Giving the Bible a Conservative Makeover

As a Christian who just happens to be a lesbian I get accused, a lot, of picking and choosing when I read the Bible. I get accused of cutting out parts I don’t like in favor of parts that seem to affirm me in my “sin” and keep me from “repenting” of my homosexuality.

Imagine my irony meter pegging out when I read about the “conservative Bible” project being proposed by the folks over at Conservapedia to remove the “single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations” – liberal bias. The whole proposal is an extended exercise in picking and choosing and cutting out things the conservative mind finds offensive, like the words of Jesus – these from Luke 23:34, to be specific:

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

The article argues that this entire saying should be stricken not because it might make someone feel compassion for their enemies, but because: “This does not appear in any other Gospel, and the simple fact is that some of the persecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing. This quotation is a favorite of liberals but should not appear in a conservative Bible.”

Ironically, this is often the sort of criteria used by the likes of the Jesus Seminar which hacked out much of what Jesus had to say (including this particular passage) because it wasn’t found in older important manuscripts or just didn’t seem to be what Jesus might say given a bird’s eye view of his overall message. Conservatives — who howled about the Jesus Seminar slicing and dicing scripture — are now doing the same thing with self-righteous indignation.

The new conservative Bible would do away with such things as passages that may seem to suggest socialism, like the early church’s practices. I’d like to see what they’ll do with Acts 4:32 that proclaims “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.” This seems to fly in the face of their stated goal of expressing the “full free-market meaning” of the Bible.

However amusing (or alarming for some) the idea of rewriting the Bible in “conserva-speak,” such an endeavor is nothing new. Each new translation of the Bible has some sort of political slant to it, either liberal or conservative. The truth of the matter is this: no matter who takes on translating the Bible, no matter what their agenda, the enduring truth of the text will not be damaged.

American minister Theodore Parker wrote in “A Discourse of Religion” that people “sometimes fear the Bible will be destroyed by freedom of thought and freedom of speech. Let it perish if such be the case. Truth cannot fear the light, nor are men so mad as to forsake a well of living water. All the free thinking in the world could not destroy the Illiad; how much less the truths of the Bible, which … has already endured the greatest abuse at the hands of its friends, who make it an idol, and would have all men do it homage. […] We see the mistakes of its writers, for though noble and of great stature, they saw not all things. We reject their follies; but their words of truth are still before us, to admonish, to encourage and to bless.”

Let the conservatives shred the Bible and turn it into GOP talking points. We can reject their folly because the true liberality of Jesus’ message will continue to endure for all those who have ears to hear.