In a blogosphere of rants, trivia and self-absorbed drivel, Patrol Magazine stands out. Founded five years ago as a journal about Christian music, Patrol has broadened into a discussion of Christianity and culture, politics, science and education.
Tone for the magazine is set with an insightful quote by New York pastor Tim Keller: "We have neither the Western Christendom of the past nor the secular, religionless society that was predicted for the future. We have something else entirely."
What we do have, Patrol explores broadly, taking unexpected roads. Consider:
A defense of a rapper, Common, who was invited to a White House poetry night.
A 916-word essay on why a dumb game show, "Minute to Win It," embodies the greed that grips much of America.
An argument against liberals who say that American conservative intellect is waning.
So OK, the Patrol guys are Christian. But don't look for copy & paste pieces here from the Christian right. Instead, you'll get criticism of Marvin Olasky, editor of World magazine.
You'll get a self-confessed tongue-in-cheek article about Justin Bieber's beliefs on marriage (misspelling his name throughout, however).
And you'll see a lot on Israel and the United States that disagrees with Republican conservatives, especially Sarah Palin -- which, unfortunately, the Patrol editors bash as freely as many other commentators.
It's tempting to brand Patrol as reflexively contrarian, except that many of its articles are fairly well thought out. I especially liked a column on art, in which editor Jonathan D. Fitzgerald notes that many adult Christians wouldn't do or use anything that they couldn't share with children:
"I knew a lot of parents who didn't watch rated R movies, listen to secular music, read anything other than church-approved literature, or even drink the occasional glass of wine. In short, they were treating themselves like children . . . At some point, we all must grow up."
Patrollers write casually, informally, familiar with their topics and their readership. That's both good and bad. It can make regulars feel comfortable with the magazine. But it can also build a bit of a wall with newcomers. The style takes an artful sense of balance.
The writers don't confine themselves to Patrol; in fact, founding editor David Sessions uses Patrol space to promote another column, on a new bunch of creationist bills in state legislatures. A kind of eyebrow raiser there.
Format of the magazine is pretty basic blog: a list of the lead grafs, with a click-through to the whole articles. And the stories are crosslinked among three categories: religion, politics and culture. A hyperlinked list on the right links to the extensive archive, going all the way back to April 2006.