That Old Time Religion Ain’t Conservative Enough

So my friends lists on Facebook, and on my blogroll, and even on my television (good Lord, do I love Rachel Maddow) are all talking about the same thing this week.

The Conservative Bible Project.

Like Rachel Maddow, like many of my friends when we first emailed this around, I was convinced this had to be satire. Surely The Onion was pointing out the foolishness of over-reliance on Biblical translations by creating a silly story about people so committed to the causes of conservatism– including Biblical literalism– that they would re-write the Bible to make it easier for them to take it literally. A joke, right?

Right? please?


So you’ve probably heard this one by now, but there’s this group on the conservative wiki “Conservapedia” who want to create a ‘translation’ of the bible devoid of liberal bias, which, according to them includes “three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning:

  • lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ
  • lack of precision in modern language
  • translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.”

Instead, they want a Bible that obeys these guidelines:

  1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
  2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
  3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level
  4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop; defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.
  5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”; using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census
  6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
  7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
  8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
  9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
  10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”

I’ve never found Hell to be particularly logical. In fact, I’ve never really found there to be a strong case for it in the Bible, but I’ve been reading those liberal Bibles that leave things in their original language where possible, so I read more about Sheol and Gehenna than Hell. Oh well.

I don’t even understand point 9. They want a bible that credits the openmindedness of the author of the fourth gospel, who, 70 years after Jesus’ death, wrote “No one comes to the Father but by me”? I can’t speak to this point.

And 10 just makes me laugh. Yes, silly liberal wordiness; why keep single words in their original language like “Yahweh,” when you can use two words loaded with historical, gendered, medieval baggage like “The Lord”?

But strangely, the one I have the biggest problem with is #7. Maybe this isn’t strange; I did just watch Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story,” which I highly recommend, and about which I hope to post soon. In any case, I can’t even begin to get my mind around how much you have to misread the Bible to think that a good translation would be committed to “explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning.”

Yes, yes, I remember. The Israelite concept of Jubilee– you know, bailouts for the wealthy, but forget that bit about letting all the slaves go free and forgiving individuals’ debts. The Deuteronomic Law insisting that in the land which God provides, the people must care for the widows and orphans and strangers (actually, aliens– don’t know if we mean illegal immigrants there or people from other planets…)– that’s the one part of Deuteronomy we should ignore (but keep the part about sexual practices, because nothing in human sexuality has changed in 4000 years). Most of the prophet Micah’s work, because in fact, God requires that you seek punitive justice, love kindness as an abstract concept, and walk along arrogantly proclaiming that you are in accordance with God, who, now that ‘He’ thinks of it, could care less about mercy and does require a big, honking CEO bonus of a sacrifice.

Then there’s that ridiculous Socialist society of the early church, holding all things in common, by which we should really understand that they took things from other people to accumulate their own wealth, which they held in common until the strongest among them developed a corporate buyout scheme, leaving the rest of the fledgling church members paupers.

And that Jesus guy. I must have totally misunderstood! He didn’t really mean blessed are the poor, but thank God for the poor because without their class to oppress, the rich couldn’t be rich. And he was being sarcastic when he said that it a rich man should sell everything and give it to the needy; no, he should sell everything at the best price he can get for it, gouging other retailers so they go out of business, and making the poor dependent on his goods so they can’t sustain their lifestyles. God’s kin-dom is like a foreman who hires workers for a day, and pays them all the same amount regardless of the hours worked, because the foreman is trying to break the back of the Union so tomorrow he can fire all those workers and hire new ones for much less money. Whoever holds on to their life is bound to accumulate more and more of it, and whoever looses their life for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel is a right fool who deserves to fall on hard times and no one is going to give them a free ride.

Again, you have to seriously, painfully misread the Bible and misunderstand what faith is and what it means to be faithful to think that this is a idea that merits anything other than scorn.

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