Thursday, August 26, 2010

The American Patriot Bible Tops Amazon Lists. Is this a good thing?

Am I the only one who find this disturbing? I know that the American Patriot Bible (APB) is not new. I followed the controversy last year when it was first published. But the news today that it reached the top 100 slot in Amazon's book list and #1 in the Bibles and Sacred Texts list reminded me of it.

I had opportunity to look at the APB once in a bookstore. Its hard to describe how it made me feel. I am Christian and a biblical scholar so the Bible is important to me. I am also an American who is not only thankful for my country but proud of it. But combining the two between a book cover does not sit well with me.

I can't remember what all I saw as I flipped through the APB. But one image in the APB that has stayed with me is that of Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima, which the editors placed at the opening to the four Gospels. What does Iwo Jima have to do with Jesus? I am not sure how to even connect the two.

I realize that the Bible has had a lot of influence in American history. Our founding documents, some of our laws, the cornerstones of our government buildings, and the speeches given by our leaders have often reflected the Bible's influence on our society. Some of it, however, has also been very negative. A couple years back I wrote a chapter on how the Bible was used to keep African-Americans enslaved in this country. I can't remember if this part of the Bible's influence in American history was represented in the APB, but I doubt it.

I suppose my biggest objection is that the APB takes the final step towards "Americanizing" the Bible. Too often Americans read the Bible with little to any concept that it was NOT written with us in mind. We read the Bible as if the writers or even God was speaking about or to America (I realize that last sentence will open the proverbial can of worms). I do think that the Bible can speak to modern people all over the world, not just Americans. But we cannot (or at lest should not) read it in such a way that we exclude other peoples, that is, the rest of God's creation.

Americans have been interpreting their own history into the Bible for centuries. Some of the earliest New England settlers were quite good at it. But my fear is that once we have completely Americanized the Bible we neuter its ability to speak to us prophetically. I don't mean that it will tell us the future. Rather, if we really do value the Bible as we say, then Americanizing makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to use it be critical of ourselves. In the end the Bible will no longer be "God's word to us" but "God's word about us."

I am interested to hear what others have to say. Am I off base here? Am I missing something?


  1. John,
    I believe you are right on the money. I love America as well, but I think that many Christians in America have elevated (or at least equated) their citizenship here above their citizenship in the Kingdom of God. It certainly reflects in their missiology and their interpretation of how we are to reflect Jesus Christ to the world. Sad to say (and not to open another can of worms), that there seems to be no country like America mentioned in end time events. I believe that we do not exist in our current state at that point. It makes me wonder what the folks we are discussing will do.

  2. John... welcome to the rough and tumble world of politics and blogging!

    I agree with your concerns completely.

  3. I am not surprised in a sense as this seems to be a line being drawn in the sand - the captivity of the church, hence evangelical is understood in a most negative sense. Sad but of course Christ perseveres and the Kingdom will continue to emerge

  4. Allan,

    Thanks, I guess this is political. I want to avoid politics as much as possible here, but this issue is kind of hard to overlook.


  5. I'm not American, but I've read thorough descriptions of this book and the war it glorifies American politicians and American wars.

    The fact that this sort of thing is so popular terrifies me, frankly. It means the rest of the world can look forward to more centuries of America's boot stomping us in the name of Jesus.

    I guess that's what happens when you get man's kingdom of war and lies confused with God's kingdom of peace and love.

  6. John,

    This also speaks to the Christian consumer who buys this junk!

  7. True story: Sean and I ran into this edition while checking out Bibles at a Christian bookstore in Columbus. An interesting "discussion" ensued.