A powerful "Salvo"

Posted: Sep 29, 2006 12:00 AM

Our modern culture is marked by a rejection of truth. From charismatic professors who scoff at a biblical worldview to entertainment media that treat the idea of traditional morality as a joke, it seems the only “truth” commonly held is that there is none.

That’s where “Salvo” comes in. It’s a new magazine designed to call upon reason and research to explore the idea of timeless truths. The eye-popping, mind-grabbing graphics are your first clue that Salvo is no boring, academic or highbrow philosophical pub filled with mumbo-jumbo. Flip through the first issue, and you’ll see immediately that you’re light years away from the staid polemics you might tend to expect from supporters of “traditional morality.”

Right on the masthead we’re told that Salvo, published by the Chicago-based Fellowship of St. James, is “dedicated to debunking the cultural myths that have undercut human dignity, all but destroyed the notions of virtue and morality, and slowly eroded our appetite for transcendence.” A tall order, indeed -- but it didn’t take me long to figure out that this new magazine is up to the task.

Salvo’s topics include cloning, euthanasia, evolution and eugenics. It’s like a thoughtful version of “Wired” magazine, making it perfect for kids raised on the attention-grabbing graphics of today’s Internet. According to editor Bobby Maddex, that’s no accident. “The people who understand our mission the most are parents,” he says. They are e-mailing the editors about the changes they’ve observed in young-adult children who now question traditional morality. So “they buy subscriptions for those children or leave the magazine lying around,” Maddex says.

Those who peruse the premier issue -- you must give this glossy publication a chance and order at least one copy -- will find articles such as “A Grave New World: When Science Trumps Religion, Our Personhood is the Casualty,” “Double Features: Hollywood’s Inconsistent Take on Cloning” and “Breed Between the Lines: Rewriting the ‘Book of Life.’” Throughout, the editors define the terms under discussion (which will help those unfamiliar with, say, the difference between “Darwinism” and “Neo-Darwinism”).

It’s also nice to see, in a publication dedicated to some seriously weighty topics, such a brilliant use of witty humor to point out the absurdities in modern “morality.” For example, in one of several fake ads sprinkled throughout Salvo, we learn about the plusses and minuses of the latest in “suicide technology,” such as the “CoGenie.” (“Plus: The two carbon-monoxide generating chemicals pack a wallop, and the nasal prong fits comfortably without undue pinching. Minus: The tube connecting chemicals to nose can be unwieldy, especially during those annoying death spasms.”)

Clearly, this isn’t your grandfather’s magazine.

But that’s the point: Salvo is meant to appeal to young people whose main source of information is from a world gone mad. As in our euthanasia example, if you can show the unattractive side of “mercy killing/assisted suicide” in an irreverent way, you might get them thinking. From there, it’s a short step to the realization that religion isn’t just a bunch of made-up regulations. As Maddex notes, “Christianity has logical rules of behavior. It’s not arbitrary. There are concrete reasons one should behave morally.”

Those reasons are presented by what Maddex calls “young writers on the front lines,” writers who are “barraged by cultural influences” and who use those influences to turn a mirror back on the society that spawned them. After all, they’re trying to reach not only young adults who have fallen away from their traditional roots, but those who never enjoyed a traditional upbringing in the first place. The writers and editors “use the style and the language of the culture at large” to raise questions about where we’re headed as a society.

We live in an age filled with technological wonders. But those wonders -- if managed by those who lack any mooring in traditional morality -- could prove to be our undoing. Too many people seem content to step, worry-free, into a “brave new world” of science, confident that answers about what we should or shouldn’t do will come to us magically. Wrong. The time to pose hard questions is now -- and the editors of Salvo are determined to ask them.