A few things hallmark the UCC’s approach to the bible:
- We believe it is a product of divine/human interaction. Consequently, we take it seriously as an inspired book from a particular socio-political time in history rather than literally or inerrantly. It is a human document that speaks to us of God. Out of this rich biblical heritage, we are called to make scripture relevant in today’s world.
- We approach the bible prayerfully and in the context of church tradition along with our own reason and lived experience.
- We believe the bible is the basis of our faith and that it is also only one means by which God interacts with us. God is not confined to the bible but is still speaking to us in our devotional life, daily experiences, and in the rich traditions of other religions. God’s revelation is on-going.
- We interpret the bible through the lens of Jesus’ compassion and love.
- We don’t believe that you have to agree with everything in the bible in order to be a faithful person.
- And we do not associate the bible with any modern nation state.
It is that last bullet point that is especially important in light of the forthcoming publication (this fall) of the all new “God Bless the USA Bible.”
Rejected by HarperCollins publishing due to proprietary use of the New International Version translation of the bible, Nashville based marketing firm, Elite Source Pro, is pushing ahead with the publication using the public domain King James Version of the bible.
What makes this vinyl-cover bible unique, apart from the American flag on the cover, is that it pairs scripture with the following: The National Anthem, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the lyrics to the 1984 patriotic anthem “God Bless the USA” by country singer Lee Greenwood.
Interest in this bible is high due to the rise of Christian nationalism and, ironically, because a publisher pulled out of the project.
Publication of this version of the bible “has not stopped,” said promoter Hugh Kirkpatrick. “In fact, it’s got gasoline poured on it.” (An odd turn of phrase, to say the least, when it comes to the bible.)
He added that the God Bless the USA Bible is important because our country used to be a Christian nation but that this is a fading value. “The Bible and the Constitution someday could be a banned item in the United States,” he said, conflating the two documents. “That sounds odd even to say but there are other countries around the world that you can’t have a Bible.”
Needless to say, I believe this is a wildly dangerous approach to take with regard to scripture. It runs the risk of legitimizing anything the federal government does as religiously sanctioned, and it also negates any biblical scholarship that may run counter to preconceived, conservative understandings of God and Jesus.
I have never understood why it is so important for some to fuse together Christian values with American values. Nothing helpful is gained by combining the two.
I am proud to be an American citizen. I am not, however, under the illusion that God is American or that Jesus is American. I don’t need them to be. Why some insist on limiting God and Jesus in this way puzzles me to no end.
Again, scripture exists as an invitation to bring you closer to God. It is one way of encountering and interacting with the divine. In that encounter, I believe God expects us to bring our questions, differing points of view, affirmations and doubts. Everything from “You’re joking, right?” to “Absolutely, I’m all in.”
I believe that God rejects simple, blind acceptance because God expects more of us than that.
The goal, in the end, is spiritual growth. Tying scripture to any nation state only erects a barrier that prevents such growth from happening.