If one were to gauge influence by the number of Time Magazine covers, Pope John Paul II is the most important religious figure in the publication's history; having graced the cover over 15 times.
Religion and spirituality are featured prominently in a new book titled Inside the Red Border that celebrates the iconic magazine's 90th anniversary.
"Time Magazine has always been fascinated by religion," Howard Chua-Eoan explained to The Huffington Post. "It goes back to Henry Luce, the founder, who was the son of missionaries." Chua-Eoan should know. In addition to rising to Assistant Managing Editor, he also held the position of Religion Editor. "Time has had a religion section from the beginning."
While not coming close to Richard Nixon, who held the record of the most covers at 55, John Paul II was a very "newsy" Pope. He was a good figure for Time Magazine to champion, as Chua-Eoan explained: "John Paul II stood up and inspired a rebellion against communism, and that was perfect for the Time audience which is very American, slightly conservative and viewed the Soviet Union as a threat. John Paul II was a hero in the eyes of many people at Time."
Another favorite the magazine identified early on was a young charismatic preacher named Billy Graham. "Luce saw the influence he might eventually have as a religious leader and as a counselor to presidents and Luce was a big influence in the decision to follow his career," said Chua-Eoan.
The magazine also covered major stories such as the rise of Buddhism and or spirituality in general. One cover featured in the book shows Shirley MacLaine floating in space with a big Om... as the headline.
Of the 90 years Time Magazine has chosen a Person Of The Year, only five have been religious leaders: John Paul II, Pope John XXIII, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Gandhi. As Chua-Eoan explained, "They were chosen more for their political influence than their spiritual wisdom."
When asked if Pope Francis had a shot for this years Person of the Year, Chua-Eoan demurred. "I have no idea. Everyone has their favorite name. But I hope so, I would love it."