Geez: culture jamming, just like Jesus

AIDEN ENNS, publisher of Geez magazine, presented a seminar at the Canadian Youth Workers Conference (CYWC), entitled ‘Make Affluence History: pursuing a gospel that is inwardly rich and outwardly just.’

He came with his crazy little booth in the exhibition space. While most booth displays were eight feet high, his was seven inches tall. Here he gave away miniature (one inch wide) ‘magazines.’

Vancouver-born Enns is former managing editor of Adbusters magazine. After completing graduate studies in journalism and religion, he founded Winnipeg-based Geez – whose motto is: “holy mischief in an age of fast faith.”

In its short two year history the magazine has already won an impressive list of ‘secular’ and church press awards including: Western Magazine Awards 2007: Best New Magazine, Magazine of the Year (overall); Utne Independent Press Awards: nominated twice for Best Spiritual Coverage, and once for Best New Publication; and seven Canadian Church Press awards.

Enns and his team founded Geez as the “Adbusters for people of faith,” a desire born during his time working in ‘secular’ media.

The magazine’s tongue-in-cheek approach goes well beyond mischief: the editors of Geez are responding to an urgent call to play whistle-blower in their own fold.

Critical of the unchecked affluence dominating the North American Church, the magazine has created an ad-free space for voices which promote the social gospel and a concept of Christ as radical reformer, all with measured grace and easy humour.

“The majority of my friends have left the church but I’m still there even though I don’t have to be. I’m old now you know, but I’m there because I keep finding hope in the teachings of Jesus.”

Jesus, he adds, “was a culture jammer.”

Aiden started university with plans to become a doctor. When he didn’t get accepted to med school he decided to try his hand at a master’s degree in religion, and soon after landed a job as western Canadian editor for the Mennonite Reporter.

“It was here I learned to use words to do the work of a preacher and a teacher.” And he never looked back.

But it was during his time at the preeminent ad-free magazine, Adbusters, that his faith journey took a sharp turn.

“My faith was enlivened because I felt the work of criticizing consumer culture to be prophetic. I had never experienced this type of feeling before. This was the turning point in my faith journey. I began to realize that I had to think of my faith expression in secular terms.”

In each quarterly issue of Geez, people of faith are invited to challenge structures of power and embody joyful alternatives. The magazine also aims to initiate and build community around social and spiritual initiatives such as Buy Nothing Christmas, Make Affluence History and De-motorize Your Soul.

Enns has a personal ‘no-fly’ commitment and took the Greyhound bus to attend the conference. For him, the choice to even show up at the CYWC was a moral dilemma.

“I had a lot of misgivings about us being in the hallways of power – a high class hotel in a world class city. I find this conflicting.” The conference was held in downtown Vancouver’s Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel.

“I oscillate between hope and despair,” he confides about the message he carries to the Church. “The more I learn the more I realize how entrenched injustice and suffering are and that is discouraging. I think hope should drive us to action, not absolve us of action and I don’t see enough of that kind of hope.”

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