I received my latest and last copy of WORLD magazine.
It says "Last issue. Don't miss another issue -- RENEW TODAY!" But I won't be.
I've gotten a few pleas to return, but I don't plan to do so.
WORLD set out to provide a Christian alternative, from the Biblical and Reformed viewpoint, giving TIME and Newsweak a run for their money. Joel Belz was the editor, and he was a good brother who wrote consistently excellent editorials. I had, and have, the highest regard for him. It was a thin magazine at the start, but it was promising, and I "bought in" years and years ago.
I was an aggressive advocate. I have said, publicly and often, that WORLD magazine subscriptions should be required by law.
But now I'm letting my subscription lapse, and I'm taking its blog off of my preferred links.
It started many months ago, with an adoring, non-confrontive interview with Anne Lamott. I was non-plused as to what such a softball interview was doing in WORLD -- except that the "reporter," Susan Olasky, was evidently editor Marvin Olasky's wife. (I tried to find verification of that relationship and didn't, so I rely on my memory.)
This interview opens with Mrs. Olasky saying, "I love your description of becoming a Christian." However, as I read the article, the fruit in Lamott's life left me seriously, profoundly wondering whether Lamott had any concept of what it meant to be a Christian, beyond that it has something to do with someone named "Jesus." However, the Jesus of her description bears little resemblance to the real one, the one of the Bible. The concept of the Lordship of Jesus Christ did not seem to me to have broached itself to her.
You may be thinking, "Anne Lamott... that name sounds familiar...." It should. This is the Anne Lamott who just confessed (proudly) to the murder of a sick friend, lacing it with references to her being such an ardent Christian -- though clearly one who feels free completely to make it up as she goes. (Read Ron Gleason's very acerbic commentary; h-t Slice of Laodicea). It's a self-consciously literate, gauzy, white-wine-and-brie narrative of a murder.
Wonder how WORLD will cover that. Will it? Will it allude to Susan Olasky's adoring fluffy interview?
Then there was the interview with "convert" Anne Rice, best known for her Interview with a Vampire series, her baldly immoral storytelling.
The article was titled Into the Light, and subtitled "Novelist Anne Rice leaves the vampire Lestat and embraces Christ, 'the ultimate supernatural hero'." You may know the story; Rice became a Roman Catholic. That's right, a Roman Catholic.
Note very carefully: the title and subtitle express a spiritual evaluation of Rice's spiritual condition.
Now, I don't doubt that there are Roman Catholics who do not understand and do not believe the RCC's damning dogmas, and are genuine, if mistaught, Christians. WORLD is ostensibly coming from a Reformed perspective, and its writers and reporters presumably know this also. So naturally, with their readership in mind, the interviewer is going to ask Rice about her conversion, right? What is Rice's understanding of the Gospel, what does it mean to her to be saved, to be a Christian? What drew her to Rome? Just the natural, basic questions every Christian will wonder, all perfectly capable of being asked in a friendly, respectful way.
No. Not at all. Not even close.
Follow-up: in WORLD 's blog's post on this article, I object in posts 3 and 6. In #10 the reporter herself, Lynne Vincent, gives the most clueless sideways response (around me, not to me) that I can imagine, sniffing that it is a "turn off" to examine a testimony when you're reporting on a testimony.
Read that again. Then say it with me: "Huh?" You make sense of that.
But again I note: WORLD had no trouble concluding in its title that Rice had indeed gone "into the light," and had indeed embraced the Lord Jesus Christ. It is just that readers are denied information that would help us understand the basis for that evaluation. Every Roman Catholic -- in fact, let's broaden that and say every "Christian" cultist -- will claim to have embraced Jesus Christ. Mormons, Oneness Pentecostals, Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses. We can only understand what folks mean by asking questions. It isn't rude, it isn't loveless -- in fact, it is respectful. It is saying, "I respect you enough not to assume that I know what you mean without asking."
But it's a "turn off." To a reporter. To ask questions so as to elicit information and attain understanding.
One can only sigh and shake one's head.
[UPDATE: Anne Rice has since renounced any claim to be a Christian.]
Then again, there was the End of the Spear controversy. You can search this blog for articles and comments on that movie, and homosexual activist Chad Allen, chosen to portray martyr Nate Saint and his son Steve. Olasky in his comments proved himself to be, in my opinion, startlingly tone-deaf on the issue and its implications again and again. Is that where the slide has been coming from — Olasky?
On the first of those two posts, I replied: "Is the lead article a parody? It is written as if the author is not even aware of the concerns many Biblical Christians have very carefully worded for well over a week. If it's serious, I'm very disappointed by its shallowness and seeming unawareness of easily-available counterpoints and responses."
To the second, I replied: "After years of very vocally supporting and promoting WORLD, I'm getting the impression that WORLD is very anxious to turn into Christianity Today. This leaves me wondering if they shouldn't just merge."
I suppose others could give examples as well, but it was enough for me. I did what I never thought I'd do. When renewal time came around, I just didn't. I bailed on Christianity Today -- the real one -- years ago, after they thumbed their nose at Biblical teaching about creation and the roles of men and women. I was uninterested in heading back incrementally, along with WORLD.
WORLD may or may not have lost "it."
But it lost me.
[Note: this essay has been revised and extended.]