Rock & Sling is a journal of witness. That definition arose initially as a commitment to a kind of writing—“poetry of witness”—that remains a distinctive part of our identity. We also believe it offers us as a Christian literary magazine a unique way to invite all voices into one conversation.
When Christians speak of bearing witness, they should think mainly about bearing witness to the life and work of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, the Son of God who became human to unite all things in heaven and earth. When we speak of witness in that sense, our attention is drawn initially to the original witnesses of Jesus’ life, whose testimonies are collected in the four Gospels of the New Testament. These primary witnesses are not singular but multiple: there are four written accounts of his life. For Rock & Sling, several commitments follow from thinking about witness in this way.
1. The universal can only be glimpsed through the particular. Jesus, in his particularity as a first-century Jew living in a land occupied by Roman forces, is the one his witnesses proclaim. In bearing witness to this specific human being—his life and death, his resurrection—Christians claim to bear witness to the very source of all existence. We do not start from general principles or from concepts; we start by trying to describe what this person did, how he lived, whom he loved. The Christian claim is that Jesus reveals what it means to be truly human and, just so, who God is and how God’s nature is reflected in each human life.
So, as a literary magazine, we are not looking for philosophies or generalities. We seek concrete witnesses to concrete realities. We don’t need the work we publish to be rooted in encounters with any privileged set of religious traditions. We believe that every person is made in the image of God and, for that reason, any witness to a lived human life may let us glimpse a reality beyond us, to catch sight of existence itself. So precisely as a Christian literary magazine, we seek voices who bear witness to their own experiences of their own specific times and places.
2. Humanity and the world are intertwined and precious. By entering into the world and walking amongst us as one of us, Jesus, the very Son of God, affirmed the inherent dignity of all creation. That means no human should be treated as though they are unworthy of love. It means that care should be exercised for all creation. We can only ever recognize a person’s innate dignity; we cannot make them what they already are. Rather, we bear witness to actualities that humans sometimes forget, willfully ignore, or deny.
So, as a literary magazine, we seek pieces that affirm people and the natural world. We want to publish works that bear witness to the very fact that each of us—wherever we find ourselves—is beloved. That does not mean we want pieces that shy away from the violence and horror that exist. Instead, we seek work that looks at the world as it is and says, even here there is something of beauty, something inherently valuable and worthy of love.
3. Art is theological, which is more radical than saying it is political. Jesus, in his very person, has united humanity and all of creation with God; in doing so he has saved the world. That is a statement of faith, not a description of verifiable reality. But it means that sometimes Christians look counter cultural. Sometimes, the correct Christian response to a political situation is to withdraw and pray. To the outside world, that looks like doing nothing. But Christians believe that prayer shapes reality precisely because it is a dialogue with the one who has already acted for us and who brings the future into being.
So, as a literary magazine, we think bearing witness to particular lives in particular places is one way of bringing about the good in the face of global crises and political upheaval. When an artist captures reality in the ways we are suggesting, their work is of theological value, one we want to publish, even if the artist would never ascribe to anything like a belief in the divine or is in no way connected to a religious tradition.
4. Witness is the action of many, never of one alone. There are four canonical Gospels, all seeking to bear witness to what Jesus did and who he was. Rather than silencing three and holding to one, the church found over time that the four in conversation brought us closer to the reality that was Jesus’ life than any one could do on its own. That tension between multiple witnesses and one true life helps us see that art offers unique takes on unique lives. These unique takes amount to multiple specific accounts of one concrete reality, which we might label truth.
So, as a literary magazine, we are not looking for pieces that give us the same slant on the same subject. We are looking for individual artists articulating the world in their own ways, from their own perspectives. We aim to produce a magazine that contains and is part of the one human conversation that stretches across geographical and cultural borders, a conversation that transcends even the metaphorical borders created by historical time. We believe that even in and through disagreement, we grow closer to one another. As we listen to and read one another and even passionately disagree with one another, we believe that we might catch a glimpse of the God who is so close as to know us already better than we know ourselves and who, just so and for that very reason, loves us better than we will ever love ourselves.
Essays, et al., 5000 words or less preferred, but longer works will be considered.
Essays can be memoir, journalistic, documentary, or any other creative nonfiction mode.
How to Pack for Church Camp is an online anthology project that's separate from, yet friends with, Rock & Sling.
We seek creative nonfiction under 1,000 words that’s related to experiences at summer camp.
Were you envious of your friend at a Lutheran camp who had a dance, while your camp forbade the use of boomboxes save for worship? Did you have a moment of crystalline self-awareness while cooking over a fire at Scout Camp? We want to know.
Although we have a fondness for church-camp stories, the work need not be about a Christian or other religiously affiliated program. We’re much less interested in the devotional or didactic, and are hungry for what surprises us, hits us in the gut, makes us think. The stories can be uplifting, bawdy, itchy, touching, melancholy. They just need to have happened to you.
Submissions must be the author’s original work. We will consider previously published material so long as the author informs us of the work’s history and retains the rights.
All submissions in this category will be considered for print or online formats.