Darrell Huckaby - The horror of a magazine cover

Sex. Politics. Money. Religion. These are all subjects that we aren't supposed to discuss in polite conversation - which may be why so many people sit around watching TV or playing on the Internet instead of carrying on conversations with fellow human beings, these days. Of course, the TV shows they are watching are probably about - you guessed it - sex, politics and money. Religion? Maybe not so much, but three out of four ain't so bad.

And the savvy general interest columnist would do well to remember those taboos as well. The Lord knows a fellow can get his crack in a bind quicker with the aforementioned topics than just about anything else, so the best way to avoid controversy is to just ignore those topics altogether.

But where's the fun in that?

This week we have an interesting little drama playing out right under our noses, and religion and money are at its very core. Politics, too, to a lesser degree. And sex? Well, maybe not sex, per se - but certainly gender and sexism.

You see, there is this magazine with five women on the cover.

Yeah, I know. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, doesn't it? But don't worry. It's not that kind of magazine - although it is being sold under the counter in certain circles. I think the plain brown wrapper is optional.

But let me back up and give you the whole story.

There is a magazine out there called "Gospel Today".

Goodness knows we need magazines that relate the good news of the Gospel, although I am surprised that they could compete for the consumer dollar when there is so much smut and fluff on our newsstands today.

But Gospel Today bills itself as "today's leading Christian Lifestyle magazine." Honesty compels me to admit that, although I try my best to live a Christian lifestyle, I had never picked up one of the magazines about it before this week. When I did, however, I found out why I probably hadn't seen one. The publication's stated mission, you see, is "to provide a quality publication for the Urban Christian Community." Judging by the issues of the magazine I was able to examine, "urban," as it is used here, is a code word meaning the "African American" community. Virtually all of the stories were about predominantly black churches and religious leaders. Not that there is anything wrong with that, understand. I'm just saying - that probably explains why I haven't been familiar with the product.

I am now, though, because of an incident regarding the magazine and Lifeway Christian Bookstores, which is owned, so they tell me, by the Southern Baptist Convention. It seems that the Lifeway stores have been ordered to pull the latest edition of Gospel Today off the racks. You can still buy the magazine at the Lifeway stores, but you have to ask. It's under the counter. I am not sure if you have to whisper in the clerk's ear or know the double-secret handshake or password or not.

"Why?" you might ask, has the current issue of this magazine gone underground?

Careful now. Make sure no one is around. Shhhhh!

It is because the publishers had the audacity to put the pictures of five women ministers on the cover. One or two? Maybe they could have gotten away with. Five? The humanity of it all!

You see, Lifeway, as I said, is owned by the Southern Baptist Convention and it is the position of the Southern Baptist Convention that New Testament scripture forbids women to be pastors. Apparently women can be children's ministers and Sunday School teachers and organize fund-raising activities and give money and pray for the male pastors who go astray. But they can't be pastors. And since women cannot be pastors in Southern Baptist churches, the Christian bookstore owned by the Southern Baptist Convention has pulled the magazine because it condones a belief that they do not support.

I find that appalling, for so many reasons.

I agree that Lifeway has the right to sell what it wants to sell, but it should be honest enough to call itself Lifeway Southern Baptist Bookstores instead of Christian Bookstores. And if the magazine is too offensive because of its positive portrayal of effective women ministers to be displayed in the open, then it shouldn't be sold at all.

And in the name of consistency, I think Lifeway stores should purge their business of all other references that might be contrary to Baptist doctrine. Of course, that might cost them money, so I doubt that they will do that.

Oh, well. Lifeway can stand on the proverbial corner and beat its breast against women preachers all it wants. I'll just keep reading my worn-out old King James Bible and I'll keep trying my best to do what it says.


Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.