31.5.09

American Patriot's Bible: The Trailer


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 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 here 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 think the BWC should do something 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? We could also take a few of the most perverse conflations of scripture and American history and refute them historically, theologically. Or we could 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, my own blog, writing for other publications - to excoriate Christian institutions, though not individual brothers and sisters, 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 - as BWC and as individual believers?

30 comments:

  1. The appropriate response? Chill the frak out!

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  2. I think it's fair to publicly review the content of a publicly published book. It would not be fair to assign motives to the publisher of the book, though.

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  3. i think the easiest country to trace it's christian roots would be ethiopia, which actually is a christian nation. it could be an interesting counterpoint too, since they by no means have the same material blessings as the u.s. the funniest would probably be canada, since they have a somewhat parallel history to the u.s. i think the best critique would be to take passages and point out why they are theologically and/ or historically inaccurate.
    in terms of if this should be private or public, i agree with larry. this is a publicly available book and is open to review and criticism. i don't know what could possibly be accomplished privately. with the florida church you mentioned, a private confrontation could realistically lead to a change of the policy. in the case of the book, i'm sure a private confrontation couldn't result in the book not being published, or even the publishers apologizing for it.

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  4. "Josh" you aren't going to like what I have to say, just a warning bud.

    I am disgusted by this. It continues to amaze me how people could read the Bible and think, "hmm that there, I'm a thinkin he loves us here more than them over there,God Bless America!" I beg the makers of this edition to show me those passages, so I can know how they justify creating something so polarizing and exclusive to frame the most all encompassing work of literature ever written.

    I have said this before and I will continue to say it, GOD IS NOT AN AMERICAN . I know as Americans who have been taught that we are better, stronger, smarter, and superior to all other countries, but that is simply not true. God does not love Americans more than he loves French, British, Iraqi, African, or even Canadian people. It also is not a sin to not be a patriot. I can refuse to say the pledge, refuse to support the military, and never fly the flag without sinning. One's faith and ones degree of patriotism have nothing to do with one another, as shocking as that is to people like my Grandfather who think I have lost my faith because of my political beliefs.

    Even if the creators of this edition of the Bible don't think that America is somehow more bestowed with God's grace than any other nation, this is still ridiculous to me because that whole part in the beginning of the "trailer" about Jefferson and the founding fathers creating the Constitution from the Bible, (therefore, I imagine justifying why we need a patriot version of it) is bunk.

    Thomas Jefferson was a fierce and ardent believer that religion should not interfere with government and vice versa. He, as President, shunned national prayer and observed holidays. He was the one who created the concept of "Seperation between Church and State". He was very religious, yet saw how dangerous it was to mix his faith with his country and did everything in his power to make sure that didn't happen. I highly doubt that Thomas Jefferson, one of the creators of the Constitution, would have (or support) the "American Patriots Bible".

    I just wish the people that come up with these concepts that Christianity and America are mutually exclusive concepts would do some actual research and see that God didn't send Jesus to Earth to be a political leader, he sent him to be Love. If we focused on that more perhaps America wouldn't have as many problems as this "blessed" nation does.

    Here are some helpful links if you don't believe me about Jefferson:

    http://www.usconstitution.net/jeffwall.html

    http://members.tripod.com/~candst/tnppage/baptist.htm

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  5. I think some good ol' satire would do the trick.

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  6. John, I don't see why you feel you must do anything. You have made it clear with your blog post that you don't share the same feelings on this topic as Dr Lee, who compiled the Patriotic Bible. Isn't that enough?
    Seems to me that if we spent all our time going overboard about every book that is published which we don't agree with, we'd never get any of God's work done.

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  7. Kudos on the thorough review for Out of Ur; however, I'm not sure the world beyond Ur gives a flim-flam about this, we're watching the new season of Wipeout and trying to decide if the Reef sandals make our toes look fat.

    Maybe a response is needed, maybe not. If so, methinks Jordan of Green hath a good idea...a little satire might be nice. But anything that borders on excoriating, or "to take the skin off"? Mercy. The paint's still not dry on that Pew study on torture...

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  8. Excoriate was a lazy choice or words. Thanks, John.

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  9. James, your rebuke of John implies a particular vision of what "God's work" is, one which appears to be only evangelistic, presumably in a 20th century form. I would object to your exclusion of rebuke to fellow believers as a necessary part of the unfolding of God's redemptive plan. John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul (or his various ghost writers) and the apostle John all spent significant time in rebuke of fellow believers or religious leaders--publicly, mind you--practices which apparently do not agree with a modern evangelical ethos.

    Further complicating your criticisms is the fact that the general editor in the promo video explicitly makes this bible an evangelistic tool by suggesting that unbelievers who love their country might find the bible appealing as an introduction to the faith.

    It's precisely the bastardization of the faith implied in that missional outreach that must be blasted out of the water--and publicly.

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  10. 1. The bible is being worshiped, not God. This is true with any cause-related Bible, whether it's the green Bible or the patriot's bible.
    2. If we read the Bible and heed Christ's words, it's pretty easy to see that the US (or any government, for that matter) and the heart of Christ aren't exactly buds.
    3. Larry, I think you're right on.

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  11. Matt, your analysis of my comment is completely off-base. I never mentioned evangelism or any of the items you attribute to my alleged motives behind my comment.

    I don't mind a debate, or even a rebuke, but have the decency to base it on something I actually said or meant.

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  12. he was basing it off of "Seems to me that if we spent all our time going overboard about every book that is published which we don't agree with, we'd never get any of God's work done." if he misunderstood what your point in saying that was, then i did too, because i thought he was dead on.

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  13. I never mentioned evangelism. Evangelism is a small subset of "God's work" which is a phrase that I did use. I am just amazed that John is so worked up about this. Yes, the Patriotic bible is out of line. No argument. But so are thousands of books, includiong specialty bibles. John seems to pick this one out and want to raise up a lot of opposition to it.

    It reminds me of a problem I have seen on a larger scale amongst my fellow believers in the last 20 or so years. We seem to think that if some book, TV show, sermon, song, or movie says something that is not biblical, we must protest it. I fail to see how we are ever called to do so, although the idea of rebuking a false teacher does have give some merit to the idea.

    Secretly, I think many of us believe that if we complain about something that we see as ungodly, we are becoming more spiritual by doing so. I'm not accusing John of that, but saying that in a more general sense.

    Truly, there are some things so heinous that they must be stopped, and we are free to try and stop them, through protests or votes or civil action. I just have a hard time seeing that this Patriotic bible warrants such efforts.

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  14. i think there's a pretty obvious difference between protesting a bible for being unbiblical and protesting a tv show. and you seem to be making the point that there's a lot wrong with the world, so why bother with any one thing.

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  15. Aaron, you hit the nail on the head. I am getting worked up, not over a book or a movie, but over a "Bible" that is unbiblical.

    The only other Christian book I've protested - apart from the occasional negative book review - is "I Kissed Dating Goodbye", and that was because my girlfriend at the time was really into it and it made my life difficult.

    I could have organized protests against "The Passion" because of its fascism, but I didn't. I could have organized protests against "Fireproof" because it was bad, but I didn't. We could all organize protests against movies or books with bad theology (i.e., theology we disagree with) or bad writing, but we don't, because we agree to disagree - and besides, who has the time?

    I don't protest the shelves of books at Family Christian Bookstore which attempt to fuse nationalism and Christianity. But the American Patriot's Bible is different. This is the Bible wrapped in an American flag.

    I don't question Richard Lee's right to edit such a book, nor Thomas Nelson's right to publish it, but I think believers have a responsibility - as well as an evangelistic opportunity - to make it clear to the world that the commentary in The American Patriot's Bible violates the scriptures it claims to illuminate.

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  16. Well, I can tell we are never going to be on the same page here. Fireproof was cheesy and had bad acting and an ametuerish script, but hardly unbiblical. And the Passion--I have no idea where you see fascism there. So I'll bow out and refrain from commenting on your posts from here on in, as we are coming from very different perspectives. Peace.

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  17. James,

    See this is what I don't get. We're coming from "very different perspectives," as you say, which is why you SHOULD be commenting. I hope you reconsider. Thanks for your input.

    John

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  18. My apologies. I didn't mean that I should never have commented. I meant that I said my piece: I don't think the Patriotic bible is that big a deal. And you think it is, and your other comments make it clear that we are so far apart that once the points have been made, that's pretty much all that needs to be said.
    One of these days, you'll have to post about the fascism you see in The Passion, though.

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  19. As someone who has studied German history in great detail and is married to a German whose family was greatly impacted by a nationalist regime, I find it important to discuss the premise of this particular Bible. While the publisher and authors obviously have the right to publish it, we the public have the right and even responsibility to discuss and analyze its premise and purpose. The worst thing we could do as a general public would be to close our eyes and accept, or even worse- ignore, the melding of nationalism and religion simply because it was placed before us. Opinions on this matter must be heard, and a good dose of education couldn't hurt, either.

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  20. By the way, I think the idea to highlight another country's history in regard to biblical roots would be right on target.

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  21. Kim:
    While I am not married to a German, and I probably don't have the extent of expertise in German history that you do, I did live there for a couple of years, and I did take some upper-level courses in German history when obtaining my History degree, so I am in a position to make a an observation or two here.
    I was fascinated when I took a class focusing specifically on the rise of the Third Reich, and how millions of people could get sucked into such diabolical thinking. That said, there is a notable difference between nationalism and patriotism. Sadly, in many of the things I read these days, including in comments on this and Larry's blog post regarding the Patriotic bible, I see nobody willing to note the difference. Additionally, I see some comments that lead me to think some folks can't handle the idea that God has some special purpose for the US; that He has used this country for some good purposes over the past 200+ years.
    I hesitate to mention such a thing, because that statement will get twisted into something I never said, about God loving the US more than other nations, or some other similar nonsense.
    But it's like I tell my kid, who seems to excel at some things, both academically and athletically: If you can do something that others cannot, it's a gift, and God expects you to glorify Him with it; it's not for your glory, but His. Likewise, if God has planned to use us, which He certainly has over the years, for good purposes such as protecting and rescuing others, and sharing our wealth with others, that's to His credit. It doesn't mean we are a better nation than others. It just means He chose to use us in some beneficial ways. Such an observation does not equate nationalism. It's gratefulness, when framed properly.
    And yes, I know that our nation has done a lot of ungodly things, too. That has no bearing on whether or not God has called us to do some good things. A reading of 1 Samuel makes it indisputable that David was called by God to do some things that He didn't want anyone else to do, yet David sinned repeatedly. The fact that B is true does not prove that A is wrong.

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  22. Wow. All those typos will make anyone question whether I am lying about having graduated high school, let alone college. Still, I'm too sleepy to correct it. Good night. And God bless America.
    ;)

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  23. James,

    You mentioned a notable difference between patriotism and nationalism. I may have missed it in your comment, but what is that difference?

    To bring my own experience into it, I spent time in Bosnia, progressive and multicultural nation that was slaughtering each other 15 years ago. I have a hard time separating the nationalism I saw there (certainly not with everyone) with the patriotism I see at home.

    I think you're right. There is a difference. It's just that difference has become harder and harder to see in the last 10 years.

    I thank God I live here, too. And that's about the extent of what I think patriotism should be.

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  24. Nationalism=
    --Putting my country in a place higher than God
    --Thinking of my fellow citizens as better than those of other nations
    --excusing our nation's sins

    Patriotism=
    --Being thankful for the blessings we receive
    --being thankful that God wants to use our nation to do good
    --praying that God will preserve our nation, and continue to use us for His purposes
    --praying that God would forgive our sins as a nation, and deliver us from those sins
    --all of the above despite our sins, but not glossing over or excusing those sins

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  25. That makes sense. I'd agree with those statements.

    My issue is, these are only semantics. Sort of like, "love the sinner but not the sin." While the sentiment is right and true, what it comes down to really is not loving anyone. American Christians may believe they've struck this balance, but speak ill of American policies and they're liable to get upset. Mention there may be better nations in the world at giving, and you'll get indignation.

    If we're looking at patriotism in a positive light (not something that ever comes up in the Bible as far as I know), it's really about humility, and understanding there is something greater than us.

    Some Americans pay lip service to this, but but when I compare "patriotism" in the US to Serb/Croat/Bosniac "nationalism", i see very little difference. It's about hubris and arrogance.

    Here's a further definition of patriotism.

    http://www.answers.com/topic/patriotism

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  26. I'm sorry you have run across so many people like that. I have, too. But I also know a lot of people who do truly and effectively hate the sin and love the sinner, as well as people who love the US, think it's a nation worth praying for, yet place their nation in the proper persepective.

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  27. America does have a Christian heritage; but American was founded on religious freedom before it was founded on Christianity.

    As for our founding father's faiths:

    John Adams was a Unitarian Universalist.
    George Washington reportedly stopped taking communion.
    Benjamin Franklin was a hedonist.
    Thomas Jefferson was a deist and transcendentalist. He created his own bible, The Jefferson Bible, in which he edited out the parts he didn't like: such as Jesus saying he was God, Jesus rising from the dead.

    Abraham Lincoln's faith didn't mature until he was in the White House; but he refused to talk about his faith in public.

    These are our founding fathers. Should we elevate them to theologians? No. To good politicians? Yeah. But let's not call them Christians and make a Bible out of it.

    How you fit that kind of diversity into a patriot's bible is beyond me.

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  28. Susan, I have tried to stay away from making those types of points in regards to this debate about whether or not the US is a Christian nation, simply because both sides can come up with hundreds of examples. For each one you cite which says a Founding Father was not a Christian, someone else can come up with a quote from a John Q Adams which is the polar opposite. And in fact, if one were to pick up a copy of the Patriotic bible, such examples are probably in there. So the auther (Dr Lee) need not, as you put it, fit that kind of diversity into a patriot's bible. He'd just need to ignore the diversity.

    Like I said, if God did indeed have a special purpose for this nation, using its founders as examples is not wise. We got used for God's purposes in spite of our Founders, not because of them.

    On a nitpicky note, Lincoln was not a Founding Father. He came along almost a century too late.

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  29. OK, I'll stop commenting after this. The thing I was concerned about was that if I am right that God chose to bless us as a nation so that we could bless other nations (and I could build a strong case with Scripture that He blesses individuals for the purpose of blessing others, a truth that the Prosperity Gospel preachers have missed out on), then we should show some appreciation, just like with any other blessing.

    What I am seeing in some comments, both here and in other places, is a rejection of nationalism, but also a rejection of the idea that God might have done exactly what I said He did. It's a gift. We got to play a part in the end to persecution of Jewish people. We got to be home base for many outstanding missionary efforts that have impacted countless souls. We have shared wealth with many starving nations. That is a blessing. That is a gift from God.

    It's baby/bathwater thing.

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