The Patriot’s Bible and Justified Torture
I was supposed to get back to you on a third application of the infinite nature of God’s intelligence and love but I’ve had a lot on my plate this week. Among other things, I’ve been spending some time at the Woodland Hills Bridge, a very cool on-line community Woodland Hills Church is hosting throughout our Animate series. Also, Leadership Journal invited me to write a review of The American Patriot’s Bible (Thomas Nelson Publishers – henceforth referred to as Patriot’s Bible) that will be published in a couple of weeks. My review will come out sometime around Memorial Day at Out of Ur. I originally thought this might take four or five hours, but I found this new version of the Bible to be so shocking I ended up spending a good portion of three days studying the thing cover-to-cover (doing some background checking in American History along the way).
In light of all this, I’d like to put the third application of God’s infinity on the back burner and spend a few posts talking about the Patriot’s Bible. I’m not going to steal the thunder from my forthcoming review, but I amassed 17 pages of single spaced notes on this thing, so there’s plenty to talk about.
The Patriot’s Bible consists of hundreds of commentaries on various patriotic themes, ranging in length from one sentence to four pages, inserted at various points (and quite randomly) throughout the New King James Version of the Bible. It is, quite honestly, one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever witnessed coming from a Christian publishing house.
One of the more unsettling aspects of the Patriot’s Bible is the way it unashamedly glorifies nationalistic violence. Almost every nation and tribe throughout history has shared the idolatrous assumption that its military victories were evidence of divine favor. This has been a staple of pagan religion from the start. From its earliest days this same assumption has permeated American culture, it’s just that our tribal warrior god was called “Jesus” or “Jehovah.” In the Patriot’s Bible, this idolatrous mythology is given the appearance of divine authority by being interwoven into the biblical narrative.
From cover to cover, and in a wide variety of ways, the Patriot’s Bible is filled with glorified nationalistic violence. A good portion of its commentaries focus on America’s victorious wars (Vietnam, not so much) and on war heroes. Moreover, the introduction of every book of the Bible is accompanied with a montage of national monuments, symbols, stars and stripes, etc…that include, with few exceptions, images of armed soldiers, bombers and battleships. Most remarkably, each Gospel (The Good News of Jesus Christ!) opens with a picture that includes soldiers struggling to raise a flag under the words “In God We Trust.” All the subsequent books of the New Testament open with a montage that includes a flag waving behind the Statue of Liberty on one side and armed marching troops on the other.
When you consider the uniform and emphatic teaching of Christ and the New Testament authors that followers of Jesus are called to love and do good to our enemies, laying down our lives for them if necessary, this overt celebration of America’s violent victories over our national enemies is absolutely stunning. When you consider that Jesus explicitly repudiated Jewish nationalism (despite the fact that Israel, unlike America, actually had a special status with God) and that the New Testament consistently teaches that Gods’ Kingdom transcends national boundaries, the Patriot’s Bible celebration of American violence becomes more shocking still.
It testifies to how thoroughly the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been subverted by the Gospel of America among many Christians.
It just so happened that, as I was putting the finishing touches on my review for Leadership Journal about a half dozen people almost simultaneously e-mailed newly released findings from the Pew research Center that reveal that evangelical Christians as a group have a significantly more positive view of torture than any other group in America. The group that has the lowest view of torture are non-church goers.
One might wonder how the group that is supposed to be the most passionate about the Saviour who commanded us to “not resist an evil-doer” (Mt 5:39) became the group that is most in favor of torturing them. Having just read the Patriot’s Bible, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
Nations have always lived and died by the sword. As I argue in The Myth of a Christian Religion, when nationalism and religious zeal are fused, the sword is wielded all the more passionately (which, by the way, is why it’s always been in the interest of national and tribal leaders to get religious institutions on board as they rally troops for war). The Patriot’s Bible and this recent Pew Research Center poll simply demonstrate that this nationalistic and religious idolatry is tragically alive and well in American Christianity.