Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Rolling Stone has relented.

The music magazine has accepted a Bible advertisement, reversing a previous decision that brought it unwanted publicity and critical press.

The half-page pitch for “Today’s New International Version” of the Bible — TNIV for short — will appear in the next issue of Rolling Stone, on newsstands Feb. 11. The magazine had rejected the ad two weeks ago, citing a company policy prohibiting commercial religious content.

But Rolling Stone changed its tune once the decision grew into a national news story, and quietly renewed its original contract Monday with Zondervan, the Michigan-based publisher that hoped to showcase a new Bible aimed at 18- to 34-year-old readers in a hip, secular venue.

“The outcome proves to us that the Bible remains the biggest best seller of all time. And we are thrilled with the decision. We are very encouraged,” Zondervan spokesman Doug Lockhart said yesterday.

“We already knew that the Bible was relevant to this age group, that they were spiritually curious,” he continued. “In the last few days, we’ve gotten calls from people thanking us for approaching Rolling Stone. One young man said he never would have considered buying a Bible until this situation unfolded.”

The touchy situation, however, prompted a national dialogue on religious content.

The Bible ad mentions neither God nor theology, but instead features a pensive young man and the slogan, “Written in today’s language, for today’s times — and it makes more sense than ever.”

The approach passed muster in similar youthful markets: Music cable channels MTV and VH1, America Online, Modern Bride magazine and the satirical political magazine the Onion accepted TNIV ads without hubbub.

Rolling Stone’s decision to ban what it called “a religious message” even though the current issue includes an ad for a Jesus Christ-themed T-shirt did not escape the press.

“For a magazine that has long trumpeted freedom of speech and artistic expression, the decision to ban the Bible ad seems a bit hypocritical,” noted music editor Mark Moring in Christianity Today.

Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun-Times called the magazine “thoroughly shortsighted.”

” … In the struggle to stay hip, relevant and edgy, a half-page ad for a Bible may be the least of Rolling Stone’s worries.”

Evangelist Jerry Falwell had urged the magazine to reconsider its decision “in the spirit of freedom of the press,” adding, “In the alleged culture of ‘diversity,’ we are actually seeing a burgeoning atmosphere of repression when it comes to faith.”

“The book that’s too hot for Rolling Stone,” quipped MSNBC.

CNN, ABC and other networks also covered the story.

But all’s well that ends well.

“There has been a groundswell of consumer support, and we’ve had so many calls from potential advertisers that we’ve actually moved the publication date for TNIV up a few weeks. It will now be available Feb. 1,” Mr. Lockhart said.

Calls to Rolling Stone for comment were not returned yesterday.

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