Focus on the Family - The Patriot's Bible, Revisited

Last month, John Pattison and Larry Shallenberger brought the “American Patriot’s Bible” controversy to light in this post and this post, respectively. There was much dialogue around the issue on whether we should consider this publication offensive as Christians and, if so, what our response as Christians should be. It (both the APB translation and ya’lls response to it) has been on my mind, and though we may have beat horse dead on some angles of discussion, indulge me this one anecdote and the conclusions and further questions I’ve drawn from it:

My parents sold the house I grew up in and I flew home last week to save whatever I wanted from my old room. I ran across a few of my old Bibles, including the “Precious Moments” translation. Actually, I don’t know what the textual translation was, but the text was accompanied by lovely pictures of white, toweaded children petting lambs and such. The pictures were comforting* as I, too, was a white, towheaded child. Though it was subconscious, I believe that I saw all the characters of the Bible as being just like me.

I would like to think that I have left these elementary views of the Bible. I would like to think that I can read it from an unbiased standpoint, both as piece of history (distinct from any tie to the United States, as it were, which is where I think the APB gets off track), and as a book that has real implications on my life today.

But the scariest thing about this, which I’ve come to realize through a discussion with a friend who introduced me to the wonder that is the APB, is my own tendency to do the same thing as the APB translators: I still translate and view the Bible based on my own chosen lens. (The implications of this are vast, and I think if we were to admit them, we wouldn’t have much ground to stand on in pointing the finger at the APB editors.) Once I have chosen my lens, I then have to be really crafty, trying to fit everything that is God into this myopic view. And time and again the same truth smacks me across the face like a whale’s tale: God will not conform to fit our vision of what he/she should be like.

Most of me agrees with John's desire to publicly shame the writers of this Bible (I, too, want to distance myself from them and others whose publications/attitudes embarrass me as a Christian and do little further the Kingdom).

But if we turn the finger around, to what extent do our own broken lenses (identifying as American, male, female, cynical, naïve, gay, straight, conservative, liberal) keep us from seeing the the Word clearly?

*Not considered precious moments in Bible history: Jael driving a tent stake into a man’s head (Judges 5), description of men’s testicles in Deuteronomy, pretty much all of Song of Solomon, Sodom and Gomorrah burning to hell while Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt because she looks back (Genesis 19), etc., etc.


  1. Nice post, Scott McKnight writes about our selective readings of the Bible in "The Blue Parrot."

  2. Regarding the word "toe-headed", according to my grandmother, who passed away a few years ago, that word comes from the sacks they used long ago for picking cotton. If she was right, the word is probably "tow-headed" instead of "toe-headed".

    Unless it's supposed to refer to kids with feet-colored hair. :-)

  3. Anonymous,

    Thanks for the correction!