Book publisher HarperCollins announced Tuesday that publication of an America-themed Bible, complete with founding documents and patriotic song lyrics, would not move forward.
News about the Bible’s publication, which surfaced last week, immediately triggered criticism from prominent Christians who believe Christianity and the Bible should not be with American nationalism.
What are the details?
The Bible was slated to include the New International Version translation of the biblical text, which is the best-selling translation in America.
However, HarperCollins, which holds the exclusive rights to the translation and publishes it through its imprint Zondervan, canceled a manufacturing agreement in negotiation that would have allowed the Bible’s creator to use the NIV translation, according to Religion Unplugged.
“Zondervan is not publishing, manufacturing or selling the ‘God Bless the USA Bible.’ While we were asked for a manufacturing quote, ultimately the project was not a fit for either party, and the website and marketing of the NIV project were premature,” Zondervan said in a statement.
The custom Bible was slated to ship to customers in September to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Religion Unplugged reported:
In its last pages, the custom Bible pre-selling for $49.99 includes the full texts of the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and pledge of allegiance. The holy book also includes licensed lyrics to the popular 1984 song by country music singer-songwriter Lee Greenwood, “God Bless the USA.”
The “God Bless the USA Bible” is a product of Elite Source Pro, a Middle, Tenn.-based company that helps businesses with sales, marketing and strategy, including in Nashville’s entertainment industry. Hugh Kirkpatrick, president of Elite Source Pro, confirmed to Religion Unplugged that Zondervan granted the required licensing for the custom Bible.
Kirkpatrick told Religion Unplugged the seed idea for the new Bible was planted last fall after he took notice of culture wars increasingly eroding traditional American history.
“We noticed the divide in the public where some people started seeing pro-American images like the flag, the bald eagle, the statue of liberty as weaponized tools of the Republican party, and we didn’t understand that,” he explained.
“In past civilizations, libraries have been burned. Documents torn down. We started seeing statutes coming down and we started seeing history for good or bad trying to be erased,” Kirkpatrick added. “That’s when we started thinking, okay how far does this erasing of history go? Love it or hate it, it’s history. But how far does it go…? Part of having these statues…is so that we don’t repeat those same mistakes.”
What did critics say?
Prominent Christian authors and speakers like Lisa Sharon Harper, Jemar Tisby, and Shane Claiborne, all of whom are Zondervan authors, published a letter condemning the project.
They argued it promoted “American nationalism.”
American nationalism is its own civil religion, where America rather than Jesus is the center of attention. Instead of Jesus and the Church being the light of the world and the hope for humanity, America becomes the Messianic force in the world. Like any religion it has its own liturgy, saints and holidays. These symbols are on full display in this new Bible – the eagle, the flag, the red, white and blue. America’s civil religion has its own creeds too in the new Bible – “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” It has its own “worship” songs – like “God Bless the USA” and “I’m Proud to be an American,” both by Lee Greenwood. It has its own theology – manifest destiny, the doctrine of discovery and American exceptionalism. And this is precisely why it is dangerous to mesh patriotism with orthodox Christian faith.
After all, the Bible does not say “God bless America.” It says, “God so loved the world.” The national anthem should not be in the church hymnal, and the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States should not be in the Bible.
What is next?
Although Kirkpatrick’s project cannot contain the NIV translation, he told Religion Unplugged the project will move forward with the outdated King James translation instead.
In most countries, the KJV translation — which is more than 500 years old and does not include modern manuscript discoveries — is public domain and does not require licensure for publication.
“They’re [HarperCollins] trying to figure a way to get it done,” Kirkpatrick said. “They want to keep everybody happy. They want to keep their fans on the left and right.”