Americans looking to combine love of God with love of country this July 4th can quote the new “American Patriot’s Bible,” which says God has influenced America though godly Founding Fathers, presidents and soldiers.
“This Bible is designed for the decent, hardworking core of America, the ordinary man or woman who loves this nation and believes it springs from godly roots,” says Richard G. Lee, a Southern Baptist pastor from Georgia who served as the Bible’s general editor.
“Christians have believed all along that this nation sprung from Judeo-Christian ethics. Now they can say, `Oh, now I know where this uniqueness comes from in our nation’s history.”‘
More than two years in the making, “The American Patriot’s Bible” is the latest entry in a line of niche and specialty Bibles that have been targeted at women, men, parents, students, ethnic groups or people struggling with depression, addiction, obesity or even breast cancer.
For mega-publisher Thomas Nelson, the new “Patriot’s Bible” joins a catalog of bestselling audio Bibles and “BibleZines” that look and feel like glossy fashion magazines.
“It is my hope that this title can inspire people during a very turbulent time in our nation’s history,” says Wayne Hastings, senior vice president of Thomas Nelson’s Bible division, which is promoting Lee’s Bible with an “Honor An American Patriot” campaign.
In his introduction, Lee writes that “America stands without equal as a beacon of hope and freedom in a hurting world.” The “Patriot’s Bible,” he says, speaks to Americans who feel their conservative theology, politics and morals are under assault.
“We are at our lowest ebb at this particular time,” he said in an interview. “Judeo-Christian principles are being beaten down. They’re actually under attack. This has never happened before.”
Lee is the founding pastor of the 4,000-member First Redeemer Church in Cumming, Ga. A registered Republican who’s organizing an Independence Day-themed “Restoring America” conference featuring conservatives David Limbaugh and Oliver North, Lee said he’s “disappointed” when politicians “use the word of God for the purpose of vote getting.”
His goal was to create a “non-partisan” Bible, but he quotes Republican Ronald Reagan more times than Democrats Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy combined.
In an interview, Lee said he doesn’t even know if Carter, a fellow Georgian and longtime Baptist Sunday school teacher, is a Christian. As for President Obama? “I haven’t seen any patriotism from him yet.”
Lee sprinkles his Bible with some 300 articles about “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the right to keep and bear arms, the war in Iraq and religious broadcasting.
While some have praised the “Patriot’s Bible” — former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called it “fascinating” — others have condemned it as something akin to theological and political heresy.
“Get thee behind me, Satan,” wrote “Crunchy Con” blogger Rod Dreher on Beliefnet. “To the extent that this Bible’s publishers conflate serving Christ with patriotism … they are corrupt, and corrupters.”
Evangelical author and pastor Greg Boyd’s lengthy critique, posted on Christianity Today’s Web site, calls Lee’s Bible “idolatrous,” saying, “There’s not a single commentary in this Bible that even attempts to shed light on what the biblical text actually means.”
Lee says such criticisms misunderstand the purpose of the “Patriot’s Bible,” which is already in its second printing.
“Another study Bible is not needed,” he said. “The purpose of this Bible is to go deeper in people’s understanding of the nation in which we live, from whence it came, and where it is going unless we return to the Scriptures.”
Lee isn’t alone in seeking to repackage the Bible for a particular ideological audience. Some recent Bibles have targeted more liberal Christians, including “The Poverty and Justice Bible,” produced by the American Bible Society, and the eco-friendly “Green Bible” from HarperOne.
Indeed, there’s nothing new about Christians seeking divine confirmation for their views. Northern and Southern Christians did as much during the Civil War. “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other,” Abraham Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural Address.
Today, both red and blue State Christians crave God’s endorsement, said Larry Eskridge of Wheaton College’s Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals.
“The problem for those who read `The American Patriot’s Bible’ is that their contemporary Christian peers on the left cite the same source to justify their view that America has much to repent for in its economic, cultural, and military relationships to the rest of the world,” Eskridge said.
“Maybe, just maybe, the unadorned text of the Bible has something to say to both sides of the equation.”
By Steve Rabey
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.