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."
John Paul II
October 30, 1978
June 18, 1979
John Paul, Superstar
October 15, 1979
May 25, 1981
January 9, 1984
Man Of The Year
December 26, 1994