Magazines for Christ?
I've mostly given this habit up. I now spend much of the same time and less money reading blogs. But I still look at them occasionally in the grocery store rack. So the other day I was just looking at all the covers when I noticed a magazine I'd never seen before. Lily, it's called. A Christian lifestyle magazine. I think it was just a trial issue that came out right before Easter. It looks like a lot of other magazines. It has articles on how to store your good dishes and plant an herb garden. It has profiles of women who are beautiful, organized, fit, happily married with several children and committed to some good cause. Articles on marriage, raising kids, homekeeping and taking care of yourself - all the staples of a good women's magazine, with a little Christian twist on it all, occasional scripture references, etc.
On the one hand, I thought "Great, there's probably a huge market for this kind of thing and it looks like they're doing a good job of it. Nice production values but not too flashy, straightforward about their angle but nothing overtly offensive to non-Christians, so what?"
On the other hand, this is just so wrong. Is Christianity about selling all you have and giving to the poor or about embroidering quotes from Jesus on throw pillows? The whole thing is pernicious. Look: you can have your cake and eat it too. Have a beautiful house and children with a husband who pays for it all. Just be a Believer, and everything will be all right. Give a little to your church and the deserving poor. And the featured columnist on family issues is Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family. I didn't buy it because I didn't want to give them my money.
Now, I don't know what the long range plans are for this magazine. Maybe they're planning to run articles on how Christian women can escape and help prevent domestic violence. Maybe they'll educate homemakers on the beauty and benefits of organic vegetables for their families. Maybe they'll have editorials against watching television and letting your kids play violent video games. (You know, espouse MY values. Would it be okay with me then? Hmm.)
But it sure was a contrast to Plain magazine, which I've been reading this week, and whose principles I'm violating right now by writing about it on a computer. I only have four issues that someone gave my husband about ten years ago, but I think it ran for several years. I also heard that the founders stopped publishing it a few years ago because it involved them in too much technology and diverted their attention from their primary goal of living a plain life. Plain could also be described as a lifestyle magazine, although Scott Savage, the editor, would hate that term. It is about having a life, not a lifestyle, that includes respect for and participation in manual labor, caring for the earth and all creation, radical simplicity in dress and home, and a commitment to building strong local economic, social and religious communities.
The phrase that comes to mind is Meister Eckhart's line, quoted in Thomas Kelly's essay, "Holy Obedience," in A Testament of Devotion. "There are plenty to follow our Lord halfway, but not the other half." In fact, according to Eckhart, the first half is "to give up possessions, friends, and honors." How many of Lily's readers are even ready to go that far? Kelly writes that "We have plenty of Quakers to follow God the first half of the way," but not "to follow Him the other half, sincerely to disown itself, this life that intends complete obedience, without any reservations..." I almost didn't finish this post, I got so caught up in reading the rest of Kelly's amazing essay. It is so much easier to read than to write and I could spend a long time contemplating, "How close am I?" Or rather, it is easier to measure, "How far am I from that perfect obedience?"
I look around at the piles of worldly things in my home and I know it is very far indeed.
Labels: good books and music
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