"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

5.30.2007

zooming to meet our thunder

Ethics Daily ran an article yesterday about a rather disturbing product now being produced by a division of the Southern Baptist Convention's publishing house. Holman Bible Outreach International is now producing a Holman CSB Military Bible designed for military personnell. This Bible was distributed at a weekend festival that may or may not have been sponsored by the U.S. Air Force, depending on who you ask.

I don't think there's anything wrong with outreach to military personnell and their families; certainly the young men and women who are going to fight in our wars need the support and care of churches and Christians. So even though this Bible makes me roll my eyes a bit (does anyone really need a military-specific Bible?), I tend to see it as little more than a marketing ploy designed to sell more Bibles.

But look at what else this Bible apparently includes (quoting from Ethics Daily):

"Other special features in all editions, according to one on-line vendor, include the Pledge of Allegiance, plan of salvation, prayers of General George S. Patton and President George Washington and quotes from current Commander in Chief President George W. Bush."

I still haven't picked my jaw up off the ground. The Pledge of Allegiance? Quotes from President Bush? In a BIBLE? Published alongside what is, according to the Southern Baptist Convention, the inerrant word of God?

There's something deeply disturbing about this. While the appropriate expression of patriotism is certainly right and good, it doesn't belong in a sacred text. The kingdom of God is not the kingdom of this world, and it's certainly not supposed to come to fruition through the political systems of the United States of America.

To be fair, Holman certainly isn't publishing a text that's out of line with the practices of many churches, Baptist and otherwise. The megachurch around the corner from my home (which I foundly refer to as "Six Flags Over Jesus," because its sanctuary resembles nothing so much as a circus tent), has a Fourth of July pageant that features soldiers (or people dressed as soldiers) rappelling from the balconies. As a child, my church had a similar, if not quite so elaborate, pageant, during which veterans were asked to stand up and be recognized while the choir sings the song of each branch. I was always so proud of my daddy when he stood up for the Air Force Song.

Maybe there is an appropriate time in our churches to honor our veterans and to recognize that we are fortunate to live in a place where we can freely express our religious views. I think it's possible to do so without becoming a mouthpiece for an unbiblical civil religion. But the melding of patriotism and Christianity as expressed in the Holman CSB Military Bible is going too far. Way too far.

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