What Would Jesus Read?
What a revelation. The latest version of the New Testament tells boys to knock off the nose-picking. Apparently, girls find it totally gross.
The hygiene tip comes from Refuel, a magazine-size, full-color Bible published in time for Easter that offers the word of God for teenage guys more accustomed to Maxim than to Matthew. The publisher, Nelson Bibles, is betting that Refuel will be as hot as Revolve, the company's teen girl Bible-zine, which became the bestselling Bible of 2003 by looking and sounding like an issue of CosmoGIRL! This month, Zondervan, another big name in Christian publishing, officially introduced its own flashy Bibles.
While there have been other teen Bibles, none of the old crop relied so heavily on pop culture to sell their message or addressed girls and boys separately. Teenagers "see or hear over 3,000 advertisements a day," explains Paul Caminiti, Zondervan's Bible publisher. "If you tell them to buy something, they're resistant. If you tell them they'll be a dork if they don't, you've got their attention."
Inside Revolution, Zondervan's Bible for teen guys, "heavenly_father" sends instant messages to "my_son." True Images, the girls' bright-purple version, includes a 10-question quiz that promises to reveal whether the reader is a "diva, doormat, or dream date."
Crib sheet. Critics worry that the teen Bibles dilute the religious experience by offering pat interpretations of Scripture rather than demanding that teens think it through themselves. That may be exactly what teens are attracted to. revolution offers "matchups," professional- wrestling-style smack-downs between warring biblical figures--Cain vs. Abel, for example--with each character's strengths and weaknesses analyzed and the eventual outcome explained. "I love those!" says Spencer Flory, a 15-year-old from Ada, Mich. "If you don't get the passages too well, instead of reading the whole thing and doing it [in] your head, it's just right there."
Theologians may sigh, but the teen Bibles do bring up some serious topics. refuel devotes a full page to explaining date rape, while Revolve 's "Blab" columns address issues like molestation and eating disorders. "What you hope is that this is like a preschool entry Bible," says Bill Leonard, dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity. "And that teens will grow out of it." -Caroline Hsu
This story appears in the May 3, 2004 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.