Why The Blackbird Press Is Needed

I read the Blackbird Press because I have no links with the academic world and I am interested in exploring and discussing issues of faith with others who are discontented with the mainstream Christian culture* and also because I want to have some input. It makes me think and keeps me interested and aware of  other people’s thoughts, views and ideas. It reminds me that I am not alone in my discontent.

You would expect anybody could get this from their local Church on a face to face level, but things do not work that way. Going to Church does not necessarily mean that people are actively interested or thinking about faith issues or wishing to discuss them with others. There seems to be an idea among some congregations that the minister or pastor is responsible for dealing with the ‘faith issues’ because he or she is the ‘professional’. There is some safety in that idea but also pitfalls.

I feel encouraged when I see young people are thinking faith issues for themselves and that it is important enough to them that they take the time to share them with others. Not just learning about the faith which I see a few young people doing but being discontented with what is going on, for instance the idea that Christ lives in us yet many of us often live so far from that reality in practice.

The Blackbird Press gives me hope and inspires me to want to share as well. It is doubly counter-cultural in that it is not only counter the world’s culture but also counter the prevailing Christian culture*. The second one is an important contribution to change in the Church… that’s pioneering! The post on sermons a few weeks ago was a good example of stopping to think instead of just carrying on and raised a good question.

Finally, if there are Christians who are discontented with the way things just carry on and the Blackbird Press did not exist, where would they get together to share their thoughts and experiences and be encouraged to remain discontented and seek God for a deeper encounter?

*I don’t mean that there are not streams within the prevailing Christian culture that are not good but that still the mainstream is missing the mark and sometimes by a long chalk.

First Letter to the Editor

I just received a letter from a the beautiful and intelligent Lauren Humphrey, and decided to create a mailbag to put it in, because it’s good reading:

Hello Justin.

I was, in fact, thinking of writing you a (hopefully) constructively critical letter, but you beat me to the punch with your post “How Many Cynics Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?” I very much appreciate your addressing the issue of non-constructive cynicism. Here are a couple of thoughts for you which I hope you might find helpful, even though you are already aware of the possible dangers of the Blackbird’s style.

First of all, I know some of you writers for the Blackbird consider yourselves philosophers. Philosophy is a noble area of study, but personally I am extremely picky about it. A good portion of the philosophy I had to read in college just made me angry. I’d end up thinking something like, “Who do you think you are? How can you tell me how to live my life?” Some philosophers come off as thinking they hold the secrets to life and the universe which are hidden to the rest of us mere mortals, and that really puts me off. So I would say be careful to always present philosophy with the utmost humility, especially as you are pointing out the flaws in the church. Our old Bible teacher, Ty Lemke, once said: when you criticize the church, remember that she is the Bride of Christ, and guys usually get pissed off when you start putting down their wives. I would say that humility is a crucial attribute for every Blackbird contributor.

Secondly, I think part of what may be so difficult for the Blackbird is that the blog is aimed at a larger target than was the print edition. The printed Blackbird focused on SAU, which is a small culture that the authors knew well, so it was easier to point out specific problems. Now that the Blackbird critiques American Christian culture in general, the authors run the risk of making statements that are too general. Hence some of the responses to the “Why You’re Bored in Church” series: readers would see a criticism that didn’t apply to their particular church or to their church experience in general, and they would call you out. So beware of generalizations that are too, well, general.

Finally, I would affirm your acknowledgement that criticism should be constructive. I’d like to cite two examples: the post “The Demolition of a Large Building,” which I enjoyed for its creativity and quality of writing but which offered no real solutions, and the article on Communion. When I first saw that an article on Communion was being published in the “Why You’re Bored in Church” series, I was angry. I thought that was going too far, to mess with something so holy. After reading the entire post, I was less upset, understanding the author’s point. But what bothered me was that while Daniel advised us to find and consider the true meaning of Communion, he didn’t really go into detail about what that meaning is. Which is, in part, why I posted the comment that I did; I felt the article was incomplete. So again, I’m glad you are aware of the need to offer some sort of solution or suggestion to the problems you present – in all humility, of course, and basing your suggestions on the Word of God.

I will close by saying that, as should be obvious from the fact that I am commenting on your blog, I truly am enjoying reading what you are posting. I check your site almost every day and thoroughly peruse it to make sure I haven’t missed reading a single article or comment.

God bless,

Lauren

As Lauren is a good friend of mine, I’ve already written a lengthy personal letter. But a shorter bit for the public: yes. I’m taking it to heart. The Blackbird should be first a service to God, second a service to readers, and lastly a way for us writers to express ourselves and have fun. Getting those priorities straight is easier said than done, as the default human brain works in reverse order. Anyway, Lauren, thanks.

Write me at:

editor [at] blackbirdpress.org

Justin Mulwee

Justin is a penniless vagabond with a tiny internet soapbox.