Reflections on an Idolatrous Bible
Beginning with my previous post I’m offering some reflections on the New American Patriot’s Bible (henceforth Patriot’s Bible).
The Patriot’s Bible opens with several prefaces, one of which is an essay entitled A Call To Action. Here the contributors sound the alarm that “[o]ur freedom to serve God and to promote the gospel in our land is disintegrating.” No evidence is given in support of this alarming claim, but fighting this alleged encroaching loss of freedom is one of the reasons this Bible was published. To this end, Christians are encouraged to persevere like George Washington (who elsewhere is referred to as the “American Moses”). Washington, we are told, lost most of his early battles in the Revolutionary War, but through perseverance he ultimately defeated his foes. Consequently, we American’s “won our independence from the British and became a free people.” And then the contributors to the Patriot’s Bible add, “Our Lord taught us that when we put our hands to the plow of a righteous cause, we are never to look back, but to persevere and prevail” (Luke 9:62).
This is most certainly not what our Lord taught us in this passage. In the context for this verse, Jesus repeatedly emphasized the need for people to forgo normal social conventions if they wished to become his disciple (vss 56-62). All of this followed right on the heals of Jesus’ rebuke of his disciples for wanting God to violently punish those they perceived to be enemies of the Gospel (vs. 52-55). In this context, Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Notice how the Patriot’s Bible completely subverts Jesus’ teaching. George Washington’s perseverance in killing fellow Christians (who were, by the way, also fighting “for God and country”) becomes an illustration of Jesus’ teaching about the perseverance required in service the Kingdom of God. The dedication demanded of all who chose to carry the cross in the name of Christ (Mt 10:38; 16:24) has been cleverly stolen and used to encourage dedication in wielding the sword in the name of America. The call to persevere in sacrificing oneself while loving enemies has become a call to persevere in sacrificing one’s enemies to preserve one’s freedom.
Washington replaces Jesus as the one we’re to emulate and the kingdom of America replaces the Kingdom of God as the kingdom we’re to persevere for.
The issue, of course, is not that some people view Washington as a nationalistic hero and are grateful America is no longer under British rule. Problems only arise when some attempt to weave the narrative of American heroism and military victory into the narrative of the Bible. This is what the Patriot’s Bible is all about, and it constitutes blatant nationalistic idolatry. Among other tragic consequences, it undermines the beautiful distinctiveness of the trans-national Kingdom of God and the call of followers of Jesus to live a radically different, counter-cultural, Calvary-looking kind of life.
The particular example of nationalistic idolatry I’ve discuss in this post occurs in the Preface of the Patriot’s Bible, and it tragically sets the tone for this entire work. From cover-to-cover, the biblical text is co-opted and made to serve American patriotism. I have 17 pages of single-spaced examples that are similar to this (some of which I’ll share in subsequent blogs, others of which will be published in my review at Out of Ur. In my opinion, the pervasiveness and egregiousness of the nationalistic idolatry found in Patriot’s Bible is nothing short of shocking.
I encourage you to read the Bible — but not this one!