Periodical Crossings by Patrick Henry Reardon

Conference Talk

Periodical Crossings

The Intersections of Christ, Creed & Culture

All of us know that Touchstone is a journal of commentary. Its dominant and almost exclusive literary form is the essay. We publish neither poetry nor fiction. Our subject matter is limited to the interests of our writers and, on occasion, we hope, our readers.

Touchstone, we know, began publication 30 years ago, and I became involved with it three years later. I became the first non-Protestant member of the editorial board. Indeed, I gave what I believe were the first three Touchstone lectures, in Chicago, in January of 1989. That was the occasion when I first met senior editors Tom Buchanan and Steve Hutchens.

During that period I was assiduously reading another journal of essays, called The Rambler. I confess today that, from the beginning, I have taken the content and style of the Rambler essays as my personal model for what Touchstone should try to accomplish.

Those of you familiar with the essays of The Rambler may think this an unusual journalistic standard. After all, The Rambler was published in the mid-eighteenth century. Directed to the emerging middle class, it presented essays commenting on literature, philosophy, history, and culture, all of them elevated by disciplined prose and a pronounced moral tone.

Such observations, however, oblige me to remark on the most obvious difference between The Rambler and Touchstone: whereas Touchstone is put together by several editors and many writers, The Rambler was completely produced by the mind and pen of just one man. Here, indeed, the difference between the two journals is immense. My fellow senior editors, I am certain, agree that all of us taken together are hardly to be compared with that one man. Whatever our individual merits, the Touchstone editors recognize, in repentance, that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of Samuel Johnson.

Horizontal & Vertical Lines

A special feature of Touchstone I want to present today is this: our journal is a field of intersections, a place where lines of intellectual and moral inquiry are deliberately crossed at specific and critical points. Indeed, I hope to identify and examine several points that define the very character of Touchstone.

Let us first consider what I will call Touchstone's convergence of horizontal lines. There are many points in our enterprise where various horizontal lines—earthly trajectories—come together. Touchstone is not just a journal of theology. We endeavor to meet the need of what Eric Miller calls "earthy intelligence."

The interests of our journal include philosophy, history, sociology, literature, science, education, law, the arts, and other expressions of culture. Most or all of these disciplines are represented, in fact, in the publications of our senior editors.

Each of these disciplines has its own history; each has its own expected standards and its own methodology. Moreover, each subject has its own areas of controversy. All these things contribute, I believe, to a considerable richness, diversity, and flexibility in the Touchstone mix.

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).


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