Metaphors can flip and become the literal meaning, and the original, literal expression can become the metaphor. The word “broadcast” is a case in point. When the first radio towers went up, pioneers of this new technology turned to agriculture to describe how their signals went out with a wide sweep. It struck them that their equipment worked like a farmer broadcasting his seeds on the ground, flinging them in arcs. It was an apt expression, gaining universal currency, so much so that people today are inclined to smile at an ad for a “seed broadcaster”: “That’s clever! It spreads seeds like a radio tower spreads its waves.”
The word “Bible” may today be a candidate for a linguistic flip of its own. It used to be the case that The Deer Hunter’s Bible and The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible were derivative, drawing their meaning from a respectful understanding of the Holy Bible. Like the true Bible, these guides were meant to supply the hunter or gardener with the keys to success. While Scripture showed the way to an abundant life and heaven, these shadow bibles put their readers on the path toward serving luscious tomatoes and hanging a 12-point trophy on their den wall. They didn’t presume to supplant the real Bible in sweep and authority.
The April 2013 “Style Bible” issue of Gentleman’s Quarterly is a different matter. It offers sub-Christian religion of its own, with, for instance, “A Gentleman’s Guide to a One-Night Stand.” It counsels the wayward that “there’s a difference between dressing up and playing dress-up” as a “zealous prepster” or “urban lumberjack.”
It honors the most stylish NBA players, including the “King James Version,” namely LaBron James of the Miami Heat. James’ teammate, Shane Battier, notes the pressure on these men “to dress well every day” and the occasional need for “church discipline”: “LeBron falters occasionally. And when he does, we let him know about it.”
It records great acts of faith, such as Dwyane Wade’s “most famous risk to date,” when, at the prompting of his stylist, Calyann Barnett, he wore “pink-chocolate-yellow patent leather Louboutins” to the White House.” The president was duly impressed, remarking, “If any of you can pull this off other than Dwyane Wade, let me know.”
Instead of “slaves to Christ” (Romans 1:1), it features best-selling author Buzz Bissinger, with his “Gucci Addiction,” which threatens his life savings. His “pearl of great price” (cf. Matthew 13:45-46) may be his collection of 81 leather jackets, $5000 pants, and a $22,000 coat. And on it goes.
So, has the metaphor flipped, with the “style bible” gaining supremacy? Preposterous? Yes, for the time being. But it’s fair to ask whether one could more nearly get away with criticizing a woman’s fashion choices than her sexual behavior. Or, to put it another way, could a network field a show called “Righteousness Police” to match Joan Rivers’ “Fashion Police”? Alas, those who appeal to a style bible to dismiss another’s dress come off as savants and sophisticates. Those who use the real Bible to declare something unholy are attacked as “phobes” or “haters” of one sort or another.
Perhaps the day will dawn when we hear, “So you’re saying that this book with 66 chapters from Genesis to Revelation is a ‘bible,’ like the Style Bible, in that it shows you how to ‘dress’ your soul? I get it. Isn’t that clever!”