Sunday, August 9, 2009

Let the Bible be the Bible

Marketing the Bible shouldn't descend to this level, but the likelihood that the approach is well-researched and successful is even more disturbing. Are there other instances?

Alan Jacobs reviewed The Green Bible for First Things in "Blessed Are the Green of Heart"
The Green Bible presents us with a curious kind of natural theology: We start with things we know to be true from trusted sources—Al Gore, perhaps?—and then we turn to Scripture to measure it against those preexisting and reliable authorities. And what a relief to discover that God is green. Because we already know that it's good to be green—what we didn't know is whether God measures up to that standard.
In the previous paragraph, Jacobs notes that:
.... The project website tells us that "with over 1,000 references to the earth in the Bible, compared to 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love, the Bible carries a powerful message for the earth." I am not sure what to make of this argumentum ad arithmeticum, unless the point is that the earth is approximately 1.88 times more important to God than love and 2.04 times more important than heaven. Based on my own research into this topic and following the same method, I am prepared to say that the earth is 7.04 times more important to God than donkeys (which are mentioned 142 times in the Bible). ....

.... [E]ven if the theology here were rich and deep and uniformly brilliant, I would still be concerned about a Bible with so much ancillary material on a single subject. This strategy too easily conflates a particular agenda and the whole biblical message. If God is green, then are the green also godly? The essays in The Green Bible don't do anything to discourage that line of thought. ....(more)
Now comes The American Patriot's Bible, described by Richard Gamble in a review here:
.... Modern American evangelicalism has its own way of reconciling church and state. It imagines an ideal American founding on Christian principles, blames the nation’s decline on secularists, and mobilizes politically active believers to “reclaim” America as God’s chosen land. It sees no inherent conflict between America and the gospel. Christianity is safe for America’s political and economic order. In fact, a return to the Bible’s wisdom and morality would automatically heal the nation and secure its bright future. No one need choose between allegiance to Christ and allegiance to America.

Guided by these assumptions, The American Patriot’s Bible attempts with breathtaking audacity to synthesize Americanism and Christianity. Into the complete text of Scripture itself this new edition of the Bible inserts quotations from famous American statesmen, soldiers, preachers, and scientists testifying to their high regard for God and His Word. Not content to leave it at that, this Bible also draws parallels between the sacred narrative of Scripture and the American experience. Every book of the Old and New Testament opens with an inspiring reflection on the alleged similarities between God’s people of old and America today. Some of the parallels, such as Washington as the national Moses, have been commonplace in pulpit and political rhetoric for over 200 years. Others, such as Franklin Roosevelt as America’s Nehemiah, will come as a shock, especially for anyone who expects this Bible to have a narrowly right-wing political agenda. Indeed, the book goes out of its way to be nonpartisan, ecumenical, and racially inclusive. Its message is more populist and nationalist than conservative. Its heroes range from Lincoln to Kennedy to Reagan. ....

The publisher’s marketing strategy makes the message plain. Its advertising campaign is slick and aggressive. The Bible’s website ( features a short promotional video that has to be seen to be believed. No satire is possible. To the accompaniment of stirring music, three pairs of pictures fade slowly in and out of view. The first set shows Adam and Eve and then George and Martha Washington followed by the caption, “First Families.” The second shows Moses and then Abraham Lincoln followed by the caption, “Freedom Fighters.” (In a delightful faux pas, the producers picked an engraving of Moses about to shatter the two tablets of the law.) The third outdoes the first two by showing Jesus with his disciples at the Last Supper and then the delegates of the Continental Congress followed by the caption, “Founding Fathers.” Just in case anyone has missed the point, the video ends with the words, “Sometimes history repeats itself.” .... (more)
Gamble ends his review with a conclusion about The American Patriot's Bible that with little modification could be applied to each of the annotated "Bibles." They exemplify:
...the irony of American Protestants, who adhere to the sufficiency of Scripture for faith and life yet find the unadorned text of that Word not so sufficient after all. And finally, it provides further evidence of how theologically ill-equipped one dominant strand of American Christianity has been over the past few hundred years to know how to sojourn in America, how to conceive of the United States as part of the City of Man and of the church as a stranger in a strange land.
First Things - Blessed Are the Green of Heart, God’s Country

1 comment:

  1. Hear, hear. I just touched on this the other day in a post I wrote entitled, "can there be a Christian bookstore."

    Well said.


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