Thursday, June 29, 2006

Has WORLD magazine lost it? (Goodbye, cruel WORLD)

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.]


Mike Y said...

Unfortunately, these things happen for a variety of reasons. I try not to take them with a grain of salt these days. Everything wants to be a ministry of sorts. But in the end, the only one I can really determine any merit for based on scripture is a ministry of the word, which I do actually expect churches to adhere to. All the rest...

Sorry to here this happened. You can always do like me and subscribe to Linux journals :-)

Kim said...

Wow. I was seriously thinking of subscribing to WORLD.

Gavin Brown said...

You should consider a "Highlights" subscription. Riveting stuff.

DJP said...

Yeah, that Goofus -- what a dimbulb.

BTW, I'm not calling for a boycott or anything. Money's tight in our house, decisions have to be made carefully -- and the same reasons I decided against CT many years ago move me to decided against WORLD. It once was unique. Now it seems to be working hard to lose that distinction. It doesn't give me anything I can't get elsewhere anymore.

mist said...

That was a good article. Hubby and I are the same way toward "Christian" ministry's that unite so freely with Roman Catholics.
Have you ever looked into Voice of the Martyrs? I have loved this ministry for years and still appreciate much of what they're doing. But, we recieved a magazine with nuns being persecuted inside. My hubby wrote and asked if this was intentional. They said the Richard Wurmbrand was in jail with Catholics and they don't judge someone on who their Jesus is. That floored me! I think this is a good one to look into for anyone thinking of giving them money.

mist said...

By the way they did say some of their money was given to help Roman Catholic's who were persecuted.

Steve said...

I've tried to give WORLD a chance not once, but twice. Both times I ended my subscription (most recently a few months ago) because I was disappointed by the magazine's contents. It's especially disconcerting when one is an "insider" who is very aware of events and issues that WORLD magazine COULD have covered but decided not to do so. In addition, the fact WORLD still speaks somewhat strongly in the political realm does not mean it has maintained its strength in the spiritual realm.

Lindon said...

I agree totally. I gave up my subscription a year ago.

Susan said...

Yes, Dan, a 2009 comment to this 2006 post of yours. I was directed here by your H&T (01/30/2009)--the tidbit on Anne Rice. Anyway, I just read that interview in CT with Lamott, and I just want to say that Lamott takes the cake for irreverence when she compares Jesus to a heavenly alley cat that meows away at her in hopes of getting a bowl of milk. But wait--it gets worse. Her "Jesus" ended up sleeping in her bed. Can we say, "Anathema"?

Just thought I let that out....

Susan said...

(Oops, my bad--I meant Word, not CT.)

(And interestingly, my word verification is "felon". If Lamott's flowery account of a murder were true, that's what she'd be.)

Turambar said...

Why do you assume that a Roman Catholic is not a Christian unless you see fruit? Have they not received Christian baptism? I assume that they are Christians, just as Paul would assume that anyone he encountered in the churches he visited was a Christian.

DJP said...

Glad you asked!

Your question came to a head in 1517, when the gulf between Roman Catholicism and Christianity came into bold relief. Then, since Trent, the official Roman Catholic Church doggedly went in one direction — away from the Biblical, saving Gospel of Christ.

So to answer your question, I fear for the salvation of anyone who identifies with Rome, because I believe Christ and His apostles; because, in other words, I believe the Word of God. A person is saved by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-10), apart from human works of any sort (Romans 4:5), by Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12; 16:31), to the glory of God alone (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

This is diametrically opposed to Rome's Gospel.

Worshiping dead people, adding books to the Bible, making Mary a de facto Deity, are also crucial points of departure between Rome and Biblical faith.

David Alves said...

I got a subscription to World a while back. Thank Jesus I found this!

I've heard of Anne Lamott, as well as Anne Rice. The former I know very little about, but that's what Google is for, after all.

Re:Marvin Olasky: sad that he's endorsing false converts, Roman Catholics (you know not the three or so that are real Christians), and unrepentant sodomites. (And the strange thing is that, from what I've heard, Chad Allen does not even profess Christ, which makes one wonder why he was trying out for an ecplicitly Christian film to begin with.) What's next? Do we extend the hand of fellowship to John Shelby Spong? The emergents? President Obama? I mean, if the profession is all that matters, who are we to decide who goes to Heaven and Hell? Aren't we supposed to be loving and compassionate? (And don't you think it odd that the liberal/unsaved/false convert definition of loving and compassionate never includes talking about sin?)

Re:Christianity Today: I've actually found some orthodox stuff on their site, although I've heard the horror stories about it. What's the problem with CT?

Anyway, thanks, Dan. Now I know there's yet another professing Christian periodical that doesn't deserve my money. And Jesus' words in Mt. 7, though discussing people, are beginning to seem quite applicable to heaps of books, magazines, and websites all purporting to be evangelical.

PS--I'm so happy you're writing a book! Now I don't need Internet access to glean from your dry articulation of the Truth. (I mean that sincerely, by the way.)

DJP said...

Well, I'm honestly not telling anyone what to think about WORLD; just what I think, and why.

Christianity Today used to be a cutting-edge, Bible-believing, substantial magazine. They had great contributors, meaty book reviews, meaty articles....

Then they decided to go wishy-washy on creation/evolution... then on women pastors... the book reviews all but vanished... the emphasis was on trendiness and fluff.

David Alves said...

Oh, my.
I just read Anne Lamott's interview. I have an overwhelming urge to soak myself in a vat of battery acid until I feel clean again.
That woman is no Christian.


David Henry said...

So we are justified by faith alone, that and a proper understanding of justification by faith alone? I agree that Catholics are extreme heretics, but as individuals many are Christians. Consorting with Catholics is not a sin, though compromizing on the Gospel is. One does not necessarily imply the other.

DJP said...

I'm not seeing how to relate that to anything to do with this post or meta.

FX Turk said...

For the record, I'm waiting to see Dr. Mike Horton & Co. revise and extend their remarks about Anne Rice, who they interviewed when she "came out" as a returning Roman Catholic.

I e-mailed them then to ask how their slogan "know what you believe and why you believe it" was in some way congruent with tyhe content of this interview, and the said it was about the broad apologetics of returning to Christian theism and not really about, well, what they hand over the rest of Evangelicalism to in every other episode of their broadcast.

So: I'm waiting. With interest.

FX Turk said...

Also for the record:

There are many lousy Catholics who are fantastic Christians. There are a few who are lousy Catholics and lousy Christians.

There are none who are fantastic Catholic and any kind of Christoian.

FX Turk said...

Hey waitaminit:

DJP has a blog! I never knew!

DJP said...

If they respond, please let me know. Srsly.

Solameanie said...

I read Ron G's Lamott reviews back when he did them, and I remember one of the things that struck me the most was when Lamott wrote something about Mary wanting to stone Jesus to death for disappearing in Jerusalem at age 12. Not funny, McGee. Blasphemous, in my humble opinion.

This has indeed been a disappointing downward trajectory, and I do share your dismay. But I do have to ask, did you invite Joel Belz out for coffee before you discontinued your subscription? (Hee hee hee).

Next, the Tone Police will be issuing you a citation. I'm sure you're deeply concerned about that. ;)

Andy Chance said...

Does anyone else see the same trend happening with The Gospel Coalition and The Elephant Room?