but deconverted Christians might find greater insights than the author intended.

The author very carefully shows the relationships between morality, honor, respect, and shame. He explains how honor codes are created within “honor societies” and how those structures are not necessarily linked with morality.

Many codes of honor happen to be moral. Telling the truth, being fair, being reasonable–these are typically present in many codes of honor and are also things that most people would agree are moral behaviors. Appiah, however, presents¬†honor killings as an example of how honor codes can also be immoral. In some countries, if a woman is raped, she brings shame upon her family, and sometimes members of her family will kill the rape victim in order to restore the family’s honor.¬† Anyone not a member of that honor society would find this terribly immoral–but honor blinds people to their own shame, and they carry out these brutal murders on a regular basis.

As an ex-Christian, I easily grasped this, as I’ve come to understand how the “morality” of the Bible was really a justification of the honor code followed by the men who wrote it. That women must cover their heads in church, or that homosexuals will never taste of the Kingdom of God–these are plainly transparent attempts to “lay down the law” by men who feared the erosion of their honor code.

Not all honor is moral.

Christianity, regardless of what it calls itself, is an honor code and not a moral code. A moral code would be founded on moral principles that can consistently be found throughout the code. If not killing were a principle of a moral code, you would not find killing recommended as a solution to any problems within the code. Honor codes, on the other hand, do not need to be consistent. They are often contradictory or complex because they are not founded on principles; they’re designed to continue earning respect for certain “honor societies”or classes of people.

I could be debated on this point, but I believe there is a hierarchy among the faithful. There are new believers, moderate believers, seasoned Christians, church elders, leaders, celebrities, and a very few who are considered “kings,” like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen. The lowest caste within that honor code would be the apostate. So the person who is considering leaving his faith is considering something profoundly shameful within his honor code.

Honor codes are powerful enough to convince people to do far more damaging things that merely staying in a psychologically destructive faith. Aristocratic men in Victorian England used to duel to the death for the sake of honor. Chinese parents, who loved their daughters, used to force them to endure excruciating foot binding in order to preserve the honor of their family. So causing someone to endure cognitive dissonance or religious trauma is easily done by a powerful code of honor.

For those of us who still managed to escape, we then had to join a world we previously believed to be immoral, but were really just outside of our honor code. By applying these new terms to our thinking, we might make the deconversion process a little easier.


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A few updates

First, I’ve redirected jimetchison.com to my old blog. This blog will still continue for the scant few who are interested only in getting actual updates to my publishing. The other blog will have that as well, and more.

Next, Marlene Winell has agreed to write the afterword to my book of short stories that will be published soon called “Songs of the Deconverted.” This is exciting news! She is who coined the term “Religious Trauma Syndrome” or RTS. RTS is essentially the through-line of my short stories, as it follows the story of Andy. Andy’s story vaguely mimics my own.

“Songs of the Deconverted” should be published within a month!

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Something Good about Legacy Publishing

As my novel is with my editor, I’ve been musing over the process I’ve created as a self-publisher, and realized something: the old way was better.

My editor has given every indication that she is very good. But I am paying her, so the ultimate authority is me. With the legacy model, if a publisher deemed my manuscript acceptable, I would be answering to an editor who answers to the publisher. This results in a commitment to quality with the author’s ego safely out of the way.

I still think self-publishing is better, but I’ve been trying to take a less biased viewpoint after reading quite a few comments on Kindle forums from avid readers. They tend to think that independent publishers are terrible. My above-stated reason is probably why. A self-publisher can easily fall into this trap if he’s not careful.

This is what keeps me awake at night.

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Second Short Story is Up!





Here’s the link.

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First Short Story is Up

The first short story of my compilation “Songs of the Deconverted” is now for sale on Amazon.

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Wolfpack Publishing

I’ve been working with a group called “WolfPack Publishing” on Reddit. (www.reddit.com/r/wolfpackpublishing).

The idea was to “crowdsource” other writers for editing, design, and marketing assistance with an eye toward helping everyone make more money as self-publishers. No money changes hands. For a guy like me, who gets free editing, design, and marketing, it sounded like a fantastic idea. So I’ve been trying to get a few short stories through the process, which will be compiled into my second book, “Songs of the Deconverted.”

Like all new ideas though, it’s been a little clunky. The process dilemma question was “how can the various publishing imprints (one for each genre) control quality?” In my opinion, that’s the wrong question. The question should be “Should they control quality?” Answer: no. It’s self-publishing. The author is his own champion.

So, for a driven writer like me, it’s been slow, confusing, and frustrating. But the upside is I’ve formed some affiliations with some really good writers who, in turn, serve also as excellent editors.

Win! If the whole thing fails, I will secretly form a virtual cadre of top-notch writers who will provide each other with the high-level editing that every author needs.

I’m still holding out for the Wolfpack to see if they can deliver. Fingers crossed.

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Cover thumbnails

Here are two thumbnails from cover designer Brian Sasville.


The obvious one.



The subtle one.

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