Magazine takes soft-sell approach

Leave it to some Canadians to come up with a magazine for the overchurched, out-churched and unchurched under-40 set.

It’s called “Geez,” an exasperated exclamation derived from Jesus’ name that some Christians consider to be blasphemous.

The Canadians running “Geez” see it as a way to enter the realm of religion “more like Saturday evening over beers than Sunday morning with its strictures,” says an editor’s note upfront.

Aiden Enns*, 47, its Mennonite publisher, calls it being post-Christian.

“Christianity is often equated so closely with the institutional churches but the institutions can squelch a rebellious — or prophetic — spirit found in the Gospels,” he muses. “Perhaps we need to get beyond institutional Christianity in our day to be Christian.”

Magazines such as the Dallas-based Wittenburg Door — a Christian satire publication — and the Brooklyn-based “Heeb,” which is geared toward young, urban Jewish intellectuals, also market to the plugged-in and preached-out types.

You will have to search to find God in “Geez.” Paging through the spring issue, I found articles about connecting with people in a laundromat; fasting from processed foods; going a month without using plastic products; spending a year on an island in Chile’s Patagonia region; living in a Cape Breton cabin without electricity, running water or indoor plumbing; replacing e-mail with snail mail; and living on $5,000 a year. Other than a C.S. Lewis quote here and a piece on “Reconciling Romans 7 and my Christian carbon footprint,” it’s not exactly dripping with Bible verses.

“We live among the vestiges of a Christian conscience, so you don’t have to be explicit on every page to evoke Christian thought,” Aiden tells me. “To mention Jesus on every page is to become like every other Christian magazine, and there are enough of those around.”

His readers prefer “an implied spirituality,” he adds. “It ends up being Christian but it’s very soft sell because Christianity is a very hard-sell religion.”

Yes, dying to self and taking up one’s cross does come across that way.

Canada is blue-state country and much closer to the irreligiosity of Europe than are we in the lower 48. “Geez” reflects this in its annoying habit of referring to spouses as “partners” rather than “husbands” or “wives,” which I can almost guarantee is not the custom in Winnipeg, the prairie capital where the magazine is based.

Founded in December 2005, with 1,500 paid subscribers, “Geez” is groping for the real and the incarnate in the hope that this reflects God. The publisher rides his bike to work, even during cruel Manitoba winters, and trashes the contemporary lovefest with anything “green.”

“They are not really opting out of a consumer society,” he says. “If North America has become the gigantic, economic military monster, you opt out by going small, communal and interdependent; being closer to the Earth, growing your own food, pedaling your way to work.”

Why, I ask, in an era when everything’s online, are you producing a 96-page publication on recycled paper?

“We have a bias toward the real-world things you can hold in your hand without being plugged into a wall,” he said. “Those material objects can anchor us in this world. That is a spiritual sensation.”

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