Installment 1

by Rev. Ivan Stang


The most hilariously stupid and deliciously bizarre crackpot materials can sometimes be the most seemingly innocuous, able to lurk immediately under one's nose for years while somehow going unwhiffed. With decent funding, their insane kook creators can hide them right out in the open -- where they are too often taken for normal. and thus ignored by we connoisseurs of Bulldada, their inadvertent hilarity potential going untapped.

Those not exactly "in the Walk" will bray with laughter upon close inspection of
BRIO Magazine
PO Box 35500
Colorado Springs CO 80935-3550
Suggested donation for gift subscription: $15

While BRIO might pass for any boring garden-variety piece of Pink fluff, the kind of publication found in dentist's waiting rooms or on the coffee tables of bland Christian families, it is actually a hilarious cesspool of repressed sexual terror.

If there's a sarcastic atheist teen girl with an attitude in YOUR family, a gift subscription to BRIO is just the thing for a birthday. Every month, it will bring her many minutes of cynical mirth. Not for any 10-headed Beast of the Apocalypse illustrations, nor even for spectacular ineptitude, which are the more common reasons for laughing at evangelical publications -- but because it is UNFATHOMABLY LAME. BRIO is the embodiment of what we worldlies and seculars call FLANDERSIAN, after the Ned Flanders character on THE SIMPSONS.

BRIO looks on the surface like any other teen girl's magazine... dating advice, diet articles, pics of smiling, fresh faced, well scrubbed boys and girls with all their clothes on. But it's a counterfeit normality. WEIRD DIFFERENCES creep in. The ads aren't NORMAL ads. Instead of perfume and blue jeans, it's a sterling silver "JUST SAY WAIT" pendant with the inscription, "Worth Waiting For."

"Regardless of what you may have done in the past, you can remain sexually pure until marriage starting right now!" -- ad copy for JUST SAY WAIT pendant

(Author's note: if we seem to be cruelly belittling persons who happen to hold different beliefs from ours, THAT'S JUST TOO DAMN BAD, NOW AIN'T IT?? Thank you.)

Sample BRIO article titles:

What Does God Sound Like?

Is Everyone REALLY Doing It?

Sexual Purity Defined

Where Does He Stand with Christ?

"My period is really really really heavy!"

The BRIO girl is fresh-faced. Lilly white. (You know this because every issue has a sexy clothed girl pin-up. There has even been a token dwarf pin-up girl.) She's well scrubbed. She's squeaky clean. She's "cool but Christian." In other words, she's every healthy teenage boy's worst nightmare, he just doesn't know it yet.

But she has problems, from sweaty hair after P.E. to agonizing over whether it's okay to pray about sports. (You must ask God not to help you win, but to help you play your best -- because there might be Christian teens on the opposing team praying, too. And that might put God in a tough spot. If the opposing team happens to be all Muslims or Jews or Hindus, then I suppose you SHOULD pray to win.)

These problems are addressed in the DEAR SUSIE letters column. Susie is Susie Shellenberger, editor of the magazine. In her photo she looks like Newt Gringrich's sister, only overweight. Her own struggle with sexual purity is probably a titanic one.

"Dear Susie:
"Help! I think I'm addicted to MTV! My parents don't allow me to watch it, but I do anyway. Now I can't seem to stop. I have a lousy attitude after watching it, and I get songs with swear words stuck in my head all day! What should I do?"

Susie's practical solution is to "simply quit watching it" and if that doesn't work, to get Mom and Dad to help her quit. She goes on: "I would hate to think that watching MTV affected where you will eventually spend eternity... ask God to forgive you, and come clean with your folks." I, too, would hate to think that MTV affects where you'll spend eternity. That is a horrible thought.

Another kid is worried because she can't make herself stop cussing; all her friends and everyone at school cuss. Susie tells her in bold face type, "Then... why not think about changing friends?" But Susie -- this is a world of rampant unrestrained cussing. It's SATAN's world. THIS CHILD WILL HAVE NO FRIENDS.

"Dear Susie,
"I know that sex before marriage is a sin, and I have sworn that I will remain a virgin until my wedding night. But how much fooling around is acceptable by God?"

"Anything beyond a light kiss is considered petting. And when you're involved in petting, you're making it extremely difficult for the person you're with to keep a godly mind-set. ...each time you go a step further, you find that it takes MORE to fulfill your appetite."


"Dear Susie,
"I have pledged to remain sexually pure until marriage. But what if Jesus comes back before I get married? I want to know how it feels to have sex. Is this a horrible thing to want?"

YES! "No one knows the time or date of Christ's return. He may come back before you receive your next issue of BRIO, and if He does, sex won't be the ONLY thing you'll miss out on. What about college life, grad school or giving birth?" (Notice that a rewarding career, personal freedom, or RAISING kids don't rank with grad school and giving birth!)

There are pin-ups for the girls, too -- PG beefcake of cute non-threatening boys. In GUY TALK, earnest, non threatening lads answer the question, "What really bugs you about girls?"

"I'm really trying to be a good Christian. Sometimes it's tough. But you know what makes it really hard? It's when girls wear stuff that's like... revealing. It's distracting. My Mom always taught me that's not cool, so it bothers me. I think I understand why they do it. It's what the world -- you know, like TV -- tells them they're supposed to be doing. But it really bugs me."

What do you think? Do you think Susie herself writes the Dear Susie letters? I do.

Dear Susie,
The boys on the football team have repeatedly raped me and my 13 year old friends, yet they profess a deep faith in Christ. No one believes us because these guys are such terrific leaders and enthusiastic Christians. Does this happen in other churches as well?"

For all its "purity" blather, BRIO is a hotbed of titillation verging on softcore porno. What's NOT said in their ubiquitous first-person accounts of rape, child abuse, plain ordinary dates, etc. is of sure-fire prurient interest. By the time it gets to "before she knew it, his hand was underneath her blouse," you don't NEED any more spelled out. You've gotten off just from the build-up ALONE.

BRIO always features inspirational short stories, generally about prodigal big sisters, noble paraplegics, or the perfect boy in town and his dreadful secret...
"He was intelligent, talented, fun and a Christian. So I was shocked when I realized Lucas couldn't read!"

BRIO's hep-cat reviewers inform their young readers regarding which bands are REALLY Christian and which just SOUND sorta Christian. "Why wallow in negativity? ...There's no reason to settle for Soundgarden's weed-filled world view." Other articles warn readers away from Satanic collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering. Don't hinder your walk with God with exciting, original, imaginative Satanic games, when there are Christian ones like Redemption? Sure, they're boring, corny, predictable imitations of mainstream secular hits... but at least you always know who's gonna win in the end.

Anything the secular teen mags do, Brio can do. They have their own lame Erma Bombeck, their own lame Archie comics wanna-be, and interviews with their own lame Christian rock and country singers. Brio's Christian cartoonists can copy a famous cartoonist's style so that you can hardly tell the difference. See? Heck, they're just as professional as TEEN -- only better, since TEEN doesn't loudly proclaim Christ's authority.

Actually, it's true that one can derive the same thrill, the same mental smirk of superiority, by simply browsing through any Christian bookstore in a mall. But with BRIO, you don't have to endure being around any actual real-life evangelicals.

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