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Taiwan Bible society brings fashion to Bible

Fashion may not have any place in the spreading of the Christian gospel, but when it strides the stage of Bible-selling, something clicks.

world Updated: May 04, 2007 14:23 IST

Fashion may not have any place in the spreading of the Christian gospel, but when it strides the stage of Bible-selling, something clicks and sales of the Good Book go up.

Since 2004, the Taiwan Bible Society has launched several versions of the Bible using trendy covers - jeans, army fatigues and leather - to appeal to young people and women.

The Bibles sold out fast, prompting the society to design more trendy versions of the Word of God.

Lai Chun-ming, general-secretary of the Taiwan Bible Society and inventor of the trendy Bibles, said he came upon the idea by chance.

"In 2004, when I was visiting South Korea, I saw jeans-covered notebooks in the Seoul University bookstore.

"They were popular with students. So I asked the South Korean Bible Society if we could make jeans-covered Bible. 'That is blasphemy!' one of them shouted," Reverend Lai said in his office in Taipei.

"But I didn't care. When I came home, I made some jeans-covered Bibles and sent them to bookstores to test their reaction.

"They said we could try. So we delivered 3,000 Jeans Bibles and they were sold out within one month," he said.

Since then, Lai has launched three colours of the Jeans Bible, as well as the Army Fatigue Bible and the Louis Vuitton (LV) Bible.

"I saw many people wearing army-fatigue clothes, so I designed the Army Fatigue Bible. Girls can buy this Bible and give it to their boyfriends who are serving in the army," he said.

The front of the fatigue cover bears the world Bible with a cross below it and the phrase "Army of God" below the cross.

"A perfect match," Lai said with a gentle smile.

Taiwan is among the 140 countries where the United Bible Societies (UBS) - based in Reading in Britain - has opened a bible society.

Since its foundation 50 years ago, the Taiwan Bible Society has supplied most of the Bibles sold in Taiwan.

In 2006, it printed 100,000 Bibles which were sold through the island's 117 bookstores and 2,700 Protestant churches.

But sales have been slow because Christians account for only 4.5 per cent of the 23 million Taiwanese, and usually only newly converted Christians buy Bibles and then use the same one for years.

So Lai racked his brains to promote Bible sales. After inventing the Jeans and Army Fatigue Bibles, he launched several versions of the LV Bible, meeting the craze among women for LV bags.

The leather covers of LV Bible also come in different colours and shades. "This year's trendy LV colours are gold and silver," Lai said.

Despite the similarity to an LV handbag, there does not seem to be a counterfeiting problem because the letters on the LV Bible are GV instead of LV.

As if the LV Bible was not feminine enough, Lai has just designed a Pink Bible that looks like a pink leather handbag.

Lai's innovative Bibles have played an important role in spreading the gospel.

In 2004, the Taiwan Bible Society launched the half-day youth assembly to bring young people closer to God.

It gave each participant a Jeans Bible and a T-shirt bearing the words "I Love the Bible." Since then, it has been holding assemblies every year under the slogan: "I Am Young and I Read the Jeans Bible."

Attendance at the youth assembly grew from 1,200 in 2004, to 2,200 in 2005 and 2,800 in 2006. The projected figure for the 2007 assembly is 3,000.

Different bookstores have different opinions about the Taiwan Bible Society's trendy Bibles.

Chu Pao-lan, sales manager for Taipei's Elim Christian Bookstore, said trendy Bibles appeal to special age groups. "But most people still prefer traditional Bibles," she said, referring to the dark and hard-covered Bible.

But Li Yan, a high school student, wants only the Jeans Bible.

"It looks trendy and I can push it into the back pocket of my pants. It's easy to carry. I don't think there is anything wrong with having a trendy Bible," he said.

Lai is not bothered by what people say about his trendy Bible, turning to the Bible for defence.

"Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill ... What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice," Lai quoted Philippians 1:15.

On Tuesday, Lai flew to Kathmandu, Nepal to attend the annual regional meeting of the UBS.

He plans to deliver a speech entitled "The Creative Mind and Bible Selling" to share his success in boosting Bible sales with delegates from other Bible societies in the Asia-Pacific region.