1.03.2006

Letter to Risen Magazine

Dear Risen Magazine,
I have been sorely disappointed by your most recent issue, which I received recently upon my return from school. The layout on the cover betrays a change, which is also visible through the form and content.
The problems I see are many, but stemming from the same foundation.
When I first picked up the magazine, a year and a half ago, I was astounded at the quality of thought, intentionality towards a certain worldview, depth of insight in general, and the thought that the photographers were putting into shooting their subjects in order to evoke honest, vulnerable gazes towards the lens. I saw Truth in the words, the layout, the soul of the thing. The whole magazine dripped with style, thought, and Truth. This truth was unapologetically based on the truth presented by the man-God Jesus Christ and his state as one who has risen from the dead.
As of this new issue/format/sales pitch/whatever, it is clear that the magazine has taken a new direction that will perhaps sell more issues to corporate stores, or something, but it is also clear that it is sales and not ultimate Truth that the magazine is after. Previously, the magazine was not so worried about being a part of the consumer culture, though advertising was present, it was still thoughtful and targeted. Fine. Pay the bills.
First problem I see is the suggestion by nooma that spirituality is something that we do on our own terms. Christ is not offering a do it yourself religion. Perhaps nooma is not Christian, merely spiritual, fine, whatever. I think they advertised before, but I am trying to point out what message this particular issue is sending.
It makes me sad, because
Its not what you think.
This slogan, and the editorial that appears with it, is such a sad copout, a sellout, a running and hiding. You had a gloriously relevant ( and much cooler mag than they, theirs is too much for the subculture ) magazine that was allowed to be explicitly Christian, because the from was done so well. Now both the form and content suffer.
This editorial by Chris Benguhe is filled with weak rhetoric that exposes either his or the magazine’s (newfound) lack of identity. Who asks others to define them? People who don’t know who they are. Risen was founded on a solid identity.
When you talk about ‘for each of us, those are found in different philosophies, religions, ritual and systems of belief. It is my right, if not my duty, to speak my belief. But is seems more than logical that all these different points of view are here for a reason.”

Then the elephant analogy.
Please don’t cloak yourself in bullshit rhetoric. Come out and tell us that the magazine is now being run by someone who is too scared to say the name Jesus because he worships the almighty dollar instead. Tell us that you don’t want to say anything definitive, because you worship the god of California cool instead. Tell us you don’t know who you are, and are searching, and then change the name of the magazine to ‘searchign’ or something. Don’t you dare call a magazine by the name of the resurrection of Christ, don’t even infer that, and produce such a weak, impotent version of what was previously strong.
Sure, we all learn from each other, even people who are not following the Risen One may and do know truths like love your neighbour. Good for them. But don’t revamp the magazine, don’t change it, don’t sell your soul. Continue to learn from others. Interview people who aren’t Christians. Great. That’s what you did before. Why did you change it? Why do you use cheaper paper? Why is it thinner? Why is your writing crappier? Who needs quotation marks around “American Idol” as if the readers had somehow managed to miss the most obvious form of idolatry around. HELLO! American Idol! IDOL! Must I spell it out, first of all, it sucks, second of all, the reason is sucks is because it is based on making money at every level. Lets see, lets sell the American dream to a million young kids, they better be beautiful, but while they compete against each other, and are dragged through the mud on national TV, we will sell advertising, and then we will make money off of them in the record industry.
Okay. In case you couldn’t tell, I am a little upset at the way your mag has gone.
Right. Back to that editorial.
You appeal to logic, or ‘more than logic’ when did logic become the reigning epistemology in pop-culture? Are you no longer a Christian magazine? Because the ‘risen-ness’ of Christ is as illogical as it gets. Please don’t pretend to be able to appeal to the logical nature of Christianity. It is not ‘logical’. It is plausible, but it does not follow the standards of logic. The enlightenment has given us a skewed perspective on truth, one that suggest you have to prove something before you believe it. If that is the case, we can never believe in He who is risen. No proof. Faith.
If you have decided to run the mag from a secular humanist point of view, fine, but say that. Don’t sell us a poorly disguised package of weakness. That is all I see here. Weakness.
The old risen was beautiful, even the photos showed that the photographer knew how to communicate with their subject so that they would look into the camera and reveal some unspoken part of their soul.
Now you have cheesy bo bice trying to look like a nouveau hippy, but way to clean and popular, thinking to himself, “dang I look good”. I remember pictures of the girl who plays Joan of arcadia, she did look good, but she looked like she was thinking about something too deep to articulate, and letting us know that its okay to live life that intensely, the realistically, even though she doesn’t believe in God the way the magazine used to talk about it. Fine. They were still having and honest conversation.
Chris Benguhe, your statement in the last paragraph “…--we hope--…” shows that you are not secure, not sure how this will turn out. Previously, the editors and writers were not concerned about the response to the magazine in this way, in the way that looks for affirmation from the get-go. The writers wrote what the did, and knew that you couldn’t read it and not be challenged. The interviews were transcribed, the questions were so real and honest that we actually got to know who these people are, in a way that never happens anywhere else. I don’t care about how many marriage proposals bo bice has had, now or ever. I want to know what makes his soul tick, where he thinks he will be in 10,000 years, what his experience with the church is, why he quit, or still goes, or what he does to connect to something spiritually, Christian or not. I don’t care who you interview, but if it is not deep and real like it used to be, I will never buy your mag again, and I will encourage people I know not to. I convinced my cousins to subcribe a year ago, I handed out stickers, I have one on my car, but if this is your chosen path, I will continue to be sad and then pissed off, and then I will lament, but I will never recommend your magazine again.

13 comments:

Gabe said...

Wow. Dave that was a good rant. even though i don't know the magazine i agree with all your statements. ;) do you think they will listen?

tyson said...

wow.

cathedral dweller said...

Dave. Thank you for that rant. I have not seen the magazine but the design on the webiste says everything. It is surfacey, stuck in the hell-fire that the cult of cool really is and downright lame.

pasivirta said...

Indeed. The magazine has had some good moments though. not that I want to defend this particular issue, but I got a letter saying that it was going to return to its roots of a more solid theological undergirding nature. yes, it totally buys into that gastown chic thing, but the worldview that guided it in the past was very solidly based on the Risen-ness of Christ, lets hope and pray they really do return to that form/content blend.

btw, how is Fr. John and his family?

thomasw said...

hehe, i like that. i could even see your fully erect middle finger at one point:) truly, though, i do understand your lament at the loss of a virtuous stand. strength and honour!

Stacy said...

Remind me to not put myself in the path of your lamentation.

Ed Doerksen said...

good rant Dave. I actually thought I was reading one of my rants in politics. Stick to what you believe my friend.

cathedral dweller said...

Fr. John is doing pretty well. As per usual, he continues to experience health problems from time to time but by God's grace he continues enjoying life and making our lives the better because of it.

His family, they're doing great. I started working with Sebastian, the deacon and his family moved to a new and awesome apartment and I bumped into Jeremy at Ikea ... he looked like he was having as much fun as I was.

It's snowing outside. I love it and you KNOW you miss it Dave. All the cold, the freezing rain, the parkas, the fender benders. Ahhh .... winter in Ottawa.

Magdalen said...

yes, there's snow there?? Woot! Now, it'd better stay there and keep on falling until I get there. Or, if it's going to take a break, it must start up again when I arrive.
Hey Dave. Wow... I echo Stacy's thought. You're bad opinion is just a little intimidating. Which I already knew, but ya know. I only got the toned down, in-person version. The ranty letter version is scarier.
Calmly Grasshopper.
nah, make a stand. Hang in there bro.

churchmouse said...

Good job, Dave. Way to speak your mind and take a stand and offer true criticism without resorting to any ad hominem's, foul language, or bratty hollering. This is the kind of rant we need more of. It was not scathing. Your sadness was almost audible, which made it more palatable, and powerful.

biss said...

oh dear...

Mike Sherman said...

Dave- the Nov/Dec issue of Risen was a big disappointment for all of us. Please send me your mailing address and I will send you our most recent issue. I'm hoping that you will find a refreshing return to quality images and editorial content that speaks to the belief systems of the people we profile. Our objective has always been to provide the non-believer with a forum that shows today's cultural icons, like everyone, have questions about their existence and reason for being. Our goal is to get a non-believer to ask the types of questions of themselves that we ask the people we interview: where will you be in 10,000 years? do you believe in God? For the believer, we want to provide a refreshing read that reinforces the influence that a relationship with God can provide. In the middle of this, as a business, we need to somehow survive with a subtly non-secular message in a secular world. It is a slippery-slope at best. In the last year, over a million dollars in personal cash has been invested in order to deliver this message. Some of our decisions have been good; some of our decisions have been terrible. If any good has come out of our last issue; it has been to re-galvanize who we are by clearly seeing who we are not. As such, most of us here at Risen Magazine agree with your observations.
I'm interested in your feedback on the issue I'm sending you (assuming I have your address).
Thanks for caring enough to "rant"! Regards, Mike Sherman, Publisher

Anonymous said...

First of all, have you seen the newest issue? The Jan/Feb 2006 issue? I know you haven't because it was just printed last week. There is a new editor-in-chief. Read his editorial. Look at that issue and then post again about it. I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.