Bible Scripture Meets 21st Century Glitz

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This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, August 26, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: As you probably know, many teenagers see the Bible as a leather-bound and boring book. But one Bible publisher is going the extra mile, parting the seas and reaching out to the MTV generation.

Heather Nauert is here with more on the new and improved good book.

HEATHER NAUERT, FNC CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, the next time you see a teen reading a magazine with fashion and make-up tips, take a closer look. Now on the newsstands are scores of books and magazines, which combine Bible scripture with 21st century glitz. The latest is called Revolve (search) and it's targeted at teenage girls.

Joining me now from Nashville is Laurie Whaley, brand manager with Thomas Nelson Bibles (search), the publisher of Revolve. And that is today's big question. Is the best selling book of all time, the Bible, really need a makeover?

LAURIE WHALEY, THOMAS NELSON BIBLES: Hi, Heather. That is a great question, does the Bible really need a makeover? And according to the research we did with teens across the country, we found that the message of the Bible didn't need a makeover. However, perhaps the medium of the traditional black leather bible did, indeed, need a makeover. And that's what our research showed us was that the traditional black leather Bible was a bit intimidating, or as teens said “freaky.” It just didn't make sense.

NAUERT: So they were just a little intimidated to read the Bible then. But a lot of people might ask, “Is this dumbing down something? Is it oversimplifying something that just shouldn't be simplified?”

WHALEY: Actually, we've not simplified the Bible in terms of actual Bible text. The entire New Testament text is included in Revolve. So, from Matthew all the way to Revelation, you have Bible text. But integrated throughout the Bible text are all these different features that you find in a fashion magazine. Examples would include things from beauty tips all the way to Q&A's, trivia questions, even a section on guys speaking out about relationships and what they think about girls. So we've certainly taken the Bible text and preserved what is indeed the best selling book of all time and integrated it with what is relevant for teen girls today.

NAUERT: Of course, a lot of young girls like to read about fashion and make-up, as you mentioned. But how does it handle the issue of dating and sex, something a lot of teens have questions about.?

WHALEY: That's a great question, because certainly teens have a lot of questions about sex and dating. In the Q&A questions, those are actually questions that came into our Web site that we have for teens. You can go to and find out more about our teen line there. And teens have lots of questions about sex, and dating, and relationships and how to handle school. And so we took those questions that they're asking and we actually answered them, our editorial staff did from a Biblical standpoint. And so you won't final necessarily every single topic on sex and dating addressed, but there are different questions that have been answered about dating and sex.

NAUERT: Who do you actually consider to be your competition? Is it MTV? Is it the fashion magazines?

WHALEY: I think that anything that captures the mind of teens today, or really of anybody today, would be considered competition. In this particular instance, though, we've obviously created something that looks like a Vogue magazine, a Glamour magazine, a Seventeen magazine. So I think that the intent of this is to show teen girls that, indeed, reading an issue of Vogue, reading the Bible can be just as simple as that, because it is in a format that is very similar and something they're very comfortable in reading.

NAUERT: From a business perspective, how much of an untapped market is the Christian market? It seems like Christian pop culture seems to be everywhere nowadays from music to videos and now to this.

WHALEY: Well, I think that there is an enormous market in the Christian publishing, both in music and in books. There are approximately 36 million teenagers in the U.S. and according to… research, about 82 percent of the 36 million consider themselves to be Christians. But I can also tell you they're not all going to Christian bookstores. In fact, only about a handful, maybe 10 or 12 percent of the teens that consider themselves to be Christians are going to those bookstores. So there is an enormous market, not just online and in the general market, but in those markets that maybe consider themselves to be nontraditional and consider themselves to be non-Christian. There is a really, really large portion of teens today that would consider themselves to be religious or Christian going there. So there is certainly a large market there.

NAUERT: So is your market, then, children who have been really exposed to religion or people who are just checking it out for the first time? And how do you get those people checking it out for the first time to actually buy this?

WHALEY: Well, I would say that it is a combination of both. We're getting comments back via e-mail and on our Web site from girls that may consider themselves to be Christians and for the first time they feel like it is okay to take a Bible to school. And they also feel comfortable in showing that Bible to their friends who have no exposure whatsoever to the Bible. And so, I think that not only can people that aren't necessarily exposed to the Bible find Revolve and the Nible in their mainstream bookstore, but they can also find it through their Christian friends that, perhaps in the past, haven't felt comfortable showing them the traditional black Bible.

NAUERT: Laurie Whaley, thank you so much. Revolve is in bookstores now. And next year, they plan to come out with a guy's version, too.

GIBSON: All right, Heather, very interesting. Thank you very much.

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