NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In with Bible verses, out with bikinis.
Southern Baptists are sending Christian magazines to troops in Iraq as an alternative to the “lad mags” that feature scantily clad women, hoping to get wholesome, positive images in front of the servicemen.
Lifeway Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, is working with Baptist associations and churches to create “Lifeboxes,” which include magazines like Christian Single, notes of encouragement, gum, socks, candy and stationery supplies.
“Soldiers have said that mail and magazines are greatly appreciated, and now we have an opportunity to have a positive impact on their lives,” said Rhonda Buescher, director of Lifeway’s magazine advertising and circulation.
Nearly 3,500 churches across the country are trying to mail between 35,000 and 50,000 boxes to troops by March 23, so they can arrive by Easter on April 8.
Miss Buescher said Nashville-based Lifeway helped start the project after hearing from Fort Campbell soldiers who said they would be interested in receiving Christian magazines.
“They said, ‘Frankly, when we’re away from our families, we don’t need to be seeing soft-core pornography,’ ” she said.
Maxim and other “lad mags” such as Stuff and FHM feature partly clothed women posing provocatively, but without the explicit nudity that’s in Playboy and other men’s magazines.
The soldiers from Fort Campbell, located on the Kentucky-Tennessee line, said U.S. troops were getting Maxim free of charge, and they wanted a Christian alternative, Miss Buescher said.
Maxim spokesman Sean Evans said the magazine is not pornography and that soldiers have requested it since the war in Iraq began nearly four years ago.
Mr. Evans said he didn’t know how many copies of Maxim have been sent to troops in Iraq, or if the magazines were sent free of charge without soldiers requesting them.
“We congratulate Lifeway on their much-needed Lifebox project for soldiers overseas,” Mr. Evans said. “The soldiers have written to us by the thousands about the popular movies, TV shows, DVDs they read about in Maxim that they wish they could be seeing back home.”
Fort Campbell spokesman Terry Webster said troops get reading material from families and church groups, but they are not allowed to receive pornographic material in Iraq.
“Basically everybody has different taste and choices in reading material,” Mr. Webster said. “If they don’t want to read a certain publication, they don’t have to read that.”
Dozens of Lifeway boxes have already been mailed to troops by churches in the Fort Campbell area and in Virginia as part of a pilot program, Miss Buescher said.
Jimmie Miles, a retired military chaplain and minister of education at Winfree Memorial Baptist Church in Midlothian, Va., sent about 50 boxes in November to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“There are all types of magazines available to troops, but I know from my requests from the troops, it was basically, ‘We’d like to have this type of magazine, more family-oriented,’ ” Mr. Miles said.