Coming of age in a fundamentalist church in the 70â€™s left one feeling a little like a Titanic passenger whoâ€™s made it onto the life boat: Yes, itâ€™s kind of cold and cramped in here, and no, we donâ€™t know here weâ€™re going, but at least itâ€™s not down.Â Not smug, just relieved, we looked forward to being air-lifted by the rapture.
In the meantime, all sorts of fun could be had in the lifeboat if you knew the games.
The favorite (besides skirmishes with other life boats) was to discern (not judge) the fruits (not the lifestyles) of our fellow passengers.Â Standard criteria included the biggies, such as hair length (for men) hem length (for women) and whether they had to look up Amazing Grace and Just as I am or knew all the verses from heart.
My favorite criterion was simpler:Â What kind of Bible did they carry? Not the translation, mind you.Â You would no more bring in a Bible written after 1611 into our church than you would carry a copy of The Satanic Verses into a mosque.Â Â No, we looked at the type of King James Bible.Â If the person clutched a pew bible or plain, standard issue KJV, you could be sure they were a newbie or a slacker.Â If they lugged a Thompson Chain-reference, you labeled them studious and serious.Â A Scofield indicated true piety, because the Pastor used it.Â For most all of us, these were the only real choices. Of course you also had a huge choice of binding (â€œleather or bonded leather, sir?â€) and of colors (â€œAnd will that be black, burgundy, or dark blue?â€)
My, the times have changed.Â
The new convert checking out the Bible section of your average Christian bookstore or website today finds herself like Imelda Marcos with a $100 bill at a shoe convention.Â They all look good, but which do you take home?
These are actual Bibles for sale Christianbook.com, and I will let the reader decide if we are really so religious in this country we need all these permutations, or if the marketers have gone a little crazy on us (and no, I am not making these up):
- The Veggie Tales Bible
- The Faithgirlz Bible
- The Soldierâ€™s Bible
- The Grandmotherâ€™s Bible
- The Duct Tape Bible
- The Busy Life Bible (â€œInspiration even if you have only a minute a dayâ€)
- The Journaling Bible
- The Chunky Bible
- The God Girl Bible (only in â€œsnow whiteâ€)
- The Wisdom and Grace Bible for Young Women of Color
- The Waterproof Bible
- The Pray for a Cure Bible (in pink)
- The Divine Health Bible
- The Wild About Horses Bible
- The Fire Bible
I will stop here.Â I havenâ€™t even gotten to the study Bibles.Â Or the teen Bibles.Â Or the Brides/wedding Bibles (14 listed including a â€œGroomâ€™s Bibleâ€ with a striped tuxedo cover).Â In all, the website listed 4229 items under â€œBiblesâ€, though, of course, this is only because you can order your â€œLife in the Spirit Bibleâ€ or â€œSeek and Find Bibleâ€ in all kinds of bindings and colors.Â Some of the bindings:
- Padded Hardcover (why?)
- Metal (why again?)
- Premium Leather
- Calfskin leather
- European leather
- Imitation leather
- Bonded leather (this is to real leather what particle board is to real wood)
- Premium Cromwell bonded leather (no idea)
And you want color?Â We got color:
- Burnt Sienna
- Dark Chocolate
- Glittery Grape Butterfly
- Lavender (with flowers!)
- Black Cherry
- Distressed Umber (?)
This, of course, is in addition to the usual suspects (black, red, brown, etcâ€¦).
Looking at the two lists, one is forced to conclude two things.Â First, the people who make these really, really like leather.Â Maybe they own cattle futures.Â Second, they must have been pretty hungry.
Now, all this could be passed over with merely a snicker if not for two nagging questions.
First, does the proliferation of Bibles marketed to a certain demographic divide the body of Christ?Â An incredible number of these bibles are targeted at women, kids, men, grandparents, African-Americans, Latinos, etcâ€¦.Â Shouldnâ€™t the scriptures of the Cosmic God force me to think in cosmic terms, not just apply it to people in my life situation?Â Donâ€™t versions like these re-enforce the walls of division that should be torn down? Does Galatians 3:28 mean nothing here?
Second, does the proliferation of what I call â€œgimmick biblesâ€ cheapen or trivialize the word of God?Â Suppose a young couple gets married, and receives 3 or 4 wedding Bibles including, of course, the Precious Moments Brideâ€™s Bible.Â What do they do with these?Â Donâ€™t they just sit on the shelf or rot in some box?Â Are these Bibles intended to be read and obeyed, or are they just a pretty, but meaningless, gift? Or suppose I give my brother in law, who loves hunting, The Holman Sportsmanâ€™s Bible.Â This treasure comes in a woodland camouflage cover (no, Iâ€™m not kidding), and non-reflective page edges that, we are told, â€œwonâ€™t scare away gameâ€.Â The ad description promises, â€œin addition to the full text of the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation, The Sportsmanâ€™s Bible contains numerous devotions written for hunters and fishermenâ€¦â€Â Also included are special sections on, â€œSetting up a Ground Blindâ€ â€œTree Stand Safetyâ€, etc…Will a gift like this not encourage my brother in law to think of the Bible as some sort of personal self-help book?Â Arenâ€™t we already losing that war without the Christian publishers giving the other side ammo?
When Jesus comes back, I wonder if instead of turning over tables He doesnâ€™t torch a few printing presses instead.