Conservative Bible: Include me out

Rod Dreher calls it “insane hubris”.

These right-wing ideologues know better than the early church councils that canonized Scripture? They really think it’s wise to force the word of God to conform to a 21st-century American idea of what constitutes conservatism? These jokers don’t worship God. They worship ideology.

Mark Shea writes:

Have I mentioned how much I appreciate the Catholic Church’s large and bovine imperturbability and slowness to be moved by stupid cultural frenzies, fevers and fashions?

Ed Morrissey:

The challenge of Christian believers is to adhere to the Word of God, not to bend the Word of God to our preferred ideology. Doing the former requires discipline and a clear understanding of the the Bible. Doing the latter makes God subservient to an ideology, rather than the other way around.

I’ll state it plainer. This is where I get off the boat.

During the 2008 elections, I suggested that some Christian Conservatives might be making their ideology into their idol. I got a lot of hate mail for that, too.

Well, what do you think now:

“As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible…”

You know, I don’t buy tampons that are designed “by women, for women” because I do not believe that a tampon is intrinsically better because of exclusivity. To create a Bible “by conservatives, for conservatives” seems to me to be just as needlessly parochial, and not a little proud and arrogant. Just what do these folks suggest? A rewriting of all existing translations of the bible:

* identify pro-liberal terms used in existing Bible translations, such as “government”, and suggest more accurate substitutes
* identify the omission of liberal terms for vices, such as “gambling”, and identify where they should be used
* identify conservative terms that are omitted from existing translations, and propose where they could improve the translation
* identify terms that have lost their original meaning, such as “word” in the beginning of the Gospel of John, and suggest replacements, such as “truth”

Replace “Word” (“Logos”) with “Truth” because “word” has “lost its original meaning.” As if “truth” is not a relativistic word in this age?

“In the beginning was the Truth, and the Truth was with God and the Truth was God…”

God is Truth, but that is not what the scripture says, is it?
Scripture says in the beginning was the Word, the Logos – which suggests something beyond Truth and moves into Intention. The Word goes forth -it moves on the air, it moves with the Spirit. The Truth is not the same; they are not interchangeable. As the propagators of this terrible idea would surely agree: words mean things.

If you want to reclaim a word, why not start with a reclamation of the meaning of the word, Holy, which has fallen into great disuse, which is a shame because it brings enormous clarity.

This from Swampland:

Passages like the story of the adulteress whom Jesus saved from being stoned with the famous line: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Conservapedia complains that liberals have used this story to argue against the death penalty.

Oh, come on now – these people are not to be taken seriously! Are they going to edit out the entry into Jerusalem because the laying down of palms might smack too much of recycling road materials?

Earlier this year I mused on an idea:

. . .from Richard John Neuhaus’s American Babylon; Notes of a Christian Exile, where he wonders if some Protestant Americans -those bereft of liturgy and sacraments- have not created a sort of ecclesiastical substitute for those things in their intense nationalism. That is, are they making up for what is lacking in their worship -the outward pageantry, the sensory cues- within their patriotism? An interesting question. . .

Perhaps these Conservapedia folks personify the question. They appear to be confusing “sacred” things with “holy” things.

The flag is sacred. The scriptures are Holy. The constitution is sacred. The Word is Holy. Our bodies are sacred. The Body of Christ is Holy.

These words are sacred:

The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present…As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disentrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
Abraham Lincoln, Remarks to Congress, 1862

These words are Holy:

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?
– Luke 9:24-25

The “Conservative” Bible is an attempt by some
who are clearly “enthralled” with their ideology to wrestle Eternity to the ground and conform it an Age. But the Age is fleeting; it is already a passing illusion. An attempt to re-translate the Bible to suit one’s worldview is to belong too much to the world, itself, and to worldly solutions. Translate the Bible to gain a wholistic world view, and you may very well forfeit yourself.

These busy bees might best serve themselves, their cause and their Lord by withdrawing a little bit from the world and taking some “time in the desert” away from the television, the radio, the gathering crowds. They need to break away from “enthrallment” to “detachment” or they will become all they despise.

Believe me, I know whereof I speak.

On a superficial level, I can understand the concerns of some of these Christians. Yes, the left does misappropriate Jesus, lately more than ever. Yes, the gender-inclusive language is a cheap sop to the age that strips meaning, humor and poetry from scripture. But these people are talking about translating scripture to suit an ideological bent. In this way, they are exhibiting a kindred spirit with the sorts of people who make “Mary and Josephine Nativity Sets” because doing so validates their beliefs, even if it is totally made up.

When Jesus came, some could not reconcile the humble carpenter with their worldly notion of what a Messiah was supposed to be. They were too much in the world, seeing with only worldly eyes, and so they missed Him. Some conservative Christians are too much in the world; they give the world too much credence, and respond to the world in worldly, rather than otherworldly ways.

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
— Romans 12:2

“But Anchoress,” I can hear some saying, “you’ve got it all wrong! These people are deliberate working in opposition to the world, so they’re not conforming to it.”

No, they are thinking as the world thinks, therefore they are conforming to it.

He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
–Matthew 16:23

Finally, one cannot escape this irony
: Conservapedia makes a point of posting these lines from Rev 22, and then adding an insufferable (and, I am sorry, but intellectually vapid) dare:

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

You have been warned.

Got that? You’ve been warned. Ohhh, scary and not at all loving or inviting.

That is a possible misapplication of scripture, as there is some disagreement as to whether John is referring specifically to his writings in Revelation, or to the Bible entire (which had not yet been complied), but whether it is or is not, perhaps these folks should reconsider arbitrarily changing “Word” to “Truth” in the beginning of John’s Gospel, or reassessing Jesus’ merciful rescue of the woman caught in adultery according to their worldly -and thus very faulty- lights.

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  • mrteachersir

    @HCS Knight Jerome’s Vulgate is an excellent translation of the original languages…as is the RSV, NAB, and NIV. The Douay-Rheims, while a stellar read, is a translation of a translation. The Second Vatican Council has nothing to do with anything.

    I think the Bible is conservative enough as it is. We get much of our conservative ideas from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition anyway. Sure, many modern translations are pathetic, but that just means we should stick with the RSV-CE.

  • Christine the Soccer Mom

    Reminds me of a politcal rally I was at (for Sarah Palin, if I’m not mistaken). One speaker, a self-described Christian, said that America is the world’s “last best hope.”

    Um, pardon me, but NO Christian should say such things. America is not permanent, and is NOT the last, best hope for the world. There is but ONE Hope for the world, and that is Jesus. And all Christians need to understand that. We must keep our faith, not in principalities of this world, but in Christ Himself.

  • dry valleys

    I have a King James Bible & an Anglican Book of Common Prayer (1662). But I obviously am reading them more for their literary merits & because of their cultural significance, what with the influence they’ve had over literature, than for any theological reason.

    But have you not thought that, while this is the most obvious & blatant political translation, politics has always been involved? In recent times there have been left-wing translations, as your commentors have been at pains to point out, & even racist translations designed to “prove” that white supremacy is enshrined in the Bible.

    You reject all these, but what is it you’re supporting?

    In the old days- apart from the wrangling over whether laymen should read the Bible at all, once it was decided to have it in English the arguments began immediately. The debates over the Apocrypha, the exact purposes of the commissioners, the intended readership… all smells like politics to me. Hence the frenzied arguments over what the original Greek/Hebrew/whatever mean.

    Worth further explanation- but probably not by me & definitely not at 10:30pm :)

  • Brandy

    I confess that in my younger and less God-fearing days, I was struck with a notion to create a tongue-in-cheek website entitled “Build-A-Bible” where you could pick and choose the passages of the Bible you wanted to include, add passages if you felt inclined, etc. I’m sure it would have been very profitable but something about the sheer irreverance of it just caused me not to wholeheartedly pursue it. I think even the most hardened of hearts should be careful about messing around with the Word of God. I, for one, would not want to be Martin Luther.

  • jj

    I would like to congratulate Conservative America. You have now officially become as loony as the Left. And this website was and is correct: Conservatism has become the new faith of far too many Christians. My guess is that most Born-agains will accept this bible and abandon the KJV. Only Satan wins.

  • Clay Barham

    If we go back to 1620 when the Pilgrims landed, they held fast to their Geneva Bibles and that book became the first constitution for the start of America. If individual freedom began in New England and followed the scriptures and gave us a free and prosperous nation, which itself is “conservative,” could we not recognize the Geneva Bible as our conservative start? See

  • Kdaunt

    Rewriting the Bible in order to take passages and ideas away from liberals (so those ideas aren’t abused) is like trying to do away with violence by taking away hand guns. It’s not the tool, it’s the wielder.

  • Ruth Ann

    Would I be correct in presuming that this new translation of the Bible will not be a Catholic Bible? Catholic Bibles require a Nihil Obstat and an Imprimatur. Surely this “conservative” Bible will get neither.

    I am content using such Catholic Bible translations as NAB, NJB, and NRSV.

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  • Bender

    America is the world’s “last best hope.”

    It does seem awfully impious. But the phrase does have an honorable history –

    “Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.”
    – A. Lincoln, Message to Congress, December 1, 1862, one month before the Emancipation Proclamation took effect.

    Ronald Reagan, himself a man who had a way with words, adopted the phrase in “The Speech” that he gave on behalf of GOP nominee Barry Goldwater –
    “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”

  • W Krebs

    All other considerations aside, incessantly tinkering with Bible translations does not reflect a conservative disposition.

    I’d be more impressed if they proposed reverting to some generally respected scholarly translation that was made before the fad for new translations began.

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  • Lynn Maudlin

    *sigh* This is the latest in the “we can be MORE STUPID THAN YOU!” competition…

    One of my favorite passages is Joshua 5:13-15, on the eve of the battle of Jericho where Joshua runs into a mighty warrior with a drawn sword, and Joshua asks Him, “are you for us or for our enemy?”

    Well, what’s the answer? If is a Christophany, then this is essentially God who set apart Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who gave the law to Moses, who lead them in the wilderness for 40 years after they refused the first entry into the promised land – OF COURSE He’s on “their side” – right?

    But no, the answer (in my paraphrase) is “Neither. As the Ruler of the Host of the LORD I Am here; it’s not My place to be on ‘your side’ but your place to be on MY side.”

    It’s our place to shape ourselves to Him, to allow Him to prune, to purify, to refine us – we don’t get to specify what is eternal and what is burned up like wood, hay and stubble. I suspect soooo much of the political impulse falls into that category.

    This is one more specialty Bible, directed at a certain market segment. Me, I’m waiting for the Bible directed toward women who love left-handed men born in June…

  • Diana

    I recall from my study of Greek language and literature in college (several decades ago, admittedly) that “logos” is the opposite of “chaos.” “En arche en ho logos” (transliteration of the first half of John 1:1), in the beginning was Order, “kai ho logos en theos”: and the Order was God. In choosing “logos,” the author may have meant, among other things, to set apart Christianity from the myths that preceded it. In Greek mythology, in the beginning was chaos, and the gods arose from chaos. In Christianity, in the beginning was Order, and the Order WAS God. God is Creator, not created. If I were to hazard a guess, the author of John chose “logos” very deliberately as the opposite of “chaos.” To translate “logos” as “truth” misses the point of the author’s clear distinction between the old mythology and the new beliefs of Christianity.

  • BenK

    Playing the same corrupt game as every body else doesn’t work, unfortunately. Any good points to be made get swallowed up. And so, by believing a sort of game theoretic idea – that in the universe of cheaters, only cheaters win – the conservatives, in this case it seems economic conservatives, lose the battle by trying to win it through the same corrupt methods the feminists and other groups used.
    Now, we do need translations of the bible that uphold conservative ideals – in so much as those are upheld by the bible, and Christian conservatives must believe they are, and must be frustrated by attempts to eliminate them in so called ‘modern translations.’

    Also, we should be particularly interested in a bible that is willing to cast (appropriate) doubt on the woman caught in adultery passage, because that is a doubtful passage and yet it colors so many readings of the whole bible, the gospels particularly. But we should keep the two issues separate, so they each get a fair hearing.

  • Micha Elyi

    The CE in RSV-CE stands for Complete Edition, the others having been redacted, right?

  • Rich Rodriguez

    Conservapedia was founded by Andrew Schlafly, son of Eagle Forum founder and conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. Like you, Anchoress, I think Andrew and the folks behind Conservative Bible Project are a bunch of nuts who have placed the flag not on an equal to the cross, but above it.

    As a Lutheran who abandoned the liberal theology of my college years (formerly with the Disciples of Christ) because of its ever-shifting, and increasingly belligerent, beliefs, I place the Conservative Bible in the same camp. That is, they have a strong need to reinterpret or outright rewrite the entire Bible to fit their specific beliefs. That in and of itself is blasphemous. Who is to say that after the translation is completed, they decide to go at God’s Word again to reflect whatever will be deemed “conservative” or “free-market” in the future?

    I have written a similar critique of the Conservative Bible Project on my blog,

    Rich Rodriguez
    West Covina, CA
    2 Cor 1:3-5