OMG! A JOURNAL OF RELIGION AND CULTURE
We are a group of ordinary-but-imaginative Catholics, launching a new quarterly called OMG!, an outpost in cyberspace where great encounters can happen.
We want to establish a forum that will draw the attention of thoughtful people everywhere and appeal, ultimately, to men and women of good will looking to make a better world. We hope to be a prophetic frontier station in that world, catholic with a small “c.” Read the entire prospectus
We once had an influential quarterly called Cross Currents run by the late Joseph and Sally Cunneen for 50 years. When Joe died in July 2012, NCR wrote that the network formed around Cross Currents “constituted a major influence on the intellectual life of the U.S. Catholic church over the second half of the 20th century.”
It’s interesting to note that the Cunneens founded Cross Currents in 1964, amid the excitement of Vatican II. We sense the same kind of excitement today in the Church of Pope Francis, which opening up to the world as Pope John XXIII did with a panache that made us rejoice. We would like to see if we could make a stab at resurrecting Cross Currents in cyberspace by seeking out and “publishing” the most creative minds in (and out of) the Church today (as the Cunneens did by introducing the writings of Karl Rahner, Teilhard de Chardin, Edward Schillebeeckx and Martin Buber to American Catholics). Yes, the Cunneens believed that truth was where you found it, so we will be on the lookout for the Teilhards and the Bubers of the 21st century, no matter what institutional labels they wear.
One way to do that (besides recruiting a lot of “scouts” to help us find tomorrow’s best catholic-with-a-small-c thinkers) is to raise enough foundation (and other) money so we can pay these people “top dollar.” There is no damn reason why serious men and women have to eke out an existence by writing for next to nothing.
We envision a truly international magazine, publishing articles (mainly in English) by exciting writers and public intellectuals (but even, sometimes, in their own indigenous languages).
Cardinal John Henry Newman once wrote about the ideal university as “a place where great conversations happen.” OMG! will appeal to those who believe nothing is more fun than a great conversation. If you share that point of view, read on. And then please pass this on to the most interesting and exciting people you know. We will need you and all your friends as eventual readers and participants.
The following Q. and A. pretty much explains what we want to do and how we propose doing it.
Q. Will this be a Catholic magazine?
A. We plan to publish a quarterly that will be more catholic than Catholic, not a journal of advocacy for the hierarchical Church.
Rather this: an intelligent forum that will draw the attention of thoughtful people everywhere. OMG!’s appeal, ultimately, will be to all men and women of good will trying to see God in all things and all things in God as we go about our work in the world.
Q. Where does Jesus fit into this vision?
A. We make his mission statement our own. He said he had come “so we might have life and have it more abundantly.” We will put a more secular spin on Jesus’ words, but we will be borrowing that spin from St. Ignatius himself. Ignatius invited us to see ourselves as principal players in a world that was basically good–good because it was redeemed by Christ. This was a call for us to get involved in that world–in its art, its science, its literature, its music, its drama, its economy, its sports–even that sport called politics. When we do this, we are having life, and having it more abundantly.
We believe the world is charged with the grandeur of God. If you want to know how we and our contributing writers see it is as so charged, you can read all about it in OMG!.
Q. Isn’t this going to be an expensive proposition?
A. The unique thing about OMG! is this: we won’t have to rent offices, rack up huge print or paper bills, or budget for postage. The magazine will exist only in cyberspace. We will use the technology of the World Wide Web to provide a free forum for men and women of good will who can join us in our updated pursuit of an old goal: God’s glory.
Q. God’s glory? Doesn’t God already have all the glory he needs?
A. Like many old notions, this one needs updating for the 21st century. Surprisingly enough, we can thank a fourth-century figure, St. Irenaeus, for giving us a formula that works today: “God’s glory is humanity fully alive.” And so, with OMG!, we’d like to appeal to men and women of every faith tradition (and of no particular faith tradition) who might be heading in that same direction.
Whether they have ever set a course like this one–in these particular words–we will all be helping humanity come fully alive.
How will we do that?
A. Logically enough, on a planet where people cannot come fully alive because the world they live in is so notably lacking in peace and justice, we’d like to focus, among other things, on peace and justice issues, and, encouraged by our founding sponsors Accelerating Catholic Church Reform, on helping to encourage a democratization of the Church. We hope OMG! may be a prophetic voice in the world, along the lines of the Brazilian Paulo Freire’s notion of the educator-as-prophet. This voice, according to Freire, “denounces what stinks to high heaven, and announces the good news.” The good news is this: that we have been empowered by Jesus the prophet “to have life and have it more abundantly.”
Q. Prophecy? Prophets? Sounds grandiose, self-important.
A. The prophets of the Old Testament were all very ordinary, un-prepossessing men. They made an impact on their world, not by reason of their status or their power, or even by their intelligence or their tricky rhetoric, but by reason of this: they were not afraid to speak the simple and rather obvious truths that were staring them in the face. (The famous Little Boy who observed that the king who was passing by wore no clothes was, in this sense, a prophet.)
Q. Why the name OMG!?
A. This is a contemporary much-favored expression in the cyber-world, in email notes, on Twitter and Facebook, an abbreviation of “Oh, my God!” It also carries with it an exuberant overtone, and, for us, an excitement connected to the Good News of God’s creation.
Q. What’s so exciting about this cyberspace quarterly?
A. OMG! will be an independent magazine (more catholic than Catholic) that speaks the truth (not always an easy thing) about religion and the culture that surrounds us.
We hope to eventually bring in 100,000 readers from around the world, because, in the beginning at least, we want OMG! to be free, and because the word will spread, enticing new readers.
Q. How can a magazine be both Catholic and independent? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
A. Notice that we are spelling catholic with a small c. This will be a subtle reminder that we do not want official status. Such a sanction would restrict our freedom to produce a continuous forum of ideas for anyone and everyone determined to have life and have it more abundantly. OMG! will provide a medium for those who do not see any particular advantages in describing something as Catholic-art, or Catholic-science, or Catholic-literature. These worlds of art, of science, of literature–of journalism itself–have their own intrinsic rules of excellence. We do not believe in hyphenated learning.
Q. Are there any other Catholic periodicals such as yours?
A. OMG! will strive for an independence that few if any Catholic publications enjoy. (though weeklies like NCR and The Tablet and the daily Catholica.au out of Australia come close.) Lord Acton started such a magazine in England some 140 years ago. It folded under pressure from the English hierarchy. This is the same Acton who wrote that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” By producing a magazine that is both independent and catholic, we hope to signalize a new moment in history (call it “the Francis moment”). We currently live in a time when apologists are saying “the Church has nothing to fear from the truth,” while some Churchmen are doing their best to suppress it. The freedom of the Internet itself has helped to promote greater freedom of expression – everywhere.
Q. A good many Catholic journals are limping along; lamenting the fact that old subscribers are dead or dying, and younger folks are simply not subscribing as their parents did. Does the world need another Catholic magazine?
A. This is why we are going on the Web. We don’t need a big budget to make our presence felt there. This is the place where everyone can gather, young, middle-aged, and older folks. (In the U.S., more than half the population now has email service or a smart phone. The percentage in Europe may be even higher). There are no gatekeepers in cyberspace to stop us from speaking the truth to power, or deny us access to everyone between Nome and Tierra del Fuego. We want to reach the whole world. The Web is a new kind of launch pad we can use to make that outreach. Ultimately, of course, people will decide if they need a magazine like OMG!
Q. When will we see your first issue?
A. We will do a prototype in March, and go public with that prototype (sometimes called “a dummy”) on April 1, as we search for the right mix of features and a smashing design. We want a cyberspace magazine that is easy to download and easy to read, as we proceed to find the most attractive format.
Q. Why a quarterly and not a monthly?
Because, right now, we only have two heads. We could go monthly if….
Q. Who will write for you?
A. We already have a network of writers in the wings, many of them coming from a Catholic background. But we also want to let others know we have an open forum that welcomes different views on how to make humanity come alive. (Making people laugh is one way. Making people cry? Yes, that’s another way.)
If you’ve received this message, you qualify to send us the names and email addresses of great writers, known and unknown, especially writers with burning ideas who are looking for an audience they can set aflame. This will create a kind of prophecy-site, in the Old Testament sense of the word prophecy. We know a few atheists and agnostics, the kind of guys and gals Pope John XXIII and Pope Francis would embrace because they are, ummm, “good people who are trying to make a difference in the world.” We would like to bring them into the pages OMG!–to write for us, and help us connect with their worlds where, we know, other good people gather. Anyone can write prophetically: Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, even atheists–and Jesuits.
Q. What type of articles will you seek?
A. Most publications are pretty hush-hush about their plans for upcoming stories. We will take the opposite approach, letting our readers know the subjects we plan to address in the months ahead, inviting their suggestions, perspectives, and contributions. This will give our readers some sense of ownership. It will help us discover new authors. Very soon, we will preview some topics we will address and invite you to come at us with your thoughts on those subjects.
By the way, submissions should follow the Chicago Manual of Style, and should be delivered as attachments in 12-point Times New York.
Q. Will you print fiction?
A. Why not? Few print magazines do so, today, because they can’t afford the space. On the Web, we don’t have space limitations. We can publish short stories. We can even publish novels, most likely in serial form, as Charles Dickens did. We also will publish poetry. Poetry makes people come alive, because poetry tends to make us feel, as prose often does not.
Q. Will you have an editorial board?
A. You may have already noted on our Home Page the names of our founding editorial board. We would like to recruit more men and women to scout new writing talent, and help keep us faithful to our mission. This board will help us think ecumenically and break down old, outmoded barriers between men and women of different religions or no religion. If you’ve received this message, consider yourself present at a new creation.
Q. How will you handle controversial issues?
A. When we deal with issues that need airing, we will print point/counterpoint views Where there are divergent, yet valid, positions on a given subject we will commission pieces from advocates for each of those viewpoints to run in the same issue. OMG! will be a place where great conversations happen.
Q. The Web has millions of sites. How will you get noticed?
A. What attracts readers, and keeps them coming back, is a richness of content, attractively presented and relevant to their interests. We will put a premium on pieces that surprise us. Karl Rahner once said that the first duty of a theologian is not to be boring. The best magazine editors in U.S. history hit that same mark. (We are thinking of S.S. McClure who discovered and published the first American muckrakers in the early part of the 20th century, of Ben Hibbs of the Saturday Evening Post, of Henry R. Luce of Time, of DeWitt Wallace of The Readers Digest, of Bill Shawn of The New Yorker.) Finding, attracting and retaining an audience is an enormous challenge, regardless of whether the ‘zine is for profit or for glory.
So we need to get the word out to a wider audience. We have some preliminary ideas on how to do that, and we also are open to suggestions. We would like to make co-op arrangements with other websites, such as America magazine, for instance. America magazine can send its readers to OMG! We can send our readers to America. We will approach other Catholic and Christian sites in cyberspace to see if they would like to link with OMG! Networking is key here, something done especially well on the Internet. We will also seek to make a splash in the public prints, hoping to start a buzz among Catholics, among Christians, among anyone interested in religion and culture.
Q. What criteria will you use to publish letters to the editor?
A. We will put a premium on clarity, verve, zest and iconoclastic more than on perfect grammar. We won’t “print” every letter. We see this response area as a privilege, not a right.
Q. How much will a subscription cost?
A. For our first year, nothing. The folks who inhabit cyberspace are accustomed to getting their information free; paid online magazines usually need a subsidy to sustain them. Collecting subscription money could be a bore and a chore.
Q. But you will have subscriptions?
Q. So, why subscribe?
A. With a free subscription, you will get a notice by email that a new issue has hit cyberspace. The notice will include an overview of the month’s top features, and a link to our web address.
Q. Can people visit who are not subscribers?
A. Yes. We will have no gatekeepers, no passwords. People who hear of us can just go there and browse, copy and download an article, and, if they give OMG! and the author credit, pass it on to their friends. We hope that if they like what they see, they will keep coming back to re-join the conversation represented in OMG!
Q. But you will need some funding?
A. Yes. We will need some funding to edit and deliver OMG! But we don’t need enormous funding, perhaps no more than $50,000 an issue, $200,000 for an entire year. This will pay our editors and our contributors. This is an absurdly low outlay, compared to print magazines which cost millions to mount, and often go belly up for lack of advertising support.
Q. Where will you get your funding?
A. We hope to get contributions from individuals, from corporations and from foundations that like what we are doing.
Q. Will OMG! carry advertising?
A. This is a bit premature, but, when we have won a large number of regular readers, we may carry ads from businesses looking to reach our audience. Potential advertisers may likely be book publishers. We also may earn income by directing our readers to booksellers on the Internet who would pay (small) sales commissions.
Q. What do you need from readers to get started?
A. If you received this email, you are among our special, founding friends. You can suggest your own story ideas, books to review, submit that story or poem you’ve been wondering what to do with–whatever the Spirit suggests.
You also can help us on the money front in a number of ways:
1. Make out a check to our founding sponsors, Accelerating Catholic Church Reform (with the notation, OMG!) in U.S. dollars or Euros or yen or whatever, and send it to:
PO Box 343
Pittsford, NY 14534
2. Help us raise start-up funds, by sending email notes to people you know who have the ability to help us, and ask them to make out their checks to ACCR (with the notation, OMG!) and send them to:
PO Box 343
Pittsford, NY 14534
3. Or, give us the names and addresses (preferably e-mail addresses) of people you know who might be intrigued enough to give us some financial support for this experiment. We will take it from there, call or write them ourselves.
Q. Do you have a tax exemption?
A. We are waiting for IRS approval as a 501c(3) tax-exempt educational organization. Our treasurer, will send contributors an acknowledgement for their tax preparers and/or the IRS.
Please let us know what you think about all of this. Email your questions, comments and suggestions to email@example.com.
Robert Blair Kaiser Mary Anne Winfield Megan Carson
Editor and Publisher Managing Editor Webmaster
OMG! is an outreach project of Accelerating Catholic Church Reform (ACCR).
Our Editorial Board
George Bouchey, James Bowman, Philip Endean SJ, Shaji George Kochuthara, Paul Lakeland, Jamie Manson, Mary John Mananzan, John Prior, Gaston Roberge SJ, Christine Roussel, Leonard Swidler. Editor and Publisher: Mary Anne Winfield, Webmaster: Megan Carson