A Cosmo-Style Makeover for the Bible?

With religion and pop culture intersecting more and more these days, perhaps it was inevitable: The Bible's gotten a Cosmo-style makeover.

With a trio of smiling teenage girls on the cover, along with teasers for beauty tips and dating advice, Revolve looks like it has more in common with Glamour than Gideon.

But don't judge the Good Book by its cover. Revolve is an honest-to-goodness Bible, encompassing the New Testament from Matthew to Revelation. But its magazine-like styling and bright cover will help it seem hipper to today's girls, the publishers hope.

"We asked teen girls how often they read the Bible," says Laurie Whaley, one of Revolve's editors and a spokeswoman for its publisher, Thomas Nelson Bibles. "The response that came back was, 'Well, we don't read the Bible.'

"They said, 'It's just too freaky, too intimidating. It doesn't make any sense.'"

Heavenly Father in a Pop Culture World

Revolve is just the latest cross-pollination of religion and pop culture that has seen Christian-themed fiction climb the best-seller lists and Christian rock and rap get a foothold in the music world.

"Really, for the past 100 years, evangelicals have tried to use popular culture to draw people to their faith," says Lynn Schofield Clark, a sociologist at the University of Colorado's School of Journalism and Mass Communication who has written about Christianity, teens and popular culture.

Examples date back to at least the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Many well-known hymns originated in the 19th century as Christian poems set to the music of popular barroom tunes. Martin Luther himself used secular melodies to spread the word.

Jeffrey Mahan, a professor of ministry, media and culture at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, agrees, but he also believes the trend is accelerating. "The old classic description of religion that made divisions between the sacred and the secular are breaking down," he says.

"It's really in the last 30 years that that's taken off," says Larry Eskridge, associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

They attribute the change to a reaction to political controversies in the 1970s, such as the Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion, and the rise of a counterculture interpretation of Christianity around the same time.

Before the 1970s, fundamentalist Christianity took a dim view of mainstream trends like rock 'n' roll. At one time, it was uncommon to see rows of Bible-inspired fiction in Christian bookstores, because evangelicals often considered reading fiction a waste of time.

But in recent years, they have been more willing and often eager to harness the energy and appeal of pop culture. The Left Behind series — an 11-installment serial potboiler based on the Book of Revelation — has sold well over 50 million copies so far. has spawned a series of graphic novel comics and kids' books, as well as scores of other biblically inspired works of fiction.

There are also all manner of Bibles geared toward everyone from high school athletes to toddlers. "I've seen Precious Moments Bibles for kids and just everything under the sun," says Eskridge.

The rise of Christian pop culture also has economic roots, he says. As fundamentalists became more prosperous, a new industry arose to sell them goods to suit their values and beliefs.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...