Windows and Doors

The New Patriot’s Bible continues an old tradition found among at least one of the founding fathers; i.e. privileging the reader’s word over God’s. I expect however, that Pastor Richard G. Lee and the other editors of this new edition of scripture would object to their being placed in the same category as Thomas Jefferson, who edited his own version of the Bible, including only those passages which fit with his deist views. But like the former president, Lee and his colleagues have made editorial decisions which place their views ahead of the received tradition. So like it or not, in the name of the Bible, they have subverted scripture. It’s pretty funny, actually.
Of course the idea that a received sacred text can grow and even comment on itself is as old as the bible. The book of Chronicles is clearly a commentary on Kings, as is John on the other three Gospels, and that is just to name two obvious cases. But the implied claim that this process is still unfolding with regard to either the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament places these so-called fundamentalists in a camp with the most theologically radical folks who reject that the canon is closed at all. Again, the humor of this should not be missed. Nor should the fact that once again we see how those we often think are most different from us, may actually be the most like us.
But unlike those who edit scripture to privilege the poor, or women, or Africans , these people think that God is a white, conservative American and it’s in their understanding of what that means, that things become decidedly less funny. “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 Pastor Lee. Does that mean that other bibles (or The Bible) are not? Does he mean that those who find editions of scripture other than his are not “decent”,” hardworking” or part of the country’s “core”?

Lee’s answer seems to be that they are not. And with that answer, the Patriot’s Bible puts its editors understanding of patriotism ahead of not only anyone else’s, but ahead of the bible itself. Ironically, this kind of nationalized religion is one of things against which the founding fathers struggled most. It is the ultimate idolatry which marshals a particular understanding of faith in the service of a narrow politics. Both God and patriotism are too big to be owned by any one side. And when that is not the case, bad things happen to those on every side.
Worse still is Lee’s marketing approach, based on anger and fear. “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.” So we get a bible that nurtures people’s sense of rage and disconnection, their feelings of being victimized and under attack. And this work is his response to that perceived attack — a new scripture for the beaten down. Just what the world needs, one more entrepreneur of sacred rage.
Ultimately, and perhaps most interestingly, Lee continues the tradition which created a Hebrew Bible for beaten down slaves leaving Egypt, and a New Testament for those in desperate need of a Messiah and the new world order he was to establish. Like each of those events which established new religions, that is what this Bible aims to do whether its editor admits, or even realizes, it. With new religions being created every day in this country, it really shouldn’t surprise us. I wonder if it would surprise Richard Lee and those who embrace his bible.

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