I have just been browsing in the latest edition of Plough. It is only published quarterly, which means that I have enough space between issues to forget just how good it is. Each edition therefore tends to have an element of surprise when I re-discover its excellence. Without question, it is the best magazine I know of.
Though I rate it very highly, I sometimes disagree with substantial parts of it, or if not actually disagreeing, simply fail to agree through lack of knowledge and awareness of the subject matter. In addition, much of the content is beyond my experience and outside my general areas of interest.
So what is it that draws me to it as the one magazine that I generally read from cover to cover? Its content is Christian, at least in the main – though perhaps sometimes only vaguely so – and it does not appear to be either evangelical nor charismatic. It covers an extraordinary range of subjects – even in a themed issue. Where else would you find an interview with a Coptic Archbishop, an article on welding and another on cryptocurrency, nestling next to a reflection on being a mercenary and a memorial of Jean Vanier working lovingly with severely disabled people? Reflecting on the reasons why I like this magazine, I find myself coming back to one word. Integrity. As I understand it, integrity means firstly that it has the quality of being honest, and secondarily that it has strong moral principles. There is invariably a total absence of hype, that extravagance of self-promotion which characterises so many publications. Also, there are no adverts. It only continues to exist because those who read it believe it worthwhile supporting, or, more pertinently, because those who publish it believe it worthwhile investing their time and money to do so.
In the recent issues of Plough there is a quote from C.S. Lewis’s school tutor advising him only to say what he meant – and nothing more or less. That finds a strong echo in my own heart – something I long for and endeavour to do, though realising it is something I often fail to achieve. However, Plough does manage to achieve this on a surprisingly consistent basis, and that may be the thing that contributes most to its integrity and to its consequent attraction.
My experience and understanding of Christianity is at variance with much that I read in the magazine, but I cannot help drinking in the complete lack of hypocrisy, which permeates its pages. Whatever else we know about Jesus, surely no one can question His love of honesty and openness, and it is that, rather than what I would consider doctrinal correctness, which I find so stimulating about this publication.
It is published from conviction and not for profit, by the Bruderhof, a group of Christians living and working together in full community. If you want to check it out for yourselves, visit www.plough.com