By Richard Land
I am a hopeless bibliophile. I love reading books, fondling books, being surrounded by books, looking forward to reading books, and remembering fondly books I have read and reread.
Consequently, I drop by a local bookstore a couple of times a week just to peruse the new selections and to browse for an hour or so. Alas, I seldom leave empty-handed, but instead with several books I have purchased. Anxious to read them, I usually start reading at least two at a time (I am most often reading at least three books at the same time.)

During my last semi-weekly browse, I picked up a copy of Grand Theft Jesus, by Robert McElvaine, subtitled “The Hijacking of Religion in America.” Imagine my surprise at finding that I was mentioned on at least 10 pages, although never in a favorable light. That’s OK–everybody is entitled to their own opinion. However, as the late great Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan so famously said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.” Indeed.
I won’t bother to take issue with most of the scurrilous accusations made against me and many other Christian leaders in Grand Theft Jesus. I will, however, point out two places where the author’s facts are 100 percent wrong. I will then leave readers to draw their own conclusions about how they should judge the other alleged “facts” in this diatribe masquerading as a book.
Example number one: McElvaine asserts on page 140 of his book that in Dallas in 1980, I proclaimed that, “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.” I didn’t say that. Bailey Smith, then the president of the Southern Baptist Convention said it, and I took exception to his statement at the time. I didn’t agree with his view then or at any other time in my life.
Example number two: McElvaine asserts on page 106 that Will Campbell (famous or infamous Baptist theologian, depending on your perspective) told him that he (Campbell) had a conversation with me at an unspecified Southern Baptist Convention in which he questioned me about my views of Scripture, and reported that, “Dr. Land told him that he believed in every word of the Bible and it all should be followed literally.” Campbell said he then followed this up by asking my views of “Thou shalt not kill,” and when I purportedly said, “Well, that has to be interpreted,” Campbell responded by calling me a crude name for an anal orifice.
There are several problems with this story. First, I have no memory of ever meeting, or much less having a conversation with, Will Campbell at a Southern Baptist Convention. And considering Will Campbell’s notorious reputation among traditional Baptists such as myself, and the fact that I do know, and have known, who he is for more than three decades, I would have remembered such a purported encounter.
Second, I would never have said during my adult lifetime that all the Bible should be interpreted “literally.” I believe the Bible to be God’s Holy and authoritative Word and to be “truth without mixture of error,” but that it should be interpreted as it was intended to be interpreted–historically, metaphorically, prophetically, or apocalyptically, according to which type of literature each passage presents itself to be.
My response to Campbell’s purported query about “Thou shalt not kill” would have been, “You and I both know that means ‘Thou shalt not murder.'”
Third, anyone who knows me knows that had Will Campbell called me such an ugly and vulgar name, the conversation would not have ended there. Either Campbell has mistaken me for someone else, or he has borne false witness.
Shame on you, Robert McElvaine. And if you actually told this purported “story” to McElvaine, shame on you, Will Campbell.
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