Monday, June 28, 2010

Relevant magazine

A while back, I wrote a series of posts associated with the “Culture War.” One post on March 27th of this year spotlighted a Christian resource to cope with that conflict. “Plugged In” is a very modern approach to contemporary problems facing Christians. I like to flag such things because I recognize that non-religious people read this blog. It is important to dispel mainstream stereotypes that Christians are old-fashioned, out of touch with the 21st century, and isolationist. Even the most culturally conservative Christians are often savvy about technology. Many are well-traveled and multicultural. In that vein, I want to blog about Relevant magazine.

I came across Relevant magazine by accident several years ago when I was looking for a magazine to help me pass time as I worked out at the YMCA during my lunch hour. Relevant was in a stack of magazines on a table near the women’s locker room, and it looked a little more interesting than Ladies Home Journal. It turned out to be a serendipitous find, which I’ve shared with several friends.

The magazine was founded in 2003, and is available on-online at: Its tag line is: “God. Life. Progressive Culture.” The articles cover a lot of ground. They appeal to modern Christians who are in-touch with and living in the mainstream culture, but are passionate about making their faith a core part of their lives that is integrated with other facets of their existence. In the past few months, articles have focused on pragmatic issues in helping the people of Haiti after the January earthquake, a nuanced analysis of the proper role of anger in the life of a Christ-follower, and a Christian perspective on avoiding workaholism to take back one’s life from “The Man.”

Relevant is so in touch with mainstream culture that not all of the articles have overtly religious themes. A recent interview with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton focused on their new film, Alice, and didn’t explore spiritual themes. An article on Martin Scorsese seemed to stretch a bit by tracing the filmmaker’s devout Catholic youth and the “divine” themes in his films. The articles in Relevant are written in a hip style and often have a sense of humor. It is not uncommon to see self-deprecating references to mainstream stereotypes of Christians (e.g., as “homeschooled goody-goodies”).

Frankly, I feel a little old when I read Relevant. The target audience seems to be Gen Y, and I’m a Gen X-er. The photographs are of hip-looking young adults with grunge-type style. Alas! I don’t have any tattoos or exotic piercings. The articles and advertisers often focus on finding one’s place in the world, which is typically a preoccupation of folks newer to adulthood than I. Indeed I don’t anticipate pursuing another degree any time soon. And at the present, I’m frankly more focused on my job, husband and kids than dropping everything to go save the world. Maybe when my kids graduate from college and I retire I can take that on. In the meantime, I like to live vicariously through the articles in Relevant. Besides, not all the articles have a clear generational bent. Indeed, the March/April 2010 issue had an interview with Denzel Washington--who is even older than me!

I’ve tried to gauge the political pulse of Relevant’s editors and its readers, but that is tough. Despite the term “progressive” in their tagline, many of the articles reflect a pretty traditional Protestant theological perspective. But there is a much greater emphasis on social justice than is seen in some other (non-Catholic) Christian media. And the articles exhibit a real openness to the world. There is a consistent focus on the plight of human beings in this country and around the world who live very different lives from Relevant’s core demographic. The articles also often feature non-Christians doing socially relevant work of interest to justice-minded Christ followers. Relevant’s articles often reflect frustration and even disgust at comments by people like Glenn Beck and Pat Robertson. But that does not mean the magazine necessarily tilts left or tends to support the Democrats. Relevant seems to strive to be somewhat apolitical in that sense though it often discusses very political topics. That approach has great appeal to me. Jesus did not try to affect his Kingdom through earthly power and human government. It makes me uncomfortable when some Christians try to align the church with a particular political party. That distorts the meaning of our faith.

John 17:14–15 (NIV)

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

Romans 12:1–2 (NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

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