Friday, August 26, 2005

Move Over, Seventeen. Here Comes the New Testament!

Imagine that you have a room in your home with a spectacular view. You so want all your guests to take in this marvelous sight that you come up with the ingenious idea of replacing the picture window you now have with a mosaic stained glass window (with a few clear pieces scattered throughout). The stained glass window will catch people's attention, you reason to yourself, luring them to it, at which time they'll peer through one of the transparent pieces and take in the breathtaking scenery. The problem with such a scheme, no matter how well-intended it might be, is obvious. That which you really want people to see is obscured by your attempt to highlight it.


That illustration came to mind after reading a thoughtful (not to mention cleverly-titled) article by Samantha at Intellectuelle called "The Church's One 'Foundation'?". It's about a New Testament version called Revolve, whose target audience is teenage girls. The book, published by Thomas Nelson, is designed to look like a glossy girls' magazine inside and out. According to a beliefnet.com article which Samantha quotes:
Looking nothing like the Good Book, Revolve was designed to spare teen girls Bible embarrassment should they want to bring scripture with them to school, to the mall or to their next basketball game. Aside from the words "The Complete New Testament" slicing across the cover, one might never suspect that the glossy magazine, teeming with photos of preternaturally happy, attractive gals, was anything more than a new entry into the already crowded teen 'zine market.
And that's what Revolve's creators want. "Teens were saying that they found the Bible to be too freaky, too big, too intimidating," says Laurie Whaley, Brand Manager for the New Century Version at Thomas Nelson, one of America's major Bible publishers and part of the Revolve team. "Revolve shows girls that reading the New Testament is just as easy as reading an issue of Seventeen or Vogue."
The desire to get teenagers to read the Bible is, without question, a good thing. But adopting a "whatever it takes" methodology is to set aside the very thing we're seeking to promote -- the Word of God. Samantha's is a necessary reminder that we must give serious thought not only to the content of the message we're trying to communicate, but also to the vehicles we use to convey it. She writes:

...filling the scriptures with sidebars full of "Beautiful People" and references to popular culture is a distraction from the Word of God, and could easily cause girls who are not attractive, or who have had sad or difficult lives, to equate beauty and happiness with godliness. The Bible speaks harshly against vanity, and this time of life is one in which the desire to preen and beautify oneself can become an obsession. I'm sure the publishers of this thing would insist that they are speaking *against* such outward focus, but by presenting the Scriptures in this way they are in fact promoting these glamour values. It has been said that the medium is the message, and in this case that seems to be true.
Read the whole thing and let her know what you think.

1 comment:

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