It caught my eye like phlegm from the mouth of a passing hooligan. There, in the gleaming window of my local Christian book shop, the book – or rather the version of that book – that had been missing from my life for all these years. At last, after decades of flimsy covers, namby-pamby illustrations and girly fonts, here finally was a copy of the Bible I could get on board with. Roaring like a lion who'd been injected with muscle-building steroids, and featuring a fella walking under a load of power lines, STRIVE – The Bible... for men! called to me with the growling voice of Chuck Norris. Reader, I bought it immediately.
Alright, I didn't. I posted a sarcastic tweet about it. And while sarcasm might be the lowest form of wit, I confess I felt a bit cross. Are we really still at a point where we think the Bible needs to be 'versioned' for men and women? That women will read their Bible more if it has a pink cover and some flowers on it? That men find the word of God (which incidentally is pretty male-dominated) a bit too feminine if you don't put in application points that relate to power tools? Even if you take a traditional view of gender roles, it's a pretty strange idea.
Inspired by STRIVE, I thought I'd check out the market to see what else is available if you feel you need a gender-specific Bible. The results may cause you to laugh, weep, or a bit of both. But remember, there's one disturbing reason why Bible manufacturers continue to churn out these kinds of Bibles: lots of people buy them...
1. The extra day Bible – FOR MEN
Angus Buchan is famous for having 'faith like potatoes'*, but even he doesn't believe the average man can make it all the way through the Bible in a normal-length year. One presumes the actual author of the book is the Almighty, writing through the divinely inspired hands of his people through across hundreds of years. Presumably his name doesn't shift quite as many books.
*I confess I've never learned what this means. Easily mashed after boiling? Grows weird eye-things after a couple of weeks?
2. Finally, a Bible JUST FOR BOYS!
That's right. Millenia of ceaseless patriarchy have given young lads such a hard time. They've never had their own Bible before, not one that wasn't spoilt by having to be shared with those perfumed, heartbreaking she-wolves across the youth group room. This Bible offers the opportunity to 'discover gross and gory Bible stuff' as its key selling point, unlike the regular, girly Bible which only includes that lady who kills the sleeping guy with a tent peg, and the bears that maul all those teenagers.
3. The 'let's reinforce awful gender stereotypes early' Bible
This one is a bit of an exercise in missing the point. Someone in marketing here has definitely got the memo about not calling girls 'pretty' or 'sensitive', but they missed the point that you don't need to aim a Bible solely at one sex; gnat strained, camel swallowed. Aside from the fact that these five girls all look like scary re-animated killer dummies from a 1980s slasher movie, it's just a Bible that doesn't need to exist. We demand a 'Brave kids' Bible, with some scary re-animated killer boy dummies added for good measure.
4. The 'your life is small' Bible
What's the real message of this cover? That the Bible can practically speak into every day of your life? Or that you, dear female reader, have a small life which basically comprises mundane everyday tasks like shopping, wiping bottoms and having coffee with your friends? Either way, this is the Bible for you! And it looks like a sanitary product that you might buy in Poundland too.
5. The gigantic flower Bible
Well now, who could this possibly be for? As we all know, women can't get enough of flowers, just like they can't get enough of kittens, celebrity tittle-tattle and spending too much on shoes. I'm a privileged white man, and even I recognise that this is putting women in a horrendously outdated box. Many of the women I know like sport and sci-fi movies, and can produce a fart more devastating than any man. Who is making a Bible for these women?
6. The only women have problems Bible
Why does this one look like a condolence card? This Bible is remarkable because it appears to want to gender the idea of personal trials, the need for encouragement, peace and hope, and even the promises of God. Change the font and stick a motorbike on the cover, and this would work almost perfectly for men. Or here's a really radical thought: what about just producing The Promise Bible?
7. Oh go on then... STRIVE
To end where we began, there's still just so much to say about Strive. Not only does it sound like the Lynx fragrance that no-one wants in their bathroom, it just seems to play into a horribly old-world notion of masculinity. Why are 'purpose' and 'passion' specifically male ideals? Why do only fellas need to have 'culturally accepted myths' exposed? And what's the deal with the grumpy bloke on the cover who looks like he's staggering home after a night on the sauce? Oh, and just in case Striving gets too much, you could also purchase The NIV Bible for Men, which offers tips for Thriving. It also has a foreword from Jeff Goins, which sounds a little bit like groin. What could be manlier?