THE TRUE BELIEVERS AT LIFE@WORK; TABLOID TV ON THE PAGE

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Time begat Newsweek begat U.S. News. People begat Entertainment Weekly begat In Style. Esquire begat GQ begat Maxim begat Stuff.

Throughout magazinedom, there are so few new ideas, which is one of the reasons to thank God for Life@Work, a bimonthly that's been publishing since May 1998. Its subtitle tells it all: "Blending Biblical wisdom with business excellence."

The theme of the March/April issue is innovation, which the editors approach from several directions, but as you might imagine, they start at the beginning: "The first verb in the first chapter of the first book in the Bible is `bara,' the Hebrew word for `create.' `In the beginning God created . . . ' "

From there it is not too great a leap to Jesus, who "began articulating a theology of innovation early in His public ministry," write Thomas Addington and Stephen Graves, whom the masthead identifies not just as writers but as two of the magazine's founders. From two biblical anecdotes about the "God-Man" they draw two principles: "The possibility of new always exists" and "Innovation is always systemic."

Then Life@Work gets down to business. There is a case study on Wal-Mart Stores Inc. that reasonably could have been published in, say, Forbes or Fortune -- a straightforward look at how a behemoth got that way and how it stays nimble nevertheless.

But the next article veers back toward the cloth: "Reinventing the church" posits what Jesus' "vision statement" for the church might have been, then introduces some innovative ministers who are looking for fresh ways to carry the message. Writes Rob Wilkins: "On a dismal December day in Dayton, {senior pastor Mike} Slaughter is huddled around a Macintosh G3 with team leaders from graphics, media, worship, music and technology. . . . "

Television pioneer Bud Paxon (Home Shopping Network, Pax TV) gets a turn, and uses it in part to plug corporate tithing: " `We have always seen tithing at one level, where all of this commerce floated down to a paycheck and 10 percent of that was supposed to be tithed,' Paxon said. `But you take that 10 percent way back up to the gross, and it's a whole other number.' "

The point is not particularly whether one believes in Jesus Christ. Maybe it's that one plaint of skeptics has long been that too many of the "faithful" kneel on Sunday morning, and then are hellbent for greed the rest of the week. Not only does Life@Work get points for originality, but here is a semi-real-world enterprise (there are no ads; funds come from subscriptions and private funding) that's trying to put prophets and profits together.

Along a similar line -- not quite as unusual but newer to newsstands -- is Solimar, tagged "Living in the New Millennium." Its "special preview issue" is dated "Spring Equinox 1999," which gives you an idea of its new age orientation, but the cover also has the word "sex" in bold red capital letters. Its table of contents is divided into sections of "self," "family," "world," and "community." Two features are on Hollywood types, and one of the columns offers "investment tips for the soul." It's a peculiar mix.

The May Maxim is its "second anniversary special collector's issue" (hurry, before they're all gone!). It appears on newsstands in a faux foil wrapping, touting its insides with the boast "So Hot We Had to Bag It!" It's got a lot of the usual puerile he-man stuff -- lots of women in scanties, "Obi-Wan vs. o. b. tampons," and enlightening articles on what your lover says about you to her friends the night after.

But one offering here might actually be worth your time: In format and attitude (speaking of new ideas), "100 Things Every Guy Must Know" is not unlike Esquire's Dubious Achievement Awards. It has its predictably shameless facets (i.e., the illustrated "how to unclasp a bra with one hand" -- hey, I'm not proud that I read it, but I did), but many entries present interesting or useful information you could share in polite company. Examples from a very broad range: "the logic behind Mount Rushmore," what the "33" means on Rolling Rock beer bottles, the proper temperature to serve wine, why left-handed pitchers are called southpaws. Also just out from the creative geniuses at Maxim is Stuff, a lowlife reality-TV clone put to glossy stock. Some of the stories they are most proud of: "I Saw My Wife Get Killed by a Bear," subtitled "A Grizzly Tale" (get it?); "Brainwash Your Boss and Double Your Salary," and a photo spread of the "Gnarliest Sports Injuries of All Time" (make sure you wait at least a half hour before diving in). And I was at 20 when I stopped counting all the practically naked women.

Based on just one issue, it is fair to say there is no redeeming value to this Stuff. But, as you might expect, it is loaded with advertising, and it seems far more likely to have a future than, say, Life@Work.

God help us, one and all.