Every once in a while, when I tire of reading the Internet (it never ends) and feel like spending money on paper publications that I will eventually throw away or lose, I go to my local newsstand and I purchase two magazines: Geez and First Things.
I’ve always had go-to magazines; when I was a kid, it was Cricket, as a teenager, 7Ball, CCM, and CMJ New Music Monthly, and pre-PhD (when I had more time) I dabbled with Paste and Wired and was a subscriber to the New Yorker. (You probably read a lot of these, too. We’re all overeducated, broad-minded Christian-y dilettantes here, right?)
But now I pretty much only buy Geez and First Things. Perhaps you are not familiar with them, but I think you should be, so let me explain:
Geez is a Canadian publication started by a person originally associated with the radical anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters. Its writers are mostly Christian or Christian-ish people with Anabaptist leanings, and it tends to embrace causes that are considered “left-wing,” like queer (yes, they use the word “queer”) solidarity, feminism, not buying soap, structural injustice, being sarcastic about American Evangelical Christians, and disliking Stephen Harper. (Stephen Harper is the Prime Minister of Canada, FYI.)
First Things is an American publication started by a Catholic priest. Its writers are mostly Christian or other religious people with small-o orthodox leanings (i.e., mainstream, traditional religious thought of the Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish, or Muslim variety), and it tends to embrace causes that are considered “right-wing,” like traditional marriage (yes, they use the words “traditional marriage”), the pro-life movement, being tenured professors at Catholic universities, personal morality, being sympathetic to (some) American Evangelical Christians, and not necessarily disliking Stephen Harper. (Actually, I have no idea how they feel about Stephen Harper.)
At the risk of exaggerating, these two magazines are almost total opposites in every way. It is difficult to imagine any one person enjoying both. Yet I do, immensely. I think they should offer a dual subscription. I relish reading
Geez and First Things back-to-back, or alternating between articles in the two. I think you should, too.
Why? Because, if you’re reading Patrol, you, like me, might be a Christian who thinks things are not going great. I know that sounds sort of simple and naïve, but I think it’s one of the things we’re kind of supposed to think. We feel it in our bones, somehow: the bad guys seem to have been winning since the first caveman bashed his friend’s head in with a rock and took his food. (Look it up, it’s probably in the Bible somewhere.) Our society appears to value, say, iPhones more than, say, the lives of most people who live in countries where iPhone parts are made. Tons of kids grow up poor and without dads.. America has a president with a list of people that he can kill. Take your pick, is what I’m saying, vis-à-vis things not going great.
So while I’m not particularly zealous in any kind of political action in my own life (usually), I’m open to critiques from anybody who wants to resist the System, however they conceive it, by remaining resolutely faithful to their vision of the Good. And I guess it’s because I’m a Christian that I’m particularly open to people who resist by insisting that the Zeitgeist is almost hopelessly wrong, and that following the Way is how to get on the right track. Geez and First Things both do this, though they often disagree about the way (or Way?) to stick it to the Man..
Read one issue of each and you’ll see huge gaps, and outright disagreements about who God is, what Christians should do. And I don’t agree with everything I read in both magazines, but I love the way they both offer pointed, sometimes brutal critique of the way things are. First Things goes after contemporary neo-Darwinism, Geez excoriates commercialized Evangelicalism. Geez publishes manifestoes on Christian anarchism, First Things imagines a future “after progressivism.” And they don’t always toe the stereotypical party line: you can find Geez criticizing progressive movements, or First Things explaining the Christian mandate to care for the poor. Sometimes — often, in fact, I think — the publications echo each other on topics like the importance of people over profit, the ineptness of governments, and the necessity of engaging with spirituality and religion even when unfashionable.
The shitty way it is isn’t the way it has to be, both of these publications shout (though I think First Things would be less likely to publish the “shitty” ). So pick them both up, I say, if you feel that way, and are ready to read stuff by other people who feel that way — “left-wing” or “right wing,” traditional or progressive, gay or straight, anarchist or conservative. If you’re a religious person who is just not OK with business as usual — unfettered free markets, amoral materialism, low-stakes, sentimental spirituality, a vague sense that it’s nice to be alive for a while even though ultimately all that matters is that some things dominate other things and have offspring — do what the Man doesn’t want you to do: turn off your internets, walk to the store, buy a couple of magazines and allow their ideas to smash into each other in your head until the best bits get stuck there.
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