The advertisement in the airline flight magazine shows a smug CEO who boasts, "I 'read' 15 books on my flight from New York to L.A!" Thanks to a book-synopsis service, the busy executive can get the gist of leading bestsellers in minutes. Increasingly, magazine articles come with brief abstracts for readers in a hurry. Newspapers and even weekly news magazines have fallen victim to Mc-journalism first introduced by USA Today.

We live in an age of exploding information and expanding communications technology. Not surprisingly, we also live in an age of "information anxiety," the fear that one will become hopelessly out of touch with the postmodern juggernaut. In New York, Washington, and Los Angeles, the upwardly mobile dare not show their faces in public without a quick perusal of the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, or Variety. These publications define the "reality" of their respective professional communities.

Every pastor, teacher, parent, and mature apprentice of Jesus needs to develop a cultural radar. A system of reading and reflection helps us master the proliferation of information we encounter daily, decide what is important, and evaluate its meaning.

A meaningful cultural radar needs to be reasonable in its demands on time and money. It needs to touch on all aspects of cultural formation, specifically those that are outside of one's particular interests or professional responsibility—politics, economics, sociology, and technology must all be covered. Elite culture must be balanced with popular culture, fringe with mainstream, and traditional with futuristic.

We can each develop our own cultural radar, but over the years, I've found the following resources to be particularly fruitful sources of information and perspective. In my opinion, these cultural resources should be in every Christian college and seminary library, every pastor's study, and in the home of every thoughtful layperson.

* The Wilson Quarterly (800-829-5108; $24) is the publication of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. It is a "newsmagazine of the world of ideas," particularly new understandings. Lengthy articles are combined with thoughtful book and periodical reviews and reports on current research.

* Utne Reader (800-736-8863 or www.utne. com; $19.97) is a bimonthly compilation of the alternative press: Think of it as an alternative Reader's Digest. (Some original material is included as well.) Culling from a wide range of periodicals and 'zines, it provides a synthesis of alternative, progressive, and libertarian viewpoints. In short, this is the voice of those who question authority. Each issue focuses on a particular theme, such as "The Future of Love," "Cyberhood vs. Neighborhood," or "Who Cares About the Kids?" The magazine seeks to identify subjects that are being debated in the alternative press long before they surface in daily newspapers and the evening news.

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* First Things (800-783-4903; $29) is the inspiration of Richard John Neuhaus and is the voice of the Institute on Religion and Public Life. Since its inception, it has grown in stature to be one of the most important commentaries on public life from the perspective of orthodox faith. Conservative in its political perspectives and moderately Catholic in its leanings, but with substantial contributions from evangelical and Jewish thinkers, it has become the voice for the "public intellectual" concerned to "advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society." Each issue contains book reviews as well as an idiosyncratic survey of religion and public life by Father Neuhaus.

* Books & Culture: A Christian Review (800-523-7964 or; $24.95) is among the most thoughtful and valuable evangelical publications. It has replaced the New York Review of Books on my cultural radar. If there is one publication that gives voice to the laudable depth and breadth of evangelical scholarship, this is the one. A bimonthly publication of Christianity Today International, BOOKS & CULTURE provides thoughtful reflections on both Christian and secular books and interviews with leading cultural thinkers.

* Wired (800-769-4733; $39.95) is the cheerleader and champion of cyberspace and the voice of virtual reality. It provides a valuable resource in connecting the latest trends in computer research and communications technology with their social and cultural implications. Its avant-garde layout makes mtv seem old-fashioned, and its adulation for techno-utopia may put some off, but it is the best source for information and reflection on the culture of technology.

* Rolling Stone (303-604-1465; $25.94) was the original rock 'n' roll music and entertainment publication. It is not the most far-out or specialized, but it provides a good overview of contemporary youth culture—its views, music, films, and styles. I work and live with teenagers and read Rolling Stone cover-to-cover every month. From issues of suicide, drugs, and sex to emerging artists, films, and television, this is my outside source of adolescent enculturation. (For lyrics of specific artists or songs, try using the Internet, which frequently has the lyrics of all of an artist's songs even when they are not included with the CD.)

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* Regeneration Quarterly (800-783-4903; $19.95) is a one-of-a-kind intellectual journal by "Gen Xers" who share a common orthodox faith expressed variously within Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions. rq offers robust debate among Christians who might otherwise be separated by conviction, circumstances, and geography. Typically, each issue features a section focusing on a single theme (similar to the Utne Reader). Old questions take a new twist when seen through the eyes of these bright young believers. And some questions might never have occurred to their parents' generation. The seriousness and civility of this dialogue is a worthy model in itself. If this is the future of the Catholic church, let us rejoice and learn.

* Mars Hill Tapes (800-331-6407; $36) is a bimonthly audio magazine covering significant events, trends, and personalities in the arts, sciences, humanities, education, public policy, and popular culture. Here one finds sophisticated cultural commentary informed by Christian orthodoxy. Ken Myers, the producer and host of the Mars Hill Tapes, was the former cultural producer of National Public Radio's popular Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Creatively produced, combining interview, commentary, and outtakes from film, television, and music, the Mars Hill Tapes make one long for a longer commute. More than once, I've sat in my driveway to finish an animated and thoughtful interview.

* Echoes (804-924-7705 or postmod@virginia. edu) is the quarterly publication of the Post-Modernity Project at the University of Virginia. James Davison Hunter, one of America's leading sociologists of religion and cultural commentators, serves as the project director. The purpose of this multiyear research project is to map the shifting social contours of the emerging postmodern society. Hunter writes in the inaugural issue of Echoes, "If there is a shift from the 'modern' to 'post-modern' in philosophy, literature, and the arts, to what extent does this transformation take concrete institutional form in the ordering of public life and the moral frameworks of people's lives? The questions this transformation poses are as basic as they are urgent: What kind of society will now take shape? And what are the implications of these changes for American social life?" Echoes provides findings from front-line research on the nature and consequences of contemporary social change.

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* Invitation to the Classics (800-585-1070; forthcoming from Baker) will be a valuable introduction to the works that have shaped the modern world. Edited by Louise Cowan and Os Guinness, the book brings together reflection by leading scholars on the greatest literature and the most important authors. Without the perspective afforded by the classics, one cannot maintain the critical distance needed for biblical faithfulness within contemporary society. The timeless is finally that which is most relevant, and we dare not forget this fact in our own pursuit of relevance.

Other publications and resources certainly bear mentioning; what is offered here is a selection of essential resources. The information available on the Internet almost defies description, yet it has a twofold danger: (1) few controls exist on the quality of information provided, and (2) in surfing the Net one often gets lost in the trees and loses all sense of the forest. More information does not automatically translate into more understanding. Sometimes less is more.

Should we then consider abandoning the task of cultural reflection altogether and simply read the Bible? While this sounds pious, it is finally impious. We all live inescapably within a cultural context—it sets the terms for the taken-for-granted reality of daily life. Faithfulness to Christ means that we cannot afford to leave our culture unexamined. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; applying wisdom in our day is the end of lordship.

Johnny Seel teaches at the Stony Brook School in Stony Brook, New York, where he holds the Grace Palmer Johnston Chair of Religion.

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