Occasionally in this space we've mentioned re:generation quarterly, which should be on your bedside table or bathroom rack or wherever you stack your magazines. I just received the Fall 2000 issue (Volume 6, No. 3), which reminds me yet again why RQ is indispensable. There are dozens of other magazines and journals clamoring for attention, not to mention the tottering piles of books (all new arrivals), but RQ immediately goes into the "read tonight!" bag.
Why? Partly because the magazine is unpredictable. The first piece I read in this issue was a delightful surprise: "How I Became a Campus Revolutionary," by Adam Kissel, a graduate student at the University of Chicago. Kissel, a self-described conservative, tells how he worked with an unlikely ally—a fellow grad student of the socialist persuasion—to resist a money-driven administrative master plan that would have trashed Chicago's distinctive educational philosophy. The essay is sharp and funny; better yet, the good guys win. And Adam Kissel is clearly a writer to watch.
RQ's editors seem to have scoured America for bright young men and women who have become disaffected with Protestantism, especially of the evangelical variety, and have found a spiritual home in Catholicism or Orthodoxy. If you are a regular reader of the magazine, you've seen stories recounting such conversions. But in this issue, Albert Louis Zambone's essay, "What, Me Convert?" takes a different direction. Zambone, a Ph.D. candidate in medieval history at the Roman Catholic University of America and junior dean of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Oxford, England, tells how an enthusiasm for things Catholic can lead Protestants to a deeper appreciation of the riches of their own traditions—in Zambone's case, Lutheran.
Another surprise: "The Necessity of Stories," an interview with Ira Glass, creator of the public radio show, This American Life. I've seen other profiles of Glass, but none of them homed in on religious themes the way this interview does. I wearied of Glass's shtick about "story" (I think stories are important too, but Glass ends up sounding like a less pretentious version of Richard Rorty, where "story" is the trump card in any moral disagreement). Still, this is a terrific interview with a compelling subject.
Each issue of RQ has a theme section; this issue it is "Parents." Again, there were nice surprises, such as Rodolpho Carrasco's piece about his false expectations concerning what his mentor, John Perkins, should give him as a kind of surrogate father, and Carrasco's growing appreciation of what Perkins did give him. (By the way, part of the distinctive appeal of RQ is the unforced ethnic variety of its contributors, much richer than you are likely to find in most magazines. Mako Nagasawa's essay, "The Best of Both Worlds," offers a view of parenting from the perspective of a "second-and-a-half-generation" Japanese American who is married to a second-generation Chinese American.) Another standout in the section is Jerry Deck's essay, "My Father's Closet," about his experience as the son of a father who came out as gay. In a genre often marred by mawkish sentimentalism, Deck's piece stands out for its integrity, its refusal of the easy way out.
Also in the theme section is "No Baby on Board," by Jenny Staff Johnson, an essay that talks sympathetically about intentionally "child-free" Christian couples and the criticism they receive from many fellow Christians. I don't believe that such a choice can be condemned across the board—not at all (here I would part company with some Christians). On the other hand, I was amazed to find Johnson praising such "child-free" couples for making a "deliberate and considered choice" in contrast to the unthinking masses who simply have children—as if human beings needed to make a "deliberate and considered choice" to do that which it is in their (created) nature to do! And there was worse to come, when Johnson commented that the Sharmans, her model childless couple, "find that their choice generates plenty of heat, but little light on why most Christians presume that investing immense resources into raising a few children is better than using those resources to serve others." I half-expected a supporting quote from that master of the utilitarian calculus, Peter Singer.
Well, if there is nothing in an issue that provokes argument, the magazine is probably too tame: bland stuff. And RQ, as you can judge even from this summary, is far from bland. Why not check out these pieces and the rest of the issue yourself?
John Wilson is Editor of Books & Culture and Editor-at-Large for Christianity Today.
re:generation quarterly is online at regenerator.com. Several of the articles mentioned above have already been posted on the site, including "How I Became a Campus Revolutionary," "What, Me Convert?" "The Necessity of Stories," "The Best of Both Worlds," "My Father's Closet," and "No Baby on Board."
In 1997, Christianity Today named RQ one of 10 resources Christians need for understanding today's world.
Books & Culture Corner appears Mondays at ChristianityToday.com. Earlier Books & Culture Corners include:
The Promise of Particularity Amid Pluralism | A dispatch from the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature. (Nov. 22, 2000)
The Horror! | Joan Didion encounters evangelical Christianity. (Nov. 13, 2000)
Election Eve | Why isn't anyone focusing on those who simply won't bother to vote? (Nov. 6, 2000)
Three Books and a Wedding | Remembering the good news. (Oct. 30, 2000)
Unintelligent Designs | Baylor's dismissal of Polyani Center director Dembski was not a smart move.(Oct. 23, 2000)
Crying About Wolfe | Is there a scandal of "The Opening of the Evangelical Mind"? (Oct. 16, 2000)
The Light Still Shines | A Harvard-sponsored conference looks at the future of religious colleges. (Oct. 9, 2000)
RU-486 Uncovers a Lie—And It's Not Just About Abortion | Think the abortion pill is indicative of postmodernity? You're wrong. (Oct. 2, 2000)
Pencils Down Part II | Think your vote matters? You poor, misguided fool. (Sept. 18, 2000)
Pencils Down, the Election's Over | According to political scientists, Al Gore has already won. (Sept. 11, 2000)
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