Thursday, January 9, 2014

When Jesus Made the Cover of Time

Looking at Jesus' Appearances on the Cover of Time Magazine

When I featured the group, Love Song, on Monday's blog post, I began thinking back on the days of the Jesus movement and remembered when Jesus made the cover of Time magazine. The year was 1971.  The cover story opened with the following:
Notorious leader of an underground liberation movement

Wanted for the following charges:
  • Practicing medicine, winemaking and food distribution without a license.
  • Interfering with businessmen in the temple.
  • Associating with known criminals, radicals, subversives, prostitutes and street people.
  • Claiming to have the authority to make people into God's children.
APPEARANCE: Typical hippie type—long hair, beard, robe, sandals.
Hangs around slum areas, few rich friends, often sneaks out into the desert.

BEWARE: This man is extremely dangerous. His insidiously inflammatory message is particularly dangerous to young people who haven’t been taught to ignore him yet. He changes men and claims to set them free.

I was a Baptist back then, and some of my friends and I had been energized by the Jesus Movement. We were ecstatic that our Jesus had made the cover of Time. In actuality, it was not the first time nor would it be the last time that Jesus graced the cover of that weekly news magazine. I thought it would be an interesting study, looking at the interplay between Christ and culture, to take a look at the representations of Jesus on the cover of Time magazine down through the years.

Jesus first made the cover of Time in on December 17, 1923 with a story about actors from Oberammergau's Passion Play, which has been performed in the Bavarian town every year since 1634. The actor portraying Christ that year was Anton Lang. Actors from the village of Oberammergau were touring a few U.S. cities that year.

For quite a while, Jesus made the cover of Time in typical greeting card format at Christmas time:

December 26, 1938
 December 24, 1945

December 29, 1947
December 25, 1950

December 28, 1959

December 24, 1951

On December 25, 1964, Jesus appears in a more stylized, avant-garde art presentation with a cover story about Christian renewal. The cover story is titled, "Christianity: the Servant Church," with a quotation from Revelation 21:5 "Behold, I make all things new."  Though it is at the Christmas season, this cover does not have that typical greeting card look. The artwork seems to look toward a metamorphosis.

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On June 21, 1971, we find that Jesus has extricated himself from the Christmas greeting card format to become a classified as a revolutionary, as was noted earlier. He was making waves in southern California and across the country.

On October 25, 1971 another version of a radical Jesus was making waves, this time on Broadway, with a cover story about the rock musical Jesus Christ, Superstar. The play asked questions that were on the minds of many modern day people who could not rally behind a hippie Jesus or an evangelical Jesus, but who could not deny the impact of that singular remarkable life.

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"Who was Jesus?" The cover story of this August 15, 1988 edition begins by addressing a controversial Hollywood representation: "In bygone centuries, an unorthodox vision like Martin Scorsese's might have prompted heresy trials and burnings at the stake. Perhaps even a quick crusade mounted by ragtag armies. In the summer of 1988, the preferred methods of resistance are picket lines, economic boycotts and angry appearances on talk shows. If the furor surrounding Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ proves one thing, it is that in any era, seismic emotions are involved when people probe the nature of the man who is worshiped as God by well over a billion souls."
August 15, 1988
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With the 1990s, America seems to be continuing to question, but also to search out the meaning of Jesus. The latest scholarly quest for the historical Jesus, the Jesus Seminar in Santa Rosa, California, is definitely making its mark and making waves in the religious community as well as in the media.

April 8, 1996
April 10 1995

December 16, 1996
December 20, 1998

The headline for the December 6, 1999 cover story reads: "Jesus' Second Millennium: A New Gospel --
A great novelist and biblical scholar examines what faith and historical research tell us after 2,000 years and emerges with his own apocryphal Gospel"

December 6, 1999

In April, 2001, Time examines what Jerusalem and the surrounding area would have looked like in Jesus' day. The June 16, 2003 European edition explores the changing role of Christianity in Europe. "It can't get a mention in the new EU constitution, but it is cropping up in the most unlikely places."

                   April 26, 2001                                                                                    June 16, 2003 

In 2004, Jesus makes the covers of Time at Easter and Christmas -- about as often as some people go to church -- but at least it's a presence, and it is twice in one year! Here we find renewed questions about the meaning of Christ's death and the significance of his birth.

December 13, 2004
April 12, 2004

In 2006, there is the image of Jesus peering through a torn cover, as it were, from an old painting bearing his visage. The topic of the April 26 cover story, however, is the mysterious and controversial Catholic organization, Opus Dei, which featured prominently in the best-selling thriller novel and cinematic production The Da Vinci Code

April 26, 2006

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In April of 2013, it is not THE Jesus, the object of faith and devotion, that made the cover. This time it is Pastor Wilfredo de Jesus, pastor of the Assemblies of God megachurch in Chicago, New Life Covenant Ministries. The cover story headline reads:  "Evang√©licos! Seeking a break with the past, a quicker assimilation into the middle class and a closer relationship with God, Latinos are pouring into Protestant churches across the U.S."

While this is not a pictorial representation of Jesus, the cover does say something about the Christ of culture, how Jesus is represented in various forms, and how the changing culture in the U.S. may lead to new views of what this Jesus may look like on future covers of Time.

April 15, 2013


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