The lyrics are great, but how is the taste?

With sales of secular exercise records soaring, Christian record companies are flexing their marketing muscles in an effort to carve a slice of the economic action. If initial sales of Christian aerobic albums are any indication, these companies should fare rather well.

Aerobic exercises are strenuous routines intended to improve cardiovascular fitness as well as muscle strength and toning. The choreographed exercise routines are generally performed to the accompaniment of rhythmic music. The Christian albums substitute a sampling of Christian pop, rock, and jazz in place of the pop, rock, and jazz commonly used on secular aerobic records; and though secular aerobic albums freely refer to the exercises as “dance,” most of the Christian versions prefer a more innocuous euphemism such as “strenuous exercise.”

When Judi Sheppard Missett’s Jazzercise became the first fitness album ever to attain the record industry’s certified gold status (sales in excess of 500,000), it was only the warm-up. Now, only one year later, Missett’s success has been followed by Carol Hansel’s Exercise and Dance Program, Vol. I (gold), Jane Fonda’s Workout Record (gold), and Richard Simmons’s Reach (certified platinum, sales in excess of one million). With the nation caught up in the fitness craze, Christian music executives are eager to remind the religious record-buying public that their bodies are indeed temples of the Holy Spirit. And to meet the anticipated demand, the Christian companies are producing aerobic albums faster than you can say, “Eight dollars, please”: Aerobic Celebration, Aerobic Praise, Aerobic Jubilation, Firm Believer, Devotion in Motion, Praise-R-Cise (Slogan: “With Praise-R-Cise I can reduce my size.”), and more to come.

Even so, the idea of a Christian dance exercise record didn’t meet with instantaneous record company approval. Word discussed the concept a year and a half ago, according to Director of Public Relations Walt Quinn. But, wary of adverse reaction, Word decided to put the project on hold. When the New Benson Company, a competitor of Word, Inc., discussed an aerobics project, similar concerns surfaced.

“There were some questions within the company,” said Don Klein, Benson’s public relations director. “But enthusiasm began to build. There were those who had an ear for what was needed. And we became convinced that the idea was right for the time. I think that’s been proven by the fact that it has worked.”

By “worked,” Klein means “sold.” Since the release of Aerobic Celebration in May, the Benson Company has moved 130,000 copies, which by any standards is respectable; by Christian standards it’s very respectable. The market: fitness-conscious women, ages 18 to 30.

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In response to Benson’s success with Aerobics Celebration and the recent release of its sequel, Word, Inc., has unveiled Firm Believer, “a complete exercise program featuring today’s finest Christian music.” The first of several fitness products from the Texas-based subsidiary of the American Broadcasting Co., Firm Believer features Judy Moser, wife of Word’s executive vice-president, records and music, and Bobbie Wolgemuth, wife of Word’s vice-president of books, (both pictured on the cover), teaming up to put listeners through their paces in a series of chatty routines not unlike their secular counterparts. Word plans to follow Firm Believer with at least two more aerobic albums and other supporting products all marketed with “Shape-up Center” displays in Christian bookstores.

But as the Christian music machine turns out fitness products and as the religious public buys them, the questions of skeptics and critics persist: At what point does giving people what they want become crass commercialism? Does it cheapen sacred music to have it obscured with exercise instructions on the toning of thighs, abdomens, and buttocks? Does it contribute to the isolationist Christian ghetto mentality to insist on producing a spiritual version of everything the world produces? And perhaps most probing: Are Christians overdosing on a good thing, making a fetish of fitness, toning their temples while obscuring Paul’s instruction, “Bodily exercise profiteth little; but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:8)?

In response, Christian music executives prefer to view their aerobic products as opportunities to bring together bodily exercise and spiritual toning. Christian women can finally shape up aerobics-style without having to endure the objectionable lyrics of Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical.”

“The entire concept of believing that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and it is good to praise and worship the Lord is built right into a Christian aerobics record,” according to Lonnie Long-mire of Windy Distributors, the company that has released Aerobic Jubilation. And Benson’s Don Klein sums up the assets of Christian aerobic albums like this: “The lyrics are uplifting. They focus on the things of the Lord. And,” he adds, unintentionally refocusing a bigger question, “as people listen to these aerobic albums, they will be exposed to other Christian music products.”

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Is Herpes Quelling The Sexual Revolution?

According to a Washington Post-ABC News public opinion poll, sexual morality among young, unmarried adults has become a very pragmatic concern. And the catalyst for what the poll sees as a curb in America’s sexual revolution is the genital disease herpes, which, according to some government estimates, affects between 5 and 20 million Americans.

In its efforts to legislate morality, herpes, America’s most common sexually transmitted disease, has encountered considerably less resistance than the New Right. The poll revealed that more than 80 percent of the 1,505 people (ages 18 to 37) surveyed claim either that they are convinced their behavior is such that they won’t contract the disease (63%) or that they are changing behavior to avoid the risk (22%).

Although new drugs to treat the disease are coming on the market, herpes, usually considered an epidemic, has no cure. Medical experts regard untreated syphilis as a far more serious disease than herpes. But most cases of syphilis and gonorrhea, both caused by bacteria, can be treated by antibiotics, whereas herpes, spawned by a virus related to the one that causes common cold sores, is incurable.

Also, herpes has potentially more serious long-term consequences. It has been linked to female cervical cancer and can be transmitted to infants during childbirth. Herpes is usually fatal to newborns, but can be prevented by Caesarean section deliveries.

Interviews with some of those surveyed indicate that those who are changing their habits are doing so by avoiding casual sex. One herpes sufferer who participated in the poll said, “It’s caused me to have a more conservative attitude toward sexual inclinations and has caused much depression and frustration.”


George Eldon Ladd, 71, professor emeritus of New Testament exegesis and theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and one of the leading evangelical New Testament scholars in the United States; October 5, in Pasadena, of complications from pneumonia.

James L. Cummings, 55, first vice-president of the National Council of Churches and presiding bishop of the Ninth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; October 3, of heart complications.

Mary LeBar, 72, noted children’s and Christian education author and former faculty member at Wheaton College; October 3, in Durango, Colorado, of a massive heart attack.

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