Goofin' on God

Trinity Foundation to acquire religious satire magazine

Earlier this year, Yaconelli began negotiations to donate the magazine to the Trinity Foundation.

Ole Anthony, president of the foundation, jumped at the opportunity.
Although the Foundation is well-known for its work investigating televangelists, Anthony says, it sees bountiful opportunity in owning a satire magazine of The Door's reputation.

The foundation wants to expand the magazine, he says, and move it to a monthly publication schedule as soon as possible. Until now, he notes, The Door has focused mainly on Christianity, but he wants to see the magazine expand its mission and take aim at all things spiritual from New Agers to Eastern religions. "Anything that has to do with God stuff," he says.

Darden will stay on as editor, and most of the freelance writers who contribute to the magazine will still be used, Anthony says. Joining them, in an as yet undefined role, will be John Bloom, one of Dallas' best-known satirists.

Bloom will write for the magazine under his better-known persona, Joe Bob Briggs. (Joe Bob's weekly drive-in movie column is published in the Observer).

Bloom, who often takes aim at religious chicanery and hypocrisy in his drive-in column, says he has long been a fan of The Door and welcomes the chance to write for it. "The general public doesn't know what The Door is," Bloom says. "Those that have read it for years and years have always thought it is one of the funniest magazines out there."

Raising The Door's profile is one of the Trinity Foundation's aims.
The magazine has survived 25 years pretty much on word of mouth alone, Anthony notes. It has never been marketed, or made a big push to increase its circulation. The limited circulation, Yaconelli says, has left The Door vulnerable to circulation dips of a thousand or more readers in a fell swoop when it prints something particularly barbed.

"Everybody reads it, but nobody subscribes to it," Yaconelli says.
Anthony hopes to change that.
Advertising still will not be accepted, he says, but he hopes the magazine can be enlarged and published monthly, making it big enough to elbow its way onto newsstands across the country.

By printing Bloom's work--and using the extensive mailing list Bloom has built up marketing his Joe Bob character--Anthony hopes The Door can double or triple its circulation with relative ease. "There's no reason this shouldn't be up in the tens of thousands," he says.

Darden, who will stay on as editor under the new ownership, also is hoping The Door may finally be poised to step up to prominence. Allied with the Trinity Foundation, he says, The Door should be able to market and advertise itself for the first time, and hopefully build its readership.

There is, however, some unease about the compatibility between the no-holds-barred humor magazine and the aggressive, self-anointed watchdog Trinity Foundation. Under Anthony, the foundation's dogged pursuit of television evangelists has been known for anything but humor.

Yaconelli concedes that he has some concerns about giving up control of the magazine to the foundation, wondering if his creation might lose its independence and be subsumed by Trinity's agenda.

"I respect their kind of radical view of the church," he says. "[But] if they decide they want to go out and use the magazine to uncover and expose televangelists around the world, that would be a drastic mistake on their part."

Anthony swears that won't happen. The magazine's tone and viewpoint will stay largely unchanged, he says. Bloom says he is not fearful that The Door's unique voice will be overpowered by other pursuits of Anthony or the foundation.

"Everybody knows Ole can't tell a joke," Bloom says. "That's not his strong suit. But he appreciates humor, and he's always appreciated The Door, and likes the fact that it's iconoclastic."

Satire, Anthony says, is a natural avenue for Trinity, and he even envisions the magazine as a springboard to the creation of "Door TV," a satirical religious television show that could be sold for syndication.

There is seldom a lack of targets for religious humor, Anthony notes. All Trinity Foundation has to do is find those willing to pay for the experience.

Owning a satire magazine, Anthony notes, also provides the foundation with some legal cover. After drawing lawsuits for its investigations into religious fraud, he says, the foundation believes it can use a satirical outlet for some of its views with less risk of being sued.

Darden, the editor, says the aggressive, gutsy style of the Trinity Foundation is compatible with The Door. "It seems like it dovetails perfectly," he says.

That's not to say, though, that The Door is above biting the hand that feeds it. Should the Trinity Foundation itself do anything that begs satire, Darden says he won't hesitate.

"This doesn't mean that I'm not going to stick it to the Trinity Foundation every now and then," Darden says. "So Ole better watch his backside.

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