Sunday, April 04, 2004

Covering Christianity

Time Magazine's cover story this week is Why did Jesus have to die? Lately, I feel like Time (and its competitors) have given Christianity a surprising amount of front page coverage, and so I decided to dig a little deeper.

Time publicly archives its past covers, so it's easy to view their covers from any period. I decided to compare Christianity-themed covers from the January 1998 - April 2004 with the same period 20 years prior, January 1978 - April 1984.

What I included:
+ To be included in my count, the whole cover had to be devoted to religion -- collage images with one religious symbol don't count.
+ The main point of the featured article had to be religion, so nuns battling Alzheimer's or Y2K fears don't count.

In both periods, Christian (or Judeo-Christian) themed covers appeared 12 times; however, I was startled to see the difference in how it was covered during the two periods.

From 1978 - 1984, 11 of the 12 covers concern the papacy's role in geopolitics or the Pope as a person.

From 1998 - 2004, the covers address a number of topics, from historical aspects of the Christian myth to the role of Christianity in modern times.

I'll go out on a limb and say that magazines like Time used to discuss organized Christianity when its actions made the news. Now, they editorially interpret Christianity, making it the news.

January 1998 - April 2004
1998  January 26Fidel Castro & Pope John Paul II: What brought them together -- Two giants of the century put their faiths to the test
April 20The Shroud of Turin: Now that it's back on display, the debate flares anew -- Is this Jesus?
December 14  Moses: New research and an epic animated movie offers a fresh look at a hero for our time, The Prince of Egypt
1999 December 14 Jesus at 2000: Novelist Reynolds Price offers a new Gospel based on archaeology and the Bible
2000April 3Pope John Paul II: The Pope in the Holy Land
2001 April 16 What Jesus Saw: Jerusalem Then and Now
September 17Preacher T.D. Jakes: Is the man the next Billy Graham?
2002 April 1 The Catholic Church Dilemma: Can the Catholic Church save itself?
July 1 The Bible & The Apocalypse: Why more Americans are reading and talking about the end of the world
September 30Abraham: Muslims, Christians and Jews all claim him as their father. A new book explores the challenge of turning him into their peacemaker
2003 June 30 Should Christians Convert Muslims?
2004April 12Why did Jesus have to die?

January 1978 - April 1984
1978  August 21Search for a Pope  
September 4  Pope John Paul I: The New Pope
October 9The Church in Shock: Pope John Paul I, 1912 - 1978  
October 30  Pope John Paul II
1979  June 18Pope John Paul II: Triumphal Return -- The Pope in Poland
October 15  Pope John Paul II: John Paul, Superstar
1981  May 25Attack on the Pope: Terrorist's Target -- "Why did they do it?"
1982November 29  Archbishop Bernadin: God and the Bomb -- Catholic Bishops debate nuclear morality  
December 27  The New Missionary: Preaching the Gospel in New Guinea
1983March 14  Pope John Paul II: "To Share the Pain"
June 27Pope John Paul II: Homecoming -- The Return of the Polish Pope
1984January 9  Pope John Paul II: Why Forgive? The Pope pardons the gunman

No comments: