Engaging Culture

The American Patriot’s Bible: Do We Need This?

OK – I really need to hear from you on this one. Why exactly do we need an “American Patriot’s Bible?” I’ve always been uncomfortable that we so easily mix the church and nationalism (like fighter planes on the church video screens on the Fourth of July.) Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for God and country, but Christianity should transcend nationalism, not melt into it. Christianity should be counter-cultural and rise above all earthly governments. This Religion News Service article states:

“While some have praised the “Patriot’s Bible” others have condemned it as something akin to theological and political heresy.”

Evangelical author and pastor Greg Boyd’s lengthy critique, posted on Christianity Today’s Web site, calls Lee’s Bible “idolatrous,” saying, “There’s not a single commentary in this Bible that even attempts to shed light on what the biblical text actually means.” Lee says such criticisms misunderstand the purpose of the “Patriot’s Bible,” which is already in its second printing. “Another study Bible is not needed,” he said. “The purpose of this Bible is to go deeper in people’s understanding of the nation in which we live, from whence it came, and where it is going unless we return to the Scriptures.”

I’m all for a better understanding of our nation and where we came from. There’s no question about the motives of our founding fathers, or the role of Christianity in the birth of our nation. And we need to be unashamed when we acknowledge that. But to publish a Bible focused around that notion is really out there from my perspective. Dr. Richard Lee is a great pastor and I’m sure his intentions were the best. But we can honor our country without mixing it up with the scriptures.

What are your thoughts? Too far? Right on? I’m listening.

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35 Comments

  1. I think the answer would be “No we don’t need this!”  Americans have plenty of Bibles. Anyway, Thomas Jefferson already made one of these by cutting out all the miracles and super natural events from the Bible (The Jefferson Bible).  I’m still a bit weary of God and country nationalism.  Seems like we make our history a little to simplistic.  We had some great Christian leaders and some. . . well some regular people as well.   

  2. Definite no. I don’t like mixing religion and politics. One of the reasons I left my last church was the pastor telling us from the pulpit how we should be voting on certain things. Hated his statement: “I don’t think there is anyone in this church that would be against X”……ahem. I was.

  3. I must agree with you and the above comments-there’s entirely too much “God and country nationalsim” in our churches. I too felt it wise to leave a church just after an election because of the (implied) voting preference of the congregation. We don’t need this Bible.

  4. That is the most terrifying thing I have seen in a LONG time. Wouldn’t it be funny if some Iranian Christian came up with an Iranian patriot’s Bible?!!!!

  5. Unfortunately, this “Bible” reflects both the inability of a large segment of evangelicalism to keep nationalism in its proper perspective, and evangelicals’ willingness to equate patriotism (the “God ‘n country” mindset) with Biblical truth.

    It doesn’t surprise me that is has been published or that it is in its second printing.  And among Christian conservatives and fundamentalists I’m sure it is finding a receptive audience.  They probably look at people like me and question my spirituality (as well as my patriotism) because I think it’s a crock.

    To me this is akin to the western materialistic mindset that has influenced so much of evangelicalism in the last thirty years.  We don’t know who we are as people of God; therefore we’re prone to allowing ourselves to be labeled based on temporal norms that objectify non-Biblical concepts.  It’s just another sad manifestation of cultural Christianity.  

    Specialized Bibles are fine – we’ve seen a number of them in recent years.  But when the commentary and content is extra-Biblical and agenda-driven, something’s wrong.  Dr. Lee should have just written a book and left the Bible out of it. 

  6. This is one more sad example of an unholy alchemy – faith, family, country and blood.  This bible raises the banner of “America as a Christian nation” and ignores years of chattel slavery foundational to the systemic, institutional racism that codified and normalized unspeakable brutality and oppression as “the divine order of things.”  “Slavery at one time,” Frederick Douglas said “had the power to interpret the Bible and control the church.”  Apparently in its second printing that power is still very much alive.

    There are serious historical questions in my mind, Phil, about the motives of the founding fathers and the role of Christianity in that process.  In a room where there are no women, people of color or children, the words “all men are created equal” are conceptually inspiring but hollow in actual practice. Jefferson’s intellectual deism does not see value in “every nation, tribe and tongue.”  The real God of the of the real Bible does.

  7. Sigh…

     

    What’s fascinating about this is that it seems to have brought full-circle the conflation of American patriotism and spirituality.  For a long time, well-meaning and often ill-informed believers have sought to co-opt the 18th-century religious and political beliefs of a good number of our founding fathers into a 20th and 21st century understanding of Evangelical Christianity.  Now it seems that some would like to co-opt scripture into 21st-century notions of patriotism [read that “conservative patriotism].

     

    This seems the ultimate example of mis-guided proof-texting.

     

  8. You might be dead on with your last line “… Too Far Right”

    Predictably the ministry marketing minds have again found a common ground for their target, albeit out of touch, audience. No great revelation to be found, simply marketing wrapped around holy text. Scary Territory if you ask me.


     

  9. In my (never-ending) quest for a new bible, I have came across this bible at Mardels.  I flipped through it for a few minutes.  My first impression of this bible was… “Why?”  Why would someone publish a bible like this?  I set it back on the shelf and moved on.  I am STILL searching for the right bible for me.

  10. I would liken the desire for America to be a theocracy to Isreal’s desire to have a king. That’s all.

  11. Phil-

    I personally served with Dr. Richard Lee for over 14 years and I will tell you that he is a man of utmost integrity and conviction. The purpose of the American Patriot’s Bible was not to “add another Bible to the shelves” but to simply bring the reader/student of the Word back to focus on the founding of this nation which the liberal press and government intervention has stripped from our consciousness. Yes, this nation was founded on the Judeo/Christian ethic and, yes, our forefathers based most of the founding of this nation on Biblical principles and, yes, we would not be the country and nation we are today were it not for the blessings of God alone. The problem is, most people have become so apathetic and complacent in their understanding of who we are as a nation that this Bible begged to be written. Before you or anyone else bashes the content (ceratinly NOT the Bible but the added commentary from Dr. Lee,) perhaps you need to read it thoroughly. Then you will realize the true significance and need for such a work. II Chronicles 7:14 will take on a dynamic meaning in the hearts and lives of all who take the time to study and read this Bible. For many, that’s long overdue!

  12. We need this bible for the very reason of these comments.  We need to remember that our nation WAS founded by imperfect men and women that served a perfect God that had a perfect plan.  Part of that plan was stated in the Mayflower Compact and was the goal of many who came to this country – to have freedom to worship as they choose, and to spread the Gospel to a new land.  God has blessed America because America has, in its history, spread the Word of God throughout all nations.  Why do we need this Bible?  Because if we don’t get over this “separation of church and state” non-sense then our future is lost.  Are we a Christian nation?  In principle – Yes, and we always have been.  If the church does not impact the state then the church is dead.

    Why does this Bible not include all the attrocities that have occurred throughout American history?  Because that is not the point of the Bible.  It does not ignore the attrocities, and gives proper place and recognition to those brave men and women in American history that have stood up against evil.  To say that this Bible is lacking because it doesn’t cover atttrocities is disingenuous at best and deceitful at worst.  This Bible is about how the Scriptures have been influencial in our nation.  This Bible is about how this nation is, in principle, a nation built upon a Judeo/Christian ethic that comes from Scripture.  We need to remember that.  These comments are exactly why we need this Bible.

     

    1. “If the church does not impact the state then the church is dead.” What? How? Does your church have need for influence in government in order to be a “church”? A church draws it’s life from it’s members, or believers as I understand it. A church has no authority in government, and should never have authority in government. My nation is my nation, and has nothing to do with my church. To say that church is dead without impact on state is incorrect at best.

  13. Very scary.  God’s word is for all God’s people, not just Americans.   I also hate the phrase “God Bless America” because what is unspoken is that God shouldn’t bless anyone else.  The Patriot’s Bible should be abhorrent  to any true Christian.

  14. To say that this Bible, in any way – shape – or form supports a theocracy is ignorance.  I don’t mean that to be rude, but it is a statement from ignorance of this Bible, this editor, or this publisher.  Christians, with any sense of patriotism, want freedom of religion – all religions.  That is how we protect our own religious freedoms.  Is this the definition of theocracy?  Of course not.  However, that does not mean that being a Christian nation, in principle (meaning the morals of Scripture are what guide our morals as a nation), is forcing Christianity on anyone.  It is saying that we are to be good, kind, loving, moral people at the heart of our nation.  How can that be compared to Israel wanting a king?

  15. The problem with study bibles in general and this one in particular is that the casual reader (as much as 85% in one poll) thinks that the study notes in a bible are of the same or similar authority as the actual biblical text…

    Write a book… wave your flag… but keep your ideology seperate from the Scriptures…

  16. Tim,

    This is not a Study Bible and does not claim to be.  Again, this is NOT a study Bible but one that highlights the impact that Scripture has made upon this nation.  How is that a bad thing?  I don’t know if you know this, but there is an enourmous amount of ideology in Scripture.  It’s not about keeping ideology separate from Scripture.  It is about making sure that our ideology is completely in line with Scripture.  There again, this comment highlights the need for this type of Bible. 

  17. Phil,
    Reading this from an Australian’s perspective puts it in the ‘those crazy Americans’ category. Us Aussies can never understand the connectiion you guys make between patriotism and scripture.

    All we do is publish things like ‘The Aussie Bible – well bits of it anyway’ which use Aussie vernacular to tell the story of Jesus. Don’t think its quite as bad as this one.

     

    Martin

  18. I can’t believe what I’m reading. This Bible “gives proper place and recognition to those brave men and women in American history that have stood up against evil”. Why should the Bible do that? You are implying that their stories should be added to the Bible. Why not simply write a different book about them?

    Let me ask you a question. Would you object to, for instance, to a British patriot’s Bible? Or how about an Iranian patriot’s Bible? There are Iranian Christians, and many Middle Eastern countries were Christian before Islam conquered them.

    God is not American.

  19. Just to add another comment to this: I for one am against Bibles with ANY commentaries alongside them, for the simple reason I have lost count of the number of times people tell me God spoke to them through the Bible when they actually read something in the commentaries! By all means write seperate Bible commentaries (and books on American patriots, etc) but the Bible should just be the Bible.

  20. “It is about making sure that our ideology is completely in line with Scripture”.

    So you are implying that the study notes in this Bible are the Holy Spirit inspired words of God, like the Bible?

    I completely agree with the original poster who pointed out people use study notes to put across their own ideologies. I can cite numerous examples of this.

  21. Simon,

    To say that inserting stories of Americans within the pages of a Bible is somehow heretical is quite a stretch.  To say that this editor and the publisher seems to want to “re-write” Scripture and add to the Bible is also asinine.  It is just simply trying to make an argument where there is none.  And, there are arguments to be made, but that is not one of them.  I know that sounds insulting, but I don’t mean it to be.  However, choose your arguments wisely.  By your argument, there should be no study Bibles (which this is not a Study Bible nor claims to be) and all commentary should be added outside of the Bible lest anyone thing an editor or publisher is adding to the Scripture.  It just doesn’t hold water.

    To answer your question – no, I would not object to such Bibles.  You’re right, God is not American.  I dare you to find a section of this Bible that insinuates that He is.  I have no objection to any nation who was been blessed by God to acknowledge where their blessing has come from.  Nor do I have any objection to any nation highlighting the influence the Scriptures have had on their history.  I would be proud to stand strong beside my Christian brothers and sisters of all nations, of all races, and of one people – the family of God joined together by the acceptance of Christ as Savior.  We are Christians.  We are not ashamed and we will not reject or hide our heritage.  No nation or people are perfect.  However, America is full of good people – many of whom are Christians.  We are, today as in our past, “One Nation, under God.”   

  22. Simon,

    Don’t blame the Bible or its commentaries for user error.  User error of Scripture has cause some of the worst attrocities known to mankind.  Some people will read what they want to read in a Bible, commentary or not.  The Bible does stand alone – no doubt – and always will.  No one even attempts to say that these additional stories are equal to Scripture.  Thanks for your interesting comments.

  23. I certainly disagree with Boyd on SOME things; but not THIS…I believe the hardest place to live the life of a genuine disciple is the US of A. Too many confuse our patriotism with our faith; and our alleged “judeo christian” heritage causes too many easily swayed people to think all of our forefathers were followers of Christ. How we can even sing “God bless America” as the slaughter of abortion continues is beyond me. God’s chosen people are the Jews…and, thanks to Jesus “roses are reddish, violets are blueish, thanks to Jesus we can all be Jewish.”
    I pray (begrudgingly) for our president; I apprecaite the freedom we (so far) enjoy in this nation; I served in the Army (and Nam) prior to salvation; but I hope no one ever gives me a patriots bible…I may get in the flesh rather quickly.

    May God direct us to be used of Him to capture individual hearts; not “recapture America”…

  24. I wouldn’t say Bibles with commentaries alongside them are heresy, but personally I am not in favour of them for the reasons I have already outlined, and on that we shall simply have to agree to disagree.

    Not everyone is as well educated as you appear to be, and there will be ignorant people who read the articles added into the American Patriot’s Bible (and other similar Bibles) thinking God has spoken to them “from scripture”. I have seen this happen again and again with other Bibles that contain anything more than simple footnotes, and it is particularly insidious when the commentators interpretation is clearly at odds with what the Bible actually says.

  25. It’s interesting that Grey Boyd, an open theist, is concerned about “what the biblical text actually means”…  Nevertheless, he happens to be right on this one.

    Furthermore, I think there are serious questions about the motives of our founding fathers and the role of Christianity in the founding of our country.  I know a lot of folks who desperately want to believe that Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, et. al. were all devout evangelicals.  So far as I’m aware, that contingent was mostly deist, maybe even leaning agnostic.  Granted, there were some solid believers, and perhaps are legal system took some cues from the Ten Commandments, but let’s not go about saying that “this has always been a Christian nation” because of our founders (which I understand isn’t being said explicitly here…).  We need to be honest to be credible.

  26. If I might weigh in…

    I’m personally not opposed to study Bibles; I think many can be helpful as a quick reference, especially as regards historical or cultural context.  However, I think you hit on an important point: do your own work first when studying Scripture.  Commentators are generally speaking very well educated and compentent in their fields.  However, they are still just men, and many well respected evangelical scholars disagree on a lot of things.  Though their motives are (hopefully) good, we ought not simply trust them in what they say.

  27. I cringe slightly every time I hear or read that the “United States is a Christian nation.” I wholeheartedly agree that this nation was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles but we are not a theocracy.  Saying we are a Christian nation implies that religious clerics, or in our case, pastors and priests, are calling the shots – like is done in Iran or other Muslin nations.

    In my opinion, I think the founders of our nation wanted to create an environment where religion was able to be practiced freely without fear or prosecution. In centuries past in England you could be imprisoned or executed simply because you were not Catholic or were not Protestant, depending on who was the king or queen at the time. In the Soviet Union you could be sent to prison or a labor camp because of religious involvement. Thomas Jefferson, in the letter he wrote to a friend about the separation of church and state was concerned about this type of action. Liberals today take it out of context by claiming it means religious people should not be in official positions or talk about faith in public settings. Our founding fathers were not concerned about faith being expressed in political or public settings nearly as much as they were the persecution, not by other citizens, but by government itself for such religious beliefs and expression of them.

     

  28. No, no, and no.

    If there were a “need” for this type of information, the proper thing to do would have been to write a book (not publish a Bible) about American History, and use scripture to back it up as needed. 

    This book, inserting American-centrist “patriotism” (including war) into the holy scriptures is an abomination. My furthere thoughts are found here.

  29. So, what are you all so afraid of?  If you don’t think you need it, then don’t read it.  It’s still a free country…..so far.  But that’s changing too!

  30. “It is about making sure that our ideology is completely in line with Scripture.” Why must American ideology be “in line” with Scripture? And what of those Americans for whom the Scriptures mean nothing? Our founding Fathers fled Europe at a time when religion was  being imposed on them, and their intent for this country was religious freedom. There are patriots who won’t be believers.

    You are pretending that you do not know the word “patriot” is incendiary. Loaded. I should point out to you that the church should keep its ideology to itself and leave the nation alone. Jesus did that during his ministry, and for his entire life kept his ideology away from the Roman occupation and did not for one moment interfere in politics.

    Listen to the words folks are speaking to you in this thread and stop being an apologist for the division and bigotry this bible is attempting to ramp up..

     

     

  31. “we do not need it.” Thankfully I see a backlash happening but it has been slow. The church must understand it does not find its identify in America, it finds in Jesus. Far to many people who are giving Christianity a bad name can not tell the difference between their culture war and the work of the Kingdom.

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