Saying Farewell to Books and Culture

Saying Farewell to Books and Culture October 11, 2016

Forgive a second post from me in the same morning, but I’m reeling from some news I woke up to find in my inbox, at the end of editor John Wilson’s e-newsletter for the Christian review Books & Culture:

Sept/Oct 2016 cover of Books & CultureThe November/December issue of B&C will be at the printer by time you are reading this newsletter, and will mail in mid-October. Alas, this will be the last issue of the magazine. (In that issue, look for a Note to Our Readers from Harold Smith, President and CEO of CT.)

B&C will continue publishing online until the end of 2017, as will this weekly newsletter. (It’s possible that the newsletter will continue after that in a slightly different form; that remains to be determined.) And I will be working at CT until the end of the year.

Thank you for following B&C over the years. I hope I’ll hear from you about the November/December issue (which features, among other tasty items, a fascinating interview with the New Testament scholar and biblical theologian Richard Hays).

Thanks for reading.

It’s shocking, but not entirely surprising news for a wonderful publication that has faced significant financial challenges. I don’t think I could explain my appreciation of B&C any better than I did three years ago — when John announced that the review needed to raise over $100,000 in three days to stay afloat:

The conviction that Christ is everywhere — but especially “in mouth of friend and stranger” — seems to animate every issue of the only periodical that I invariably read (as one frequent contributor put it today) from cover to cover. Wilson and his contributors approach books and culture without the crippling suspicion or strident antagonism that made the evangelical mind scandalous, if not an oxymoron, to many. Instead, they engage thoughtfully, critically, and generously with everything from literature to social science, history to art, politics to cinema — never contorting an author or artist’s meaning to fit a certain theological mold, but quietly confident that Christ plays in all those places. And that those who follow him need not fear intelligent questions or complex answers.

Of course, I’m especially grateful that historians and histories have so often appeared in the pages of Books & Culture. Those who write for this blog have been regular reviewers, including — most recently — Philip on African Pentecostals in Italy, John on the murder of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba, and my online essay on the commemoration of World War I.

(“I couldn’t quite maintain the standards of academic decorum,” I told blog readers, when I first saw my name in print in B&C.)

This morning’s announcement produces “an immensely distressing state of affairs, for anyone who cares about the state of Christian intellectual life,” lamented regular reviewer Alan Jacobs, who has already appealed for a donor to save B&C:

May it be so. But in any event, it’s certainly a good moment to celebrate what John Wilson has been able to accomplish over twenty years of editing B&C — and how much I appreciate that he has gone out of his way to encourage young authors and scholars. Thanks, John, and all those who have made Books & Culture possible these last twenty-one years.

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