Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Red White and Blue Bible

The headline caught my attention: “Conservatives can seek relief in new ‘Bible’". It sounded interesting. A Baptist Pastor in Georgia has published “The Patriot’s Bible.” Surely, as I read this must be a spoof. Reading further I saw this was no joke. A new Bible, two years in the making smothers the Scripture with 300 articles which are not commentaries on the Biblical text but are comments on various political themes, some as much as four pages. Greg Boyd writing on Christianity Today’s blog, Out of Ur says the text of this new Bible is to further the patriotic agenda of the commentators. This edition elevates America to chosen people status which belonged to Israel in the Old Testament. America is glorified at every point. Boyd points out that the problem is that The Patriot’s Bible “excludes from consideration almost every aspect of American history that could blemish the image of America or its heroes.” There is no mention of what this country did to Native Americans, African-Americans, or to the Japanese during the Second World War. Certainly no mention of My Lai massacre from the Vietnam days to the Abu Ghraib of our own time.

The danger of such a book is equating America as God’s chosen people and that everything from gun control to giving approval to the wars that America has fought. There is no judgment on the 47 million without health care and no articles on repentance for past sins. Boyd also points out that one contributor quoted John Quincy Adams as saying that “the Fourth of July is the most joyous and most venerated holiday after Christmas,” and claims they are indissolubly linked. Whatever happened to Easter, not to speak of Pentecost or the Lenten season?

I am reminded of how Hitler used the Church and the Bible to push his own agenda. And Churches all over Germany knuckled under to his poison. If the churches had refused the story might well have been different. The Bible is not a book to promote any country’s agenda. It is dangerous when Bible’s pages are filled with quotes from American heroes and articles about the glory of America. Some people including children will not be able to separate text from the pictures and the propaganda.

This whole sad effort reminds me of another attempt to use the Bible for another’s purposes. Thomas Jefferson, newly elected President in 1803 took scissors and paste and clipped out all the passages of the Bible he did not like. When he completed his new Bible in 1819 he called it: "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” He took selected verses from all four gospels and pieced them together into a single narrative. He began with Jesus’ birth but there were no mention of angels, genealogy, or prophecy. The miracles were deleted and no reference to the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus or the Resurrection. This Bible was never published until 1904.

But I put The Patriot’s Bible and the Jefferson Bible side by side. One adds much to the text. The other Bible takes away much from the text. I do believe there is an admonition in the book of Revelation that warns: “I warn everyone who hers the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city…”(Rev. 22.18-19a) The bottom line is that none of us have any business tampering with the words of the Bible. We ought to open the Book and let God’s spirit speak to us. The Kingdom of God and America are not the same. To try to link the two is not only wrong but dangerous heresy.

1 comment:

  1. Everyone tries to use the Bible for their own agenda. Everyone has a "canon within the canon," whether texts are explicitly excluded or not. Of course The Patriot's Bible is stupid. Of course Jefferson's is representative of Enlightenment theism masquerading as Christianity.

    But I wonder, are we as offended by "The Green Bible"? I doubt that we are as worried over Bibles whose agendas are closer to our own. I actually get more angry at Gideon Bibles than all of the above.

    We should be careful with the leap to Hitler though. With the revival of interest in Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church, it has become to fashionable to compare American Christianity to Nazi Christianity. Our situation is different. Perhaps more dangerous, in its own ways, but different.

    The Kingdom of God and America are not the same. Right-o. Jesus Christ and Barack Obama are not the same. In a world of sin, confusion abounds.