Below is a reproduced blog post of pastor/theologian Greg Boyd on the Patriot’s Bible-it is a creatively cogent and funny response to this dangerously idolatrous Bible which mixes American nationalism with Christianity.
The Patriot’s Bible — Really?
May 8th, 2009
Have you ever seen the Saturday Night Live skit entitled “Really? With Seth and Amy”? Sometimes it’s pretty funny. I was thinking that perhaps the best way to get through my critique of The American Patriot’s Bible (henceforth Patriot’s Bible) would be to give a “Really?” type report on it.
I want to preface my “report” by saying I am certain the commentators behind the Patriot’s Bible are well intentioned, godly scholars who believe they’re doing the Kingdom (and America) a great service. Despite their noble intentions, however, I believe this Bible is, frankly, idolatrous, dangerous and profoundly damaging to the Kingdom. I feel compelled to denounce it in the strongest possible way I can. The sarcasm that follows is intended for this purpose only.
Here’s some “really?” reflections, in no particular order.
* The Lord’s statement that Moses “is faithful in all My houses” (Num. 12:7) calls for a boxed quote from Grover Cleveland about how the teachings of Christ “results in the purest patriotism…”
Really? Oddly enough, Christians for the first three centuries of the church were persecuted for being unpatriotic. They wouldn’t pledge allegiance to the emperor or fight to defend the empire. Now Jesus becomes the champion of patriotism. Really? Does this hold true for Russians, North Koreans and Iranians, or just Americans? And how on earth did we leap from a verse about God’s “houses” to the topic of patriotism in the first place? Really?
* In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul notes that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but are spiritual and mighty in God for the tearing down of strongholds. This inspires the Patriot’s Bible commentators to provide the reader with a historical note about Eisenhower signing into law the clause “one Nation under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance. Eisenhower is quoted as saying this clause would help “strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our countries most powerful resource in peace and war.”
Really? Do you really think Paul – who taught us to give our enemies food and water and to never retaliate (Rom. 12:14-21) – would approve of having his authority borrowed to buttress up America’s resources in war? Really? Doesn’t this verse explicitly say he’s not talking about earthly wars and that our weapons are not carnal? Oh, and by the way, the Patriot’s Bible leaves out “not carnal” in their commentary’s quote of this verse. Really?
* Perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16 which tells us “God so loved the world he gave his only Son…” This inspires the commentators of the Patriot’s Bible to quote Colin Powell on how “the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders.”
Really? Really?? With all due respect to the bravery of American soldiers, are you really suggesting that in sending soldiers to war, the United States is acting like God did when he sent his Son? Would you be willing to grant this parallel for every nation that has sacrificed young men and women in war, or is it just the United States that is God-like in doing this? Don’t Russians and Iranians love their children too? And aren’t we tip toeing dangerously close to blasphemy when we compare our nations military with the sacrificial love of God? Just wondering.
* Jesus statement that “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36) inspires a page long commentary on the Bill of Rights, with an ominous emphasis on how the “wall of separation” between church and state today is threatening freedom of religion.
Really? Doesn’t the wall separating church and state protect the freedom of religion? But more importantly, are we to actually believe the freedom Jesus was talking about had anything whatsoever to do with political rights? Why didn’t he say so, since his audience happened to have zero political rights. He could have inspired a violent political revolution, similar to the American Revolution, if he’d connected his freedom with political freedom.
Wait a minute: this is exactly what many in his audience wanted and expected Jesus to do. How did Jesus respond? He rebuked them, telling them instead to love and do good their enemies. It’s kind of what got him crucified. His “freedom,” like his Kingdom, apparently is “not of this world.” Nevertheless, the Patriot’s Bible succeeds in accomplishing what Jesus’ audience could not. Jesus becomes the champion of political freedom after all! Patriot’s Bible — 1. Jesus — 0.
* David’s census of warriors in Israel and Judah (2 Sam. 23:8) elicits a full page commentary on “Freedom’s Defense,” consisting of quotes from various people who agreed that freedom is worth fighting for, including the 19th century former slave, Frederick Douglas.
Really? The link between David’s census and American soldiers is tenuous enough, (couldn’t this be applied to soldiers from every nation?) but what’s even stranger is that this is an account of David disobeying God. He was not to place his trust in warriors but to trust God, which is why counting his soldiers was forbidden. What’s even stranger is that Douglas is included in this list. The freedom Douglas was talking about was the freedom that the United States was at the time denying blacks!
Here’s a quote of Douglas that I wish had found its way into the Patriot’s Bible.
“Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference – so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt and wicked…I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity.”
I suppose including a quote like this might call into question the God-ruled glorious history of this Christian nation celebrated throughout this Bible. But come on. What do you think Douglas would think of this Bible — let alone having his name used to advance it’s agenda?
* A reference to Joseph being sold as a slave to the Ishmaelites (Gen. 37:28) elicits a tender quote from Dick Cheney regarding how easy it is to “take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you.”
Really? Dick Cheney the champion for civil liberties? Really? And on the topic of liberty being taken from people, why does the version of American history in this Bible gloss over the long and bloody history of how white Americans took away the freedom of millions of Africans and Native Americans? Honestly. Christopher Columbus is made out to be a hero – even fulfilling Zechariah 9:10 which says “He shall speak peace to the nations…” — and no mention is made of how he and his fellow Conquistadors cheated, enslaved, raped, mutilated and executed members of the indigenous population. Instead, the Patriot’s Bible sees God’s hand involved in this and every other advancement of white Europeans on this land. Really? Could you possibly do a better job justifying those who reject Christianity as a Eurocentric, racist, nationalistic and violent religion?
* A statement that the king of Tyre gave gifts to David (2 Samuel 5:11) occasions a commentary on President Thomas Jefferson who provided the newly converted Kaskaskia Indian tribe seven year support for a priest and money for a church.
Really? We can certainly applaud Jefferson’s generosity, but are you really going to mention this act of kindness on the part of the American government toward Indians and remain silent on the many acts of betrayal and butchery toward Indians perpetrated by, or with the support of, the U.S. government? Really?
Why, for example, don’t we find a commentary on how President Andrew Jackson signed the “Indian Removal Act” in 1830, robbing Cherokees, Choctaw and other Indian tribes of millions of acres of land once promised them because white settlers now wanted it. (Among other things, it was discovered the land had a lot of gold.) Jackson eventually ordered them to march to a little reservation in Oklahoma, and multitudes died in the process.
Is presenting America as “one Nation under God” really so important you need to be this one-sided in your retelling of its history? Really?
* Joseph’s statement to his brothers that God had sent him to Egypt before them “to preserve life” (Gen. 45:5) elicits a quote from Clarence Manion regarding the Declaration of Independence’s statement that “all men are equal in the sight of God.” In so far as any connection between this verse and commentary can be made, it seems the commentators are suggesting a parallel between God sending Joseph and God sending the Declaration of Independence “to preserve life.”
Really? I mean, I’m all for Americans being happy we’re free, but come on! Where did these commentators discover the divine revelation that God was fighting on the side of the U.S. troops against the British? After all, the British had a lot more Bible on their side in their debate with the American Revolutionaries than the Revolutionaries did (e.g. Rom. 13:1-7). And while we’re on the topic, shouldn’t a commentary on the Declaration of Independence at least mention that, when it was signed, the “all men are created equal” clause applied only to white males?
Lets celebrate the Declaration of Independence. But do we really want to suggest it was sent by God? Really?
* Following a passage that says that Abram armed his servants for war (Gen. 14: 14) the reader is given a page-long history on “The Right to Keep and Bear Arms” that celebrates the fact that early Americans were always “prepared to fight” for “liberty” which was “at the heart of their religion.”
Really? Really?? Do we honestly need a section defending – indeed celebrating – the right to bear arms in a Christian Bible? Come on! Didn’t Jesus rebuke Peter and tell him to put away his sword (Jn 18:10-11)? Didn’t Jesus tell us to “not resist an evil person” but instead “turn to them the other cheek” (Mt 5:38)? Didn’t Jesus command us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us if we want to be “children of your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:44-45)? And while it may be true that political liberty was at the heart of many American pioneers, didn’t Jesus constantly tell us to surrender our rights, giving a person our shirt if he takes our coat for example?
Yet, here we have a Christian Bible eulogizing American pioneers who were willing to kill for their personal liberty. What’s wrong with this picture?
* Though it finds every verse it can to use as an excuse to heap further praise on America, the Patriot’s Bible is curiously silent on all passages that might in any way curb a Christians enthusiasm for this (or any other) nation. For example, there is no comment on any of the passages that depict Satan as the ruler of the whole world and as owning all the authority of all the kingdoms of the world (e.g. Lk 4:5-6; Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 n 5:19; Rev. 13).
Really? Do the commentators in the Patriot’s Bible think America is somehow exempt from Satan’s rule? What part of “all the kingdoms” in Luke 4:5-6 did the Patriot’s Bible not understand? Wouldn’t you think that a Bible devoted to eulogizing this “one Nation under God” would find these passages comment-worth, if only to disagree with them?
* In I Samuel 12:13 the Lord reluctantly accommodates Israel’s demand for a King, telling Samuel that this constitutes a rejection of him. This inspires a page long commentary on how Christians have a duty to vote.
Really? Really?? I’m a huge fan of democracy, but it says something when a Bible has to stoop this low to find support for it. Come on! The whole Saul-as-King narrative is about human rebellion against God! One might have thought the passage would be used to support the view that Christians have a duty not to vote.
* You have to love this one. A statement that “the mighty have fallen in the midst of battle” (2 Sam. 1:25) inspires a commentary entitled “Duty-Honor-Country.” Here General Douglas MacArthur says that soldiers sacrificing (and of course, killing) for their country represent “the noblest development of mankind.” The commentators of the Patriot’s Bible add that “as long as other Americans serve their country courageously and honorably, his words will live on.”
Really? Really?? Christians can’t find anything more noble than soldiers fighting other soldiers in the interest of their respective nations? Not even, say, someone choosing to die for their enemies rather than killing them? Really? And does the title of “noblest development” apply to all soldiers from all countries, or just to American soldiers? Hasn’t every country thought it’s soldiers were the noblest? Are Christians really to get sucked into the age long merry-go-round bloody game of insisting that our soldiers are more noble than our enemies? Really?
I could go on (and on and on), but I think I’ve made my point. I’ll end by simply noting that the very fact that there’s a sizable market for this Bible (why else would Thomas Nelson Publisher’s publish it?) is a sad commentary on the state of the church in America. It makes me tilt my head, squint my eyebrows and say….