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Convenient, Beach-Friendly Summer Reading

Raymond J. Keating

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On the Church and Society
July 31, 2006

Raymond J. KeatingI have benefited enormously as a writer from the Internet. But deep down in, I confess to being a paper guy.

I'll often pick a newspaper, magazine or book over a computer screen. In fact, the wondrous amounts of information available by surfing the Web simply mean that I fire up my printer to generate hard copies. So much for the paperless office.

Particularly in terms of summer reading, paper wins hands down. A laptop on the beach, for example, simply does not cut it. Typically, a chair or blanket under a seaside umbrella cries out for an escapist novel. And I'm sure there are some new works of fiction around worthy of being mentioned in a recommended reading column for summer.

But I'm asking a different question for this year's summer reading list: What illuminating magazines deserve to be savored on the beach? Here are four of my favorites.

First, "Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity," published ten times a year, ranks as the premiere vehicle for what's come to be known as the "new ecumenism," that is, an ecumenism based not on social or political issues, but on the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith that link together traditionalists across denominations. Articles focus on a wide range of faith and cultural topics.

The July/August issue, for example, included an editorial on freedom for military chaplains of "orthodox theological convictions." Also, John Parker, priest-in-charge of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in South Carolina, spelled out the problems with market-driven churches. Kenneth Whitehead, author of the forthcoming "What Vatican II Did Right: Forty Years after the Council and Counting," offered a fascinating recent history on the new ecumenism within Roman Catholicism. And Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School of Sanford University, looked at what evangelicals can learn from theologian Karl Barth.

My second selection for substantive beach reading has to do with Lutheranism, and it's actually a package deal. The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau publishes both the quarterly magazine "Lutheran Forum" and the "Forum Letter," a monthly newsletter. Several Lutheran pastors recommended these ALPB publications to me as the best take on Lutheran Christianity. I would add that these serve as much-needed independent, orthodox voices on Lutheran issues, discussions and debates.

In the Spring issue of the "Lutheran Forum," Charles S. Baldwin, co-founder and archdeacon of the Congregation of the Atonement in Washington, D.C., wrote on the monastic Taize community. Larry Vogel, pastor of Martin Luther Chapel and School in New Jersey, penned a short, but fascinating piece on the Lutheran vocation within a radically shifting Christianity, while Frank Senn, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Illinois, wrote on religious communities and how they "have played an important role in promoting and maintaining the daily prayer of the Church."

Meanwhile, the "Forum Letter" offers timely commentary and analysis on all things Lutheran, with wit and wisdom. The June 2006 issue, for example, offered some excellent insights into recent and unfortunate divisions within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, while offering a note of hope as well.

Third, an oversized quarterly called "Salvo" just served up its premiere issue. Its stated purpose is to debunk "the cultural myths that have undercut human dignity, all but destroyed the notions of virtue and morality, and slowly eroded our appetite for transcendence." And it does so with some splash and humor. The first issue included a piece by Hunter Baker that highlights the woes of science de-coupled from the soul, and, if I may, my article on some surprising takes on cloning from Hollywood over the years.

Finally, what would a summer reading list be without a little economics? That classic magazine "The Freeman" has been making the economic and moral case for free markets for a half-century now, written in reader-friendly, non-jargon style. The June issue, for example, offered an article by James Dorn from the Cato Institute on the expansion of, yet remaining limits on economic and political freedom in China, while Roger Garrison, an economics professor at Auburn University, provided an insightful rundown on weaknesses in Federal Reserve monetary policy.

So, don't just think about a big fat novel this summer. Instead, consider some weighty ponderings on faith, culture and economics packaged in that convenient, beach-friendly vehicle known as the magazine.

Raymond J. Keating, also a columnist with Newsday, can be reached at ChurchandSociety@aol.com.

Copyright Raymond J. Keating

Posted: 06-Aug-06

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