Long have I bemoaned (in an apparent vaccuum) the sad state of Christian publishing. As an editor at one of the larger Christian publishing houses makes me something like a pastor complaining about the state of the church. But I've slowed down on the frequency of my whining for several reasons, primarily because I started to see it as futile. Those who want to hear it already agree, and those who don't aren't going to be convinced by me. How many publishers are appropriating the world's values and being motivated by things other than God's glory? I don't know. And I certainly don't want to be the one to say whose standard of measurement we should be using. I'm no spiritual or literary standard bearer. I believe in high standards, but those are mine alone.
And what I found was that my moaning about the kinks in the system, the low quality, and the low moral standards, only served to encourage and perpetuate those spreading ill will and their own vindictive agendas against the Christian establishment. They carry grudges about the church that did damage to them which gives them license to judge the judgers and turn the cause for high standards into a finger-pointing, self-seeking vendetta.
How do I know? Look at my past. I share the justifications.
So I stopped whining. I found value in the all-too-human failings of the industry cogs. I started to see with more compassion. We're all in the same big happy family here, folks. When I claim Christ and don't act in love, I'm a hypocrite. When I forget the industry is actually sincere souls slaving to make a difference, I become a clanging gong.
There are problems in here. We can't ignore them and allow them to define us. Some of them stem from a love of the world's system, the celebrity effect, greed, selfishness, and power plays that have no place in the true kingdom. That hasn't changed. But The Shack is a change. I wanted to title this post "The Shack Shake-Up" because the book is shaking things up. At his website, the publisher of The Shack, Wayne Jacobsen says it well: "The Shack offers as engaging a look at the reality of God in the midst of human tragedy as any we’ve ever read and can stimulate hours of discussion about spiritual life." I agree. It tested my literary sensibilities, but it excited me at the same time.
It was too edgy for Christian publishers. Reputations would be at stake. Relationships would be threatened. And there were good reasons for that. It's "theologically questionable," bordering on universalism, or at least universal reconciliation. And as my wife pointed out, there's something a little strange about the way Jesus and Papa interact that's "ooky."
But no one in Christian publishing can deny the power of over 4 million in print and still continuing to grow. In the words of another recent bestselling spiritual book, it is A New World.
I'm going to explore that a little over the next few posts, so I hope you're ready to come on back for a good, old-fashioned water cooler discussion as we look at the impact and significance of this book and the Christian book industry that has yet to figure out how to respond.