I’m uneasy in general about the specialty Bible trend in Christian publishing. This extends even to specialty Bibles I might be inclined to agree with – for example the Green Bible, which prints in green ink some or all of the 1,000 passages in the Bible that refer to God’s care for creation, and which includes essays from writers and leaders I admire: Archbishop Tutu, N.T. Wright, and Wendell Berry.
But this new American Patriot’s Bible is too much. Larry Shallenberger, in his BWC blog post earlier this month, rightly suggested the idolatry of this book (for let’s not call it a “Bible”). The purpose of the book is not to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, nor to equip us for every good work; its purpose is to promote the myth of American exceptionalism and justify deeds (both past and present) that are hateful to God.
The publisher, Thomas Nelson, has released a couple “trailers” for the American Patriot’s Bible. (I am frankly – and perhaps naively – disappointed in Thomas Nelson, which has published at least four books we like at the Burnside Writers Collective.) In addition to the video posted above, you can watch a nine minute promo here. “For the first time ever,” intones the narrator, “the history of America’s Christian heritage and the Holy Bible are woven together in a single volume.” You can also read a response by the general editor of the American Patriot’s Bible, Richard G. Lee, to Greg Boyd’s scathing two-part review on the Out of Ur blog.
I want to do something, probably on the BWC blog, to lay bare the sham(e) of the American Patriot’s Bible. Some things I’ve been considering: a series of posts weaving together the Bible and the history of some other country: Canada? Sweden? the Federated States of Micronesia? Or take a few of the most perverse conflations of scripture and American history and refute them historically, theologically. Or just post a series of short excerpts from the book and let the blasphemy speak for itself.
A quick confession: My first response to public injustices by the American church is almost always public criticism. I want to use the media – this blog, the main BWC site, the BWC blog, writing for other publications – to excoriate Christian institutions, though not individual people, of course.
I recently heard about a megachurch in Florida that instituted new policies for its worship team. The policies require worship team members to wear the same color, forbid them from moving around on stage or lifting up their hands, and disallow the participation of anyone who is overweight. When I heard this, I was enraged. I started writing. I was going to call out the church by name. I said things like “I am going to crush them in print.” But then I was reminded by people I trust that public criticism (even of public injustice) may not be the correct way to handle the situation, that scripture specifies a private confrontation among believers, at least at first. I deleted the post, dissatisfied.
Is it possible that the initital confrontation of the American Patriot’s Bible should also be private? What does a private confrontation even look like when we are dealing with institutions? What do you think is the appropriate response?