Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Review- Rare Jewel Magazine for Mind and Media
Rare Jewel Magazine is a magazine aimed at Christians and is a magazine with a mission- specifically, “Empowering Christians to exercise a Biblical worldview.” It comes out every two months, and each issue focuses on a different broad subject, so that all of the articles in a given issue examine the same subject from various different perspectives. It is therefore definitely an advocacy magazine, or an issues magazine, rather than just a general knowledge kind of magazine. Less National Geographic, more National Review.
Some of the topics that RJ has focused on in the five issues I have thus far received are “Christophobia: The Growing Hatred of Christians... and Its Implications for America”; “The Sanctity of Life”; and “The Shame of a Culture: America's War on the Family”. A variety of writers (some of which are staff writers for RJ and some of which are better-known figures such as Tony Perkins or Senator Tom Coburn). There will usually be some staff interviews with representatives of different (usually Christian) organizations such as Focus on the Family. Some of the articles will be general essays, some will address events of the day and some will be more of a historical nature. But all will address whatever broad topic that issue is meant to address.
RJ's perspective is unapologetically Christian, but non-sectarian. Generically evangelical would probably describe it well. The magazine has little focus on doctrinal issues at all, instead focusing on problems and threats in our society from the perspective of what it calls a “Christian worldview”. It frequently refers to Christian Patriots (another tagline is "The Christian Patriots' Guide to Restoring our Culture"), and probably this term best describes the worldview it's coming from. A Christian Patriot is someone who is some kind of Christian (no particular doctrinal focus seems to be required) who believes that a return to this nation's roots at its founding is what's necessary to cure our problems. It is a sort of Kuyperian worldview focus, with a heavy emphasis on the Christian perspective on politics and none of Kuyper's Calvinism. And so, when the magazine advocates a course of action to solve particular problems, the actions suggested are virtually always social or political actions. Call your senator, start a petition, become knowledgeable, educate your kids. There might be a suggestion to pray for a particular problem, but prayer to RJ seems usually an objective utilitarian device, just another tool to effect the desired political or social outcome. The focus in RJ is all on our Christian heritage and Christian morals.
And so there is very little focus on the gospel or on doctrine in general in RJ. Perhaps it is trying to reach as broad a selection of American Christians as possible, but when there's a list of the ten things we can do to redeem our culture and the gospel isn't one of them, that stands out like a sore thumb to me. This feature stands out more in the context of some of its topics than others. When addressing the issue of creationism vs. evolution, the topic is presented well within the range of what the magazine wants to do, but when RJ is advocating methods and approaches for broad cultural change, the lack of doctrinal or evangelical approaches hurts it a good deal, at least by my expectations.
But within the range of what it's trying to do, it does it very well. I found it to be generally well-written and substantial. There is a great range of approaches to their problems, some personal, some objective, some historical. Often with other magazines I find myself drawn to an article and become interested in that subject, but feel that one article doesn't fully explore the topic like I'd like. But with RJ, I get to read a whole magazine on the topic, from lots of different angles and perspectives, which more thoroughly satisfies my interest in the topic.
It is also a well-produced magazine. There's a lot of color; a lot of sidebars and asides which provide interesting side details to the article at hand. There are photos, but not so many and so large that there's little room for text left sometimes, one of my few criticisms of World Magazine. But then, it's not a news magazine, as World is. I found it a very easy and enjoyable magazine to read, from a purely mechanical point of view.
My favorite issues were issues that were narrowly focused on a topic with much potential for informing the reader, such as their issue on creationism or on the sanctity of life (especially abortion). I found these issues to be excellent, and spurred me on to a great deal of thinking about the topics.
The problems I had with the magazine's approach really only affected my view of some issues, where there were broader societal or political trends being addressed. And even in these issues, I found RJ to be very informative and provocative. But it was the constant focus on political and social efforts as the solution to all of our problems, with little or no mention of the gospel and the true knowledge of God that I most objected to. So I would recommend RJ, especially if you are aware of what you're getting and what you're not.
This is a Mind and Media – sponsored review.
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