by Kelsey Knobloch
O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, make known His deeds among the peoples. – Psalm 105:1
Let’s have a brief history lesson. It won’t be boring; I promise. Take a look around you and pick up the nearest book (or pamphlet, or magazine, or other printed material). How did it get there? Someone wrote it, sure. But how did it get printed? Printing presses today have one progenitor to thank: the Gutenberg Press.
The Gutenberg Press is one of the marvels of the modern world. Without it, we would not be where we are as a society today. In short, it allowed for many more books, as well as a much larger variety of books, to be produced than was ever thought possible. Prior to its invention, each book that was to be printed needed to have every individual page engraved on a sheet of metal. It was then put into the press, page by page, and printed one by one. The cost to have the plates made was significant. The cost to have a set of plates for a new book, even higher. Want to release a new edition, or fix an error in the last printing? Good luck finding the funds. Books that weren’t popular enough to be printed for the masses were instead copied by hand, which took even longer and cost even more. Spreading ideas through printed word was costly and time consuming.
Until Johannes Gutenberg came around. Gutenberg was a goldsmith by trade, and his work with metals helped him develop a new alloy for printing that was much more sturdy than those previously used. He also developed a new oil-based ink for printing that was more durable than the water-based inks used at the time, and he even experimented with color printing.
But the most notable achievement, and the reason “The Gutenberg Press” is still talked about today, was the development of a “moveable-type” printing press, where each letter could be placed individually into a matrix. Once a book printer had a full set of characters, they could conceivably print any book, pamphlet, poem, paper, or essay they wanted. It wasn’t just the rich and famous, then, that could have their works printed, but anyone who had the spare coin.
This worked out wonderfully for Martin Luther, who was spreading ideas opposing the Catholic Church’s misrepresentation of Scripture at the time. He had his views published in the common, local language of German so as to appeal to a wider audience. Between 1500 and 1530 Luther’s works comprised one fifth of all printed works in Germany. He went ‘viral’.
So what? This isn’t just some rambling about how I think printing presses and older type technology is cool (but isn’t it cool though!?). It’s much more than that. It’s about how we’re using today’s analog for the Gutenberg Press. While I’m more than happy to see the political discourse begin to die down on my Facebook, Instagram, and other social media feeds, I was hoping to find something a little more encouraging in its place. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Even without the election to keep us at each other’s throats, social media is filled with comments on other political or social topics, and how this person is wrong or that person is foolish.
Even if it’s not politics, everytime we log on we’re faced with stories of tragedy, tales of horror, and scenes of sadness. Rather than providing a solution, however, we lament the cause or the problem and move on. It’s an exhausting cycle, one that seems without end. But we’ve got the solution already.
Every Sunday we come together as a family of faith to celebrate our risen Lord. Every week, we celebrate the amazing sacrifice that God has made for us. This Sunday we’ll celebrate Christ the King Sunday, but I have a feeling that, like most weeks, we’ll leave the building and forget that Christ our King is in the world, even (and especially) when it seems so broken.
Martin Luther is quoted as saying that the Gutenberg printing press is the “highest act of God’s grace.” Not because of some obsession with technology, but because of the role it played in putting the word of God into the hands of people. Common people. People struggling with a time of political unrest just before the Great Peasants’ Revolt in Germany. People hurting because of the horrors they saw in a world where the rich regularly oppressed the poor without any end in sight. People who hadn’t heard or had forgotten what an amazing gift they have been given by God. If a printing press is an act of God’s grace because it can reach so many people, how much more is the internet? We have a tool at our fingertips, one many of us carry in our pockets every day, that can reach hundreds of thousands of people, some we might not even know.
When is the last time you posted a bible verse? When is the last time you commented on a post with God’s love in mind? When did you last share a post from your favorite church or Christian artist? I’m not saying you have to be “that person” that’s always posting about Jesus, but would that really be such a bad thing? It doesn’t have to be so direct as sharing John 3:16 on your page every Monday morning.
Are you quick to lash back out on that political discussion forum, or do you take a moment to “put the best construction on everything” and see that maybe they meant it in a more positive light? Do you share the news article on the latest tragedy with a comment about how they could have prevented it, or do you post it with a prayer for the victims? Do you lambaste the local leadership’s choices in the comment section, or do you pray for their discernment instead of hitting “post”?
The power of Christ has wrought an amazing change in our lives; every aspect of our lives. We can shout it from the mountaintops in a way that it reaches so far, a way that Johannes Gutenberg couldn’t imagine in his wildest dreams. Respond to global tragedy with God’s universal love. Post about Jesus’ power and the change He makes in your life. Stop the presses and pray.