Conservatives versus the Bible

Raphael, The Death of Ananias, 1515-16.
Raphael, The Death of Ananias, 1515-16.

I’ve been busy with research and setting up interviews for some upcoming pieces. Even so, I couldn’t help noticing that there has been another upsurge in fundamentalist Christian self-righteousness in the U.S. I’ll have a post on that shortly.

In the meantime, here is an open letter I wrote in 2009 to the editors of Conservapedia, who had launched a new, online Bible translation project. The goal of the project was to rid Christian scripture of left-wing biases. No, I’m not kidding. The same people who say that they can’t tolerate atheists, gays, or adherents of rival religious sects, because the Bible tells them so, decided that they had to change the Bible to fit their ideology.

I never received a reply to my Epistle to the Conservapedians, but I do not believe any could gainsay the truth of my doctrine.

Advice for the Conservative Bible Project (December 2009)

Dear Conservative Bible Project editors:

I have been following your work with interest. You’re off to a strong start. It is about time someone deleted socialistic words like “laborer” from the Bible. Such changes bring scripture into harmony with true faith and conservative populism. However, I would like to highlight a few passages that could pose problems for your new version.

First, when you get to Deuteronomy, you’ll have to do something about the second verse of Chapter 4, which reads:

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

If you leave that passage as it is, a reader might conclude that your work is sacrilege and stop reading right there. You’ve shown that you’re willing to delete whole sentences, such as the “Father forgive them” quote misattributed to Jesus by a left-wing Gospel author. So, I’d advise deleting Deuteronomy 4:2 as well.

While you have the blue pencil out, you might also want to deal with the creation stories. In Genesis 1, God creates animals first, then Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2, He creates Adam, then animals, then Eve. If we accept that the Bible is the inspired word of God (and only a left-wing atheist wouldn’t), there are two possibilities here:

1. God was doing a Tarantino and messing with the story’s chronology.

2. Genesis contains two contradictory accounts of the Beginning.

Neither possibility is optimal, so why not just eliminate one of the two accounts? That would free up space for advertisements and thereby inject the Holy Spirit of Free Enterprise more fully into the text. Be careful, though, and make sure the “Vitter for Senate” banner doesn’t get placed near any references to harlots. Or newborns. And, just to be safe, you should also keep any GOP congressional campaign ads far away from the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember, “the wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way.” That’s Proverbs 14:8—unless you decide otherwise.

Speaking of Sodom and Gomorrah, I noticed that you didn’t substantially change the section that deals with the aftermath of those cities’ destruction. As you will recall, God decided that Lot and his two daughters were the only people for miles around who did not deserve to be either fried or turned into a condiment. After they escaped Sodom, the happy family had a drinks party that was BYOD: Boink Your Own Dad. If you remove words of forgiveness, while retaining stories of unpunished parent-child incest, it might strike some readers as perverse.

Finally, there is the thorny problem of the early church’s economic policies, as described in Acts:

Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

That’s Marxism, plain and simple, and it gets worse. In Chapter 5, when Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold their property, they tried to hold back a portion of the proceeds from the rest of the church—a “private option” you might call it. Peter found out and cursed each of them in succession. Each fell dead.

How will you square that story with free-market principles? That’s the biggest question for your project, and I fear I’m out of suggestions.

Your friend,