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Surprises in religious magazines • Tuesday January 28, 2003

The Associated Press, Jan. 25, 2003
By Richard N. Ostling, The Associated Press

Some of America’s most interesting journalism appears in religious periodicals with small circulations and high ambitions that are free of denominational control.

Among marketplace surprises: Books & Culture, (800-523- 7964), sister publication of evangelicalism’s quality middlebrow voice, Christianity Today, (800-999-1704).

B&C, founded in 1995, has made itself a spiritual equivalent to The New York Review of Books. Though handicapped by bimonthly publication, it makes up for this with rich fare, not to mention splendid caricatures drawn by Klaus Ernst.

In choosing writers, editor John Wilson roves well beyond the evangelical ghetto.

For example, the current issue carries a significant book review by Martin E. Marty, a longtime staffer with Christianity Today’s competitor, The Christian Century (800-208-4097), a liberal weekly that in its 119th year boasts a souped-up news section.

The B&C issue also includes a pungent review by Philip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University, treating two related books: The Religious History of America (HarperSanFrancisco) by Edwin S. Gaustad and Leigh E. Schmidt, and Religion in American Life: A Short History (Oxford) by Jon Butler, Grant Wacker and Randall Balmer.

You might not know it from secular classrooms, Jenkins comments, but as both books demonstrate, “religious movements provided the organizing framework for most of the transforming events of American history.”

Other religious periodicals worth considering:

America: The venerable weekly has become required Roman Catholic reading under editor Thomas Reese. (800-627- 9533)

Biblical Archaeology Review: Typically, it scored the scoop of the year — the purported discovery of the burial box of Jesus’ brother. (800-678-5555)

Bible Review: Popularizes non-archaeological biblical topics. (800-678-4444)

Commonweal: Lay Catholic biweekly; worth watching under brand-new editor Paul Baumann. (888-495-6755)

First Things: Brainy monthly with cantankerous comment from conservative Catholic editor Richard John Neuhaus. (877-905-9920)

Islamic Horizons: Islamic Society house organ; a window into this fast-growing faith. (317-839-8157)

Moment: Self-described as “America’s premier independent Jewish magazine”; rather light on Judaism. (800-777-1005)

National Catholic Reporter: Liberal weekly newspaper; deserves a Pulitzer for exposing priestly abuse since 1985. (800-333-7373)

World: Feisty weekly newsmagazine with religious-right slant. (800-951-6397)

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