I’m not very fond of magazines. I think it’s the short, pithy articles that usually turn me off. Invariably, a magazine will summarize exactly in the part where I want an in-depth discussion, and delve deep into some personal aspect on a question that I find completely irrelevant. Books are my friends. If an issue isn’t worth a few hundred pages of in-depth discussion, it’s probably not worth thinking about too much. At the very least, if it isn’t worth at least *implying* the need for several hundred pages of discussion, I can’t help thinking that somebody is playing the man-behind-the-curtain routine.
There is, of course, another reason for my antipathy toward magazines. About 5 years ago, I had a little incident involving a telephone. I had just come home from work, and nobody else was home, and the phone rang. On the other end of the line is this pretty feminine voice, and she wants to sell me magazines. Five magazines. For three years. Now, I *don’t read* any magazines, so this offer wasn’t particularly useful to me, and I said as much. But, undeterred, the girl pointed out that, since this was such a good offer, it would be a perfect opportunity to get a cheap subscription to any *new* magazines I might be interested in.
I think it was the way she said *new* magazines that got me hooked. I was a bachelor in an inconvenient social situation. (It’s one thing when you can’t get anyone to go out with you. It’s something else again when you can’t find anyone *you* would ever go out *with.*) Here was an entertaining girl who wanted to have a conversation with me. Forget the magazines. I wasn’t interested in any magazines, but I was very interested in continuing this phone conversation. I reasoned in my heart that I could prolong the conversation as long as possible, buy a few magazines, and call back a few days later when I had more sense. So I had her read through the list of magazines they offered, and settled on 5 of moderately conservative or Christian persuasion, gave her my credit card information (hey, she already had my number, what else was left?), and hung up, feeling vaguely pleased with myself.
About a week later, having not yet acquired this substance called “sense,” I called back to cancel. If I remember correctly, the conversation went something like this:
“Generic Telemarketing Corporation, how can I help you?”
“Hi, I ordered some magazines about a week ago and I’d like to cancel my order.”
“Oh… kay. Why did you want to cancel your order?”
“Well, I don’t really read magazines all that much, so I’ve changed my mind about it.”
“Sir, North Carolina law provides three days for you to rescind your order. Since it’s been over a week it can’t be cancelled.”
And that was that. Over a period of three years, I calculated, I was set to lose $300 to this great bargain. No doubt it *would* have been a great bargain, if I was already an avid reader of the magazines I subscribed to. Two of those years, I was going to be in school, unemployed. I had to get out. So I called my dad. He’s a highly skilled schmoozer, and I figured he’d have the interpersonal skills to get me out of this mess. I’ll leave to you how he used his interpersonal skills on *me* as I was telling him my situation, other than to note the first thing he asked when I told him my situation: “Was it a girl?”
So my dad called Generic Telemarketing Corporation and had a little talk with them. As he related it to me, the conversation went something like this:
“Generic Telemarketing Corporation, how can I help you?”
“Hello. My son ordered some magazines from you a couple of weeks ago, and I need to find out how we can cancel that order.”
“Oh… kay. What’s your son’s name?”
”Sir, why are you calling for him? He’s not under-aged.” And she rattles off a whole slew of my personal information that she’s apparently privy to: date of birth, address, average income, who knows.
“Well, sometimes Kyle makes some unwise financial decisions, and we just kind of try to step in and do what we can to keep him from hurting himself…”
She gasped. “You mean he has *special needs*?! We don’t want to be taking advantage of somebody who has special needs!”
And with no further prompting she cancelled the transaction, and sent notices to all the magazines that apparently had just been shafted. From most of them, I never got an issue. [Guideposts]( http://www.guideposts.org/) sent me magazines for about 6 months, I think. They even updated their address when I moved. Since that experience, though, I knew I had a problem with either girls or magazines, so I’ve stayed as far away from magazines as I could.
Nevertheless, there are a few magazines that have earned my good favor. One is [The Economist]( http://www.economist.com/index.html), which I discovered by reading over my fiancé’s (né girlfriend’s) shoulder while she was taking a course where it was required reading. I think I got more out of the magazine than she did. They provide a great right-of-center analysis of world economics and politics. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to subscribe, since a year subscription is something like $50, and I’ve found so many other things I’d rather spend $50 on whenever I had the extra cash. The second one I’ve been gradually discovering only just recently:
[Touchstone Magazine](http://www.touchstonemag.com/) calls itself “a journal of mere Christianity” referencing C.S. Lewis’s book of that name. What it *is* is a great Christian magazine, focused on apologetics (the actual practice of apologetics, not thinking *about* apologetics). It reads like the [New Yorker](http://www.newyorker.com/), or like [NPR](http://www.npr.org/) would sound in print, but the *content* is decidedly Christian, even if the audience is possibly not. The result is long, thoughtful articles about culture, politics, religion and philosophy, which leave the reader with a clear picture of what thoughtful Christianity looks like.
Best of all, though Touchstone is a print magazine, much of it is available online in a clean, accessible manner. This is a big deal. Go to another print magazine’s website (heck, go to [Infuze](http://www.infuzemag.com/), the leading postmodern/emergent online magazine) and see how far you get before you have to start forking over email addresses and logging in like the information they have to offer is as hermetically important as the data in your bank account. I was subscribed to Touchstone’s [Mere Comments]( http://www.touchstonemag.com/merecomments.html) section as a weblog for months before I realized it was part of a magazine.
Up to now, though, I’ve only been interested. I’ve added a lot of weblogs to my list and I have plenty of reading to keep me occupied. But today I read an article that pushed me over from mild approval to high praise. Touchstone has an article up by Frederica Mathewes-Green called [Bodies of Evidence](http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=18-05-027-f) on “the real meaning of sex.” Calling herself “an old ex-hippie flower-child mother-earth type,” she runs through all the paces: Humans are obviously designed (catch that word) for sex to have more meaning that mere reproduction, people are made for intimacy, homosexuality isn’t natural… She does an excellent job of touching all the issues from a Christian point of view in a way that is both inoffensive and unapologetic. (I’m convinced that apologetics should always be unapologetic.) It’s an excellent article, and I highly recommend it. (Hat tip: [Imago Dei](http://www.imago-dei.net/imago_dei/2005/06/not_just_genita.html))
Somehow in there I finally realized the whole magazine is like that: intelligent, unapologetic, Christian. Anything you could ever want in good Christian reading. So I think I’m just about to add Touchstone to my short short list of magazines I don’t subscribe to, but would if I could.