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01 Oct 2003 00:00
An American publisher of Christian books has come up with a novel answer to help keep teenage girls from straying from the straight and narrow. Last week Thomas Nelson, based in Nashville, launched Revolve, a magazine that looks much like any other teen magazine but instead of “should I, shouldn’t I” sex tips and teen confessionals, contains the words and advice of Jesus and the Apostles.
Interspersed with “Bible Bios” and readings from the New Testament, the 392-page mag keeps young minds attending with God-laced features:Â “Is your boyfriend a godly man in training?” and “Are you crushing too hard?”
Targeted at girls between the ages of 12 and 17, the Bible — dressed in a fashion-magazine format (replete with images of stylish, smiling young women, quizzes and celebrity birthdays) — is on its way to becoming a publishing sensation, at least among folk who frequent Christian bookstores.
With a first print run of 40 000 copies, Revolve is still far from rivalling Vogue or Cosmopolitan, but Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian book publisher in the world, hopes Revolve will find a keen readership among the United States’s 24-million teens who say they are practising Christians.
Two years ago the publisher began looking into publishing a magazine version of the Bible after discovering that teenagers don’t spend a lot of time reading the good book.
“We’ve made a great industry out of selling Bibles to teenagers, and they’re not reading them,” says Revolve‘s publisher, Laurie Whaley.
Not surprisingly, says Whaley, young Christian teens in the US like just the same things their less observant peers like; namely, fashion and beauty, health, boys and relationships. In order to get it past media-savvy teens of the booming Christian subculture, the company recruited Four5One, the Irish firm that designs the album covers for bands such as U2, to design the magazine.
The result, said the editor, Kate Etue, in the Chicago Tribune, is a “fresh perspective on Christian products” that avoids looking “churchy”.
But mixing beauty secrets and dating tips with sermons is not to everyone’s taste. Some have complained the tactic is a classic bait-and-switch, while some theologians are concerned that Revolve may dilute the purpose of reading the scriptures.
But Whaley says the message is the same even if the format is different.
For sure, the message is at odds with most teen magazines. In one item, a beauty tip involving sunscreen, editors advise that “The Bible is like our spiritual sunscreen, it acts as a filter, letting in the good and keeping out the bad.’’
Under the topic of facials — in this case, “Spiritual Facials” — the magazine makes the following analogy: “The fire of God’s love burns the sin the same way the hot steam routs the dirt out of your pores.”
“In magazines such as Vogue and Cosmo the emphasis is on how to make you externally beautiful — to have better abs, to have a better rear,” says Whaley. “Revolve doesn’t ignore the fact that women want to be beautiful, but there is an internal beauty we need to focus on as well.”
And while Revolve does not answer questions such as when is a heel too high for God or a skirt short enough for Satan, it does give the general directive to “make sure that Jesus would be pleased with what you wear”,
The current teen mags, Whaley says, put too much emphasis on sexuality as the way to get the guy. “We’re not saying you need to dress in skirts down to your ankles and never go out of your house, but we are saying there has to be a happy medium. We’re saying, ‘Girls, it’s all about who you are.’”
The publisher intends to bring out a magazine for Christian boys concentrating on sports, sex, girls, money and music by Christian bands such as Audio Adrenaline and Evanescence.
For the teenage girls of America, the next issue of Revolve will focus on the Old Testament. The publisher is not sure how it will approach the stories of fire and brimstone, the prophets and the Book of Revelation, but they’re certain there’s an appetite for the epic tales. “You only have to look to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to see how our culture loves epics. We think the Old Testament is going to go over very well.” — Â
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