Press

City pair’s feisty publication nabs 3 secular awards

SOMETIMES there’s a small reward or two on Earth for making a bit of heavenly mischief.

Geez magazine, the Winnipeg-based Christian activism quarterly, won three honours recently at the Western Canadian Magazine Awards, gaining recognition for its unique combination of satire, critique, social consciousness, and just plain quirkiness.

“For me, part of the Geez experience is to erase the line between secular and sacred,” explains founding editor Will Braun, 34. “That’s what’s interesting about the Western Canada Magazine Awards. Our secular-magazine colleagues are apparently open to what we do.”

So open that this black-and-white, perfectly bound, ad-free 96-page magazine, printed on recycled paper with a cover tag line of “holy mischief in an age of fast faith,” picked up awards for best Manitoba magazine and best new magazine, and beat out 15 other nominees for the top prize, magazine of the year.

Braun and publisher Aiden Enns, former Adbusters managing editor and reporter for a Mennonite newspaper, are unsure what to make of the recent mainstream honours for their decidedly faith-on-the-fringes style.

Well aware that most magazines don’t survive past their second birthday, the movers behind Geez want to ensure their particular brand of mischief carries on for the foreseeable future.

“Two years into the project, it feels like we’re just starting,” explains Enns, 45, of finding their way in the magazine business without selling ads, taking government funding, or compromising on their message. “People are discovering us. That tells me we’re on track.”

With a circulation hovering around 2,000, and another 1,500 or so sold on the newsstand or as back issues, the duo needs to keep selling — and renewing — subscriptions from their second-floor office in Enns’ Wolseley home in order to keep on publishing.

Now with six issues under the belt and a seventh nearing deadline, it appears subscribers across the country, in 45 American states and 15 countries outside North America have latched onto their message.

Readers resonated with and reacted against a recent issue on evangelicalism. Packed with photographs of an all-American nuclear family of 11-inch fashion dolls celebrating Thanksgiving, watching American President George W. Bush on television and volunteering at the food bank with their perfect hair and plastic smiles, the issue pokes fun at Christian evangelicals while devoting a page to the viewpoints of Todd Friel, a radio host for the California-based ministry, The Way of the Master.

That issue underlined for Braun the truth of his favourite saying: “We have to play in the grey.”

“In the critiques, there’s always something right, something to learn from,” the part-time vegetable farmer says of Friel’s piece, Top 10 reasons Geez gets up my nose.

“Before speaking with him, it was easier to have nasty thoughts about him. I learned something about the value of engaging with people whom you disagree with.”

That style of engagement went public last October when Enns, Braun and others in the Geez community demonstrated against American evangelist Franklin Graham for his statements about Islam and bombing Iraq.

In Winnipeg for a series of religious meetings, Graham responded to them through the Winnipeg Free Press letters section.

Enns admits to having his own evangelistic tendencies when it comes to anti-consumerism campaigns, environmentalism, and magazine content that provokes and questions.

“I see myself as an evangelist of the gospel which is non-hierarchical and inclusive, and which recognizes the divine light in everyone,” the former youth minister and founder of buynothingchristmas.org.

“We’re trying to make a magazine that Christian readers could comfortably share with their smart, non-church, even cynical friends,” says Braun, father of a newborn son.

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