The poster above, created by Lamplighter Ministries for a conference at the troubled Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, had to be altered after the museum pulled the plug on the Revolution 2018 event.
The conference was hurriedly shifted to the nearby Trump International Hotel.
It was an appropriate move, given that Lamplighter Ministries is part of a larger movement of independent charismatic groups that see President Trump as fulfilling God’s plan to “bring heaven to earth” by placing Christian believers in top government posts.
So what went wrong?
In an urgent change-of-venue notice, the outfit, led by Jon and Jolene Hamill, above, said that move was the result of “extenuating circumstances” and it thanked the museum for relocating conference to Trump’s hotel.
“Extenuating circumstances” is a euphemism “almighty row”.
A group of biblical scholars, including some members of the museum’s own advisory board, objected strongly to the gathering, claiming it betrayed the values the museum says it wants to uphold, including being open to people of all religious faiths.
After deciding on Wednesday to oust the Lamplighter group, the museum “worked feverishly to find the conference an alternative venue” according to the museum’s CEO Ken McKenzie, who said:
As a not-for-profit in Washington, there’s some clear restrictions on what we can, and can’t, support,” said McKenzie. “One of them is religious services. As we look through this, the intent and aim of the organization didn’t fit within those parameters.”
Said Mark Leuchter, professor of religion and Director of Jewish studies at Temple University in Philadelphia:
They claim to be an unbiased institution of public scholarship interested in a fair and nonpartisan exploration of the Bible, and they’re not. They’re an evangelical institution with a fundamentalist evangelical agenda.
The museum, founded by Oklahoma billionaire Steve Green, has long fought suspicions of being a center for proselytism and political influence.
The museum has also faced questions about the problematic origins of some of its antiquities. In October, it acknowledged that five Dead Sea Scroll fragments it had on display were forgeries and pulled them from a display case.
Earlier this year, the museum returned a medieval New Testament manuscript to the University of Athens after learning the document had been stolen. And last year, Hobby Lobby agreed to return nearly 4,000 artifacts to Iraq after they were found to have been looted from Iraqi archaeological sites.
McKenzie, the museum’s new CEO who came on board in August, said the museum wanted to work toward being open to all:
We have a wide constituent base of folks that support us and we want to be open as the mission states to all people to engage with the Bible.
Scholars, including Marc Brettler of Duke – a professor of Judaic studies and an expert on the Hebrew Bible – said the change of venue was welcome.
I see this as an important first step among many steps. It will be crucial to see what further changes are taken in the future in the exhibits, the bookstore and the publicity, to see that the museum is really listening to the scholarly community, to the Jewish community, and to others who have offered strong objections to the museum’s current direction.