Thursday, April 07, 2016
The Bible as State Book? Why?
There really is so much weird religion in the States. The most wretchedly mean-spirited candidates in the presidential race invoke the bible but obviously take none of it to heart. Everyone intones "God bless America" to the point that it means next to nothing. What would it mean, anyway? That God blesses the United States because...why, because?
Now we learn that Tennessee is going to declare the bible its state book. It's curious enough that states and provinces have designated birds and mammals and flowers. Massachusetts has a state fish, represented by the so-called "sacred cod" which hangs in the legislature.
Why chose a sacred text as a state book though? We live in a pluralistic age, where different religions are respected, at least in law. Choosing one holy book offends or diminishes others, not to mention those who don't adhere to any sacred text.
Perhaps more importantly, history tells us that the bible is at its best when it challenges the status quo, and the "principalities and powers," not when it is coopted by them. The bible has been at its worst when it is used to justify harm to those who are disempowered and disenfranchised. The ugly truth is that Tennessee was a slave state, and the bible was probably used to justify the evil institution on a regular basis.
The bible is at its best when it lifts up the lowly and scatters the proud in the imaginations of their hearts. We know that Henry VIII hunted down those who translated the bible into English because there was so much which challenged imperial power within its pages. The King James Version was a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" attempt to control the message. The bible is a subversive book which upholds Christ's new way, his reign.
I'm pleased to see that a number of Christians leaders from different denominations are opposing this bill. To be clear, the bible is the most important book for me. But instead of declaring the bible a book of significance through legislation, why not simply make its message meaningful from the pulpits of churches and in the actions of our personal lives? Or is that too foolish a suggestion?