STOKING FIRE: A “New” Testament Offers Girly-Girls and He-Man Jesus in a Teen-Beat Format

Eleanor J. Bader

REVOLVE 2010 offers readers a clearly written New Testament, with tips on being a girly-girl and staying "pure," stories of Jesus’ prowess, admonitions against divorce, and a new definition of adultery.

It’s called REVOLVE 2010: The Complete New Testament, but it looks like a glossy fashion magazine geared to teenaged girls. The cover showcases three fresh-faced adolescents—two Caucasian and one of color—smiling at potential readers. The promise of what’s inside invites exploratory page turning: Celeb Drama-Trauma; Free Downloads; Guy 411; Are you a Talkaholic? and Other Quizzes.

Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., the world’s largest Christian publisher, REVOLVE 2010 is the sixth incarnation of what has been dubbed a Biblezine.  The first was published in 2003, sold 400,000 copies in its first month, and was designed by Studio Four5One, a Dublin firm whose client list includes Sting and U2. It was clearly meant to mimic publications like Elle, Nylon, and Seventeen.

“God never intended the Bible to be too difficult for His people,” the editors of the 2010 version explain. “Today, many feel that the Bible is too hard to understand or irrelevant.” To remedy this, they continue, REVOLVE uses the New Century Bible, a translation that replaces hoary wording with  “modern terms for places and measurements,” and puts “figures of speech and idiomatic expressions in language that even children understand.”

Indeed, REVOLVE offers readers a clearly written New Testament, Matthew to Revelations. There are no thous or thines, but instead, tips on being a girly-girl are intertwined with stories of Jesus’ prowess.  Marriage is touted, while those who divorce are admonished: “The only reason for a man to divorce his wife is if she has sexual relations with another man. And anyone who marries that divorced woman is guilty of adultery,” they’re told.  Neither abortion nor contraception are mentioned but pre-marital “purity” is cavalierly assumed.

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REVOLVE 2010 employs numerous hooks to ensnare readers. There are profiles of young Christian celebrities–Corbin Bleu of Broadway’s In The Heights; Cody Linley of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; Emily Osment of Hannah Montana; and 2007’s American Idol, Jordin Sparks, among them. Interviews with attractive and charismatic Christian hip-hop and rock stars Stellar Kart and Group1Crew further lure readers into opening the 281-page book.

Other temptations include Make-Up and Fashion 411.“You’re walking to class, feeling cute in your favorite low-rise jeans, when your chem book slips out of your hands and lands on the floor. You bend over to pick it up and feel a draft…You hope no one saw the crack violation you just committed. Exposing yourself is not a pretty sight…Don’t underestimate the power of a belt to keep you up and covered…” As for make-up, readers are advised to use “pink-toned concealer for sleepy eyes.“ Hmmmm. It seems the writers have forgotten the non-white faces on the Biblezine’s cover…

The Style section offers tips reminiscent of Hints from Heloise—from using old pantyhose to scrub white deodorant streaks from a dark shirt, to accessorizing to freshen a stale wardrobe—and is supplemented by Columns with such names as Dudes Decoded, Dating Don’ts, Heart Training, Chad’s Challenges, and 13 Tips from the Experts—four young men.

That it’s all heterosexual all the time should shock no one, but REVOLVE goes one better. Chad Eastham, a Campus Crusade for Christ leader and prolific self-help author, explains the mysteries of gender. “Guys brains are like waffles—they keep their lives compartmentalized in boxes. Girls’ brains are like spaghetti—everything in your lives is connected to everything else.” Forget Martians and Venusians, it’s waffles and spaghetti! 

To be fair, REVOLVE also urges readers to become active in efforts to repair the world. Consumerism is lambasted and going green and promoting ecological awareness get a good deal of attention. What’s more, numerous groups affiliated with World Vision, a well-respected Christian charity, are described, making it easy for readers to do something about AIDS, poverty, or the environment.

All told, REVOLVE 2010 offers readers an odd mix of material, and would be rather ho-hum—even amusing–were it not for the Biblezine’s alarmingly anti-Semitic content.  For example, throughout the text Jews are presented as attention-seeking and cruel. The Book of Matthew lays it out. “When you give to the poor, don’t be like the hypocrites. They blow trumpets in the synagogues and on the streets so that people will see them and honor them…” it reports. A later segment of the Disciple’s account is even more damning: “Jesus warned his followers not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. From that time on Jesus began telling his followers that he must go to Jerusalem where the Jewish elders, the leading priests and the teachers of the law, would make him suffer many things.”

It’s impossible to know how readers will interpret these statements. At the same time, they are repeatedly cautioned that they, too, will likely suffer for their faith. After all, the authors intone, contemporary non-believers often mock Christians for their piety, modesty, and devotion. “But no matter,” they continue, “God knows who you are, girl. He loves you.”

How reassuring.

Fake text messages–He saves my lyf from d grace & lds me in luv & mercy—are meant to calm, and Facebook-like profiles–PhoebePheebs to you… IM screen name GsusluvsPheebs–are meant to give readers role models for emulation.

I’ll leave it to you to decide if REVOLVE 2010 is ingenious marketing or a devious plot to expose young women to conservative Christianity. Either way, it’s selling briskly, exposing a whole new generation to dangerous anti-Jewish stereotypes and narrow ideas about what it means to be female.

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