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Joel BelzVoices Joel Belz

From bad to worse

Decades-old business attitudes were canaries in the cultural coal mine

In the early days of WORLD Magazine we struggled to stay alive. We knew the lifeblood of most successful magazines was advertising revenue. We had learned that magazines like Time, People, and Better Homes & Gardens typically secured two-thirds of their revenue from ads, with loyal subscribers providing the rest.

But even after several years of publishing at WORLD, we’d attracted enough ad revenue to cover no more than 10 or 15 percent of our costs. The ratio was all wrong. A friend of mine, with years of expertise in our field, told us bluntly that we had an “impossible publishing formula.” 

I decided to hit the road. I knew some top executives in half a dozen large companies—a key marketing man with Coca-Cola, an ad writer for Chrysler, a top man at a big brokerage, and a vice president at Maytag. Wasn’t it reasonable to think they’d see it as a good investment to get some valuable ad space for goods and services and at the same time be responsive to my appeal that they support a cause like WORLD’s distinctive Bible-shaped journalism?

My corporate friends were expressing an abstract fear of something ominous.

Not so. One of the men summed things up when, as he leafed through our current issue, he shook his head and said: “I dunno. Looks pretty religious to me. I just don’t see it as a very good fit.” Indeed, it was just such an expression of secularism that tended to characterize every last one of these prospects. I doubt if even one of them thought of himself as a secularist—but in practical terms, such is the philosophy that shapes their business lives. For them, anything that sounds a little “religious” is probably something, sooner or later, that’s bound to cause trouble. 

Keep in mind these men were not just professing Christians—but folks who had reputations as seriously committed believers. I am fairly certain that if I’d dropped by to see them a generation earlier, most or even all of them would have signed on with warm enthusiasm. But my corporate friends were expressing an abstract fear of something ominous on the horizon. I understood their caution but begged them to prepare early rather than late. 

So why bring this up now, some 30 years afterward? Partly because so little has changed. 

Advertising revenue has grown, but slowly. Instead, you readers, through your subscriptions and especially your charitable gifts, have helped balance our budget, year after year.

Corporate advertising, of the sort I hoped for and described above, has through the years continued to be almost invisible.

But some of the picture is also quite different. Three or four decades ago, I failed to “close the deal” with half a dozen business leaders—mostly because they didn’t want their landscape cluttered with embarrassing “religious” artifacts. “Just keep all that at a distance,” they said. 

Now, though, just keeping a distance isn’t enough. In today’s climate, extinction is more and more the goal. Withholding their good names from our advertising pages isn’t punishment enough. Now corporations are joining forces with those who want to ensure we have no page from which to withhold their names. That’s why we see the biggest businesses and many corporate giants not so subtly dictating to our culture a radical leftist value system, often appearing to be bent on the weakening and destruction of those who dissent.

Think that “extinction” and “destruction” are a bit strong? Then keep your eyes focused, in the months ahead, on issues like tax exemption and hate speech. Go back and review the pledges offered by all the Democratic presidential candidates—many of which would explicitly widen the platforms of the LGBT alliance and tighten restrictions on any entity that might be seen as critical of it. One of those candidates is now president of the United States, and others are active in his administration. 

I didn’t appreciate it 30 years ago when those businessmen turned down my sales pitch. But going from reluctant ad buyers to a threatening president is, in my experience, going from bad to worse.

Comments

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  • MIKED
    Posted: Mon, 03/08/2021 07:13 pm

    Does Joel Belz really have the right to complain about the President he ostensibly helped elect?

  • AlanE
    Posted: Mon, 03/08/2021 07:33 pm

    Both candidates brought their own set of problems. Biden's folks want to incrementally legislate Christian belief and practice out of our society. Trump's folks wanted to replace true faith with a counterfeit faith that says, among other things, the ends justify the means. Which is worse? Both seem quite dangerous to me. 

    Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

  • Andy Knudsen
    Posted: Mon, 03/08/2021 09:02 pm

    I would be very surprised if Joel Belz voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

    Even if someone did vote for Joe Biden, he or she could still criticize Biden for bad decisions.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Tue, 03/09/2021 02:44 am

    I think we should praise Joel for recognizing the mess we are in with Biden. Our new president is bringing forward so many attacks on our nation that it is hard to keep track of them.  He is creating the chaos at the border by effectively allowing everybody in which is only encouraging millions more to come to America. He is jettisoning everything that Trump did to protect this nation. He is not standing up to China but is pushing the trade relations that build up China and make them stronger. He has appointed the first openly transgender person to his cabinet. He is pushing homosexual rights over religious liberty. He is running back to the Paris Climate Agreement which only hurts us. He is attempting to renegotiate the outrageous Iranian nuclear deal as Iran is not following it and is producing highly enriched uranium.  Probably most disturbing is the attempt to strip the voting process of any safety measures at a federal level. This power grab could well likely make it impossible for Republicans to win the presidency for a very long time by this executive order. Allowing unrestricted mail-in ballots essentially gives the elections to the Democrats where they harvest ballots  and mail them in where there are really no checks to protect the election process.  
     

    AlanE says the following:

    "Both candidates brought their own set of problems. Biden's folks want to incrementally legislate Christian belief and practice out of our society. Trump's folks wanted to replace true faith with a counterfeit faith that says, among other things, the ends justify the means. Which is worse? Both seem quite dangerous to me."

    This thinking is convoluted at best because Biden is a serious threat to America and our Christian cause as highlighted above. Trump fought against abortion, where Biden supported it. Trump supported controlled borders where Biden supports open borders with all the injustice. Trump supported police where Biden pushed to eliminate police. This is shear lunacy!  Trump supported religious Liberty, where Biden is seeking to destroy it.  Nearly everything that Biden supports is against Trump, America and the Christian cause.

    You make the charge that Trump supporters are replacing the true gospel with a counterfeit gospel.  No, we are voting for the best man who will most benefit our Christian cause.  This protects the gospel message by preserving our religious liberties. We aren't peddling a counterfeit gospel, but we are helping the church thrive so it can spread the gospel message.  
     

    Nobody said that the ends justify the means. We basically have two candidates before us and we have to choose the best one.  

  • Paul
    Posted: Tue, 03/09/2021 10:56 am

    Hey Joel - You have NO contention to issue public compaint !  sitdown...
    You despicably voted  for this slime in the known binary outcome  by NOT supporting the policies of a principled President, DJTrump, that knew how to fight and not wimpmer along with the failed 'conservative ' program of go along get along.....Your attempt for persuasion is late and DONE : 
    "Think that “extinction” and “destruction” are a bit strong? Then keep your eyes focused, in the months ahead, on issues like tax exemption and hate speech"

    I am with this guy:
    "the irony of a beautiful pro-life magazine cover just a few months after the magazine’s founder wrote that he couldn’t bring himself to vote for what was arguably the most pro-life administration in U.S. history."

     

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Fri, 03/12/2021 01:57 am

    Yes, he did say something about voting for Biden so your harsh criticism is warranted! 

  • overdue
    Posted: Sat, 03/13/2021 07:05 pm

    In the October 24, 2020 issue, Mr. Belz wrote "Bottom line:No way could I withhold my vote from Biden and then—with virtually the same set of standards—give a pass to Trump. The longer I studied the matter (including WORLD’s thoughtful Oct. 10 Q&As with David French and Wayne Grudem) the more I concluded I couldn’t endorse either for the upcoming election"

    In the March 13, 2021 issue Mr. Belz wrote ".Think that “extinction” and “destruction” are a bit strong? Then keep your eyes focused, in the months ahead, on issues like tax exemption and hate speech. Go back and review the pledges offered by all the Democratic presidential candidates—many of which would explicitly widen the platforms of the LGBT alliance and tighten restrictions on any entity that might be seen as critical of it. One of those candidates is now president of the United States, and others are active in his administration".

    It is incredibly sad that so many influential evangelicals could not see this coming.