The “Conservative” Bible

Hume’s Ghost at the Daily Doubter sent me an e mail last night:

I saw this regarding the son of Christian Nationalist Phyllis Schlafly creating a project to edit “liberal bias” out of the BIble and thought you might find it of interest.

The trouble is, new translations of the Bible are done by professors at liberal universities who overwhelmingly voted for Obama,” Mr. Schlafly said. “Their political bias seeps into their translations and we felt it necessary to counteract that with one that uproots and eradicates any liberal bias.”
In Mark 3:6, for example, they have changed “Pharisees” – the Jews who were regarded as antagonists of Jesus – to “Liberals” though one user helpfully suggested “self-proclaimed elite.”

I was going to (and likely will) post something on this, but at the moment I’m staggered by how surreal this reads.

While Hume’s Ghost pulls himself together and gathers his thoughts, I thought I’d venture some comments of my own. But where to begin? Perhaps with the tail-wagging absurdity of Schlafly’s whole enterprise, which begins with the anachronistic and factually suspect assumption that Jesus was at root a free market conservative, and then rejiggers and refines existing translations to support it. Schlafly lists his 10 guidelines for his redactors thusly:

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:[2]

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[3]
4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;[4] 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”;[5] 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.”

The second half of Footnote 2 after the headline is pretty much gasp-worthy in its own right: “(2) recognizing that Christianity introduced powerful new concepts that even the Greek and Hebrew were inadequate to express, but modern conservative language can express well.” The mind boggles…. Christianity’s ineffable mysteries, inexpressible until now in words, have finally found a lexicon that’s equal to the challenge: “modern conservative language.” Can you imagine how differently John of the Cross or St. Theresa’s writings would have read if they’d had access to such phrases as “work ethic” (elsewhere the Conservapedia tells us that it was introduced into the language in 1951), “moral majority” (1979), and “homeschool” (introduced in the 1980s, and relevant to Jesus’s teaching of the younger Apostles)?

Hume’s Ghost raises an additional question: By substituting “Liberal” or “Elite” for Jews and Pharisees, is the Conservapedia “recoding” the distasteful and decidedly non-PC pejorative “Jewish” into something that even philo-semitic Conservatives and Evangelicals can get behind, something more robust and unambiguous but that means pretty much the same thing (eg Rahm Emanuel, Charles Schumer, George Soros, Barney Frank, Al Franken, Bill Maher)? The Pharisees, of course, were the ultra-conservative Fundamentalists of their day; Jesus and his lot were more like Community Organizers than Rotarians. Of course when I say that I am exhibiting precisely the sort of Liberal bias that Schlafly’s project is designed to eradicate.

The Conservapedia’s home page has a brief response to the Globe & Mail story–“Panic sweeps liberals about our Conservative Bible Project. Another newspaper in the increasingly atheistic Canada runs a story about us. Why are liberals who do not read the Bible themselves so opposed to this project?”

At first I was going to answer, “But what about the Liberals who do read the Bible”? But then I looked up the Conservapedia’s definition of “Liberal”
and learned that Liberals are atheistic by definition. Liberals are also illogical, self-centered, uncharitable, and superstitious, so why would anyone care about anything that such immoral, ignorant people might have to say? Jesus wouldn’t have given a Liberal the time of day.

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