A friend asked what we’re looking for in the new Reformed Journal and I said “great writing.” There are a lot of other things I could say about the Christian faith or our particular Reformed worldview, but great writing stands out for me. I crave beauty. I believe we all do.
“The Creator made us to co-create,” Barbara Brown Taylor writes in her new book Always a Guest, “and there is little that gives us as much pleasure as making beautiful things: not just paintings, poems, sculptures, and symphonies, but also gardens, cakes, prefect designs in new-mown grass, and babies. When we put something beautiful in the world, it is Genesis all over again. We are engaged in divine work.”
I affirm that.
The launch of the new Reformed Journal will happen soon. I’ve been meeting weekly on Zoom with Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell and John Hwang, working in earnest on this, since November (a task somewhat complicated by my being in Michigan, Steve in Iowa, and John in South Korea). We’ve got the band back together – former editors from the old Perspectives days are going to resume their roles on the new site. This means that Deb Van Duinen, professor of education at Hope College, and Keith Starkenburg, professor of theology at Trinity Christian College, are helming our reviews, and Rose Postma, who teaches English at Dordt University and is a fine poet in her own right, is our poetry editor. Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell will continue to coordinate The Twelve, and I’m serving as editor-in-chief.
The new site will have The Twelve daily, and add reviews, poems, and essays weekly. In addition, we’re going to take advantage of digital technology and offer Zoom interviews with various thought leaders. Steve and I will be interviewers, along with Kate Kooyman, whom you know from The Twelve.
We have fantastic content lined up for the launch. Marilyn McEntyre has contributed a new poem, and I cannot do justice to what a wonderful writer Marilyn McEntryre is or what an honor it is to have a contribution from her. Marilyn has not one or two but three (!) books coming out early in 2021. The poem she’s given us is lovely.
We’re going to launch our essays with a haunting piece by Tim Van Deelen, professor in the department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Tim begins his essay with these words from Aldo Leopold: “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.” Leopold was Tim’s predecessor at the University of Wisconsin, and his 1949 book A Sand County Almanac paved the way for much of today’s conservation work. Tim’s essay draws on Leopold and makes several incisive reflections on life in the Upper Midwest.
You will love it.
I assume you can tell how excited I am about this new venture. I believe it’s going to be very special. Yet occasionally, at about two or three in the morning, I wonder why add more words to the overwhelming noise around us? I believe it was Mark Twain who said something about being “never quite sane in the night,” and my mind goes into all sorts of dark places in the wee hours. Yet there’s nothing terrible about the question my internal interlocutor asks. It’s a fair question. I could quibble and say that what we’re doing is not new, that since the early days of the Reformed Journal and through the Perspectives years, we’ve occupied a unique space in the Reformed world that affirms women in ministry, racial justice, inclusion of all, and creation care in ways that other Reformed sites overlook. These things make us “progressive,” and I’m all for progress.
Or, I could argue that our concern is for what a viable Christian faith looks like today, and paraphrase Wendell Berry in saying that we’re interested in how one says “I believe” after considering all the facts. There’s something wonderful about having a clear voice amid all the noise.
But to me it comes back to beautiful writing. If we’re not bringing beauty (with love), we truly are a noisy gong and clanging cymbal. Our mission statement puts it this way: “Our purpose is to publish Christian writing that delights readers and engages the world in a Reformed way.”
As I have read what we’ve got lined up so far, I know it’s not “noise.” I believe you will be delighted. It won’t be long until we launch, and you can “taste and see” for yourselves. If the technology falls into place we should be up and running by the end of the month. See you then.