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The Quest for the Conservative Jesus

A few months ago it was announced on the absurd  Conservapedia wiki website that plans were underway to create a “Conservative Bible”, in which Biblical texts problematic to conservative sensiblities would be expunged. I assumed this was another spoof page added to the site by a non-conservative as a bit of trolling satire; not so:

In August, New Jersey attorney Andy Schlafly, son of renowned conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, launched the Conservative Bible Project at Conservapedia.com.

…So far, the Conservative Bible Project, which is funded out-of-pocket by Schlafly, has completed about a third of the New Testament and Genesis. The most controversial changes are the elimination of the New Testament stories of Jesus forgiving the adulteress and forgiving his persecutors from the cross.

“The basic error (of the passages) is that it teaches people they can do what they want and they will be forgiven, even if they don’t repent,” Schlafly said.

…”Liberals love (the stoning scene) because they can use it to argue against capital punishment,” Schlafly said. “But they didn’t stone women (then). They strangled them.”

This is actually a remarkable development: until now, one of the defining hallmarks of conservative Christianity has been that the whole Bible is to accepted as inerrant and as having been faithfully transmitted. Downgrading particular Biblical passages in the light of reason (such as Thomas Jefferson excising miracles), or due either to ethical re-evaluation (such as a call to remove anti-Jewish passages from the Gospel of John) or textual and historical study (such as the Jesus Seminar) have always been dismissed as undermining the Bible as the Word of God. There may be arguments about points of translation, and over interpretations of difficult texts, but mainstream or liberal Christians whose religious views have been informed by critical approaches are usually excoriated and accused of seeking to marry their faith to the spirit of the age. Yet now we see the son of a major Christian right activist cheerfully consigning parts of the supposed Word of God to the dustbin purely for ideological reasons.

So what method is Schlafly following? It’s true that the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of John do not feature the story of the woman taken in adultery, but Schlafly’s foray into Biblical scholarship is somewhat selective:

Schlafly’s project is distinctive, though, because non-experts collaborate Wiki-style on the Internet to produce their version. “The best of the public is better than a group of experts,” said Schlafly.

As Jim West observes:

 …if Schlafly thinks experts are evil, why doesn’t he get one of his flunkies to do brain surgery on him if he ever develops a tumor or heart surgery on him if he ever needs bypass surgery.

Schlafly’s not the first conservative to propose re-writing parts of the Bible; last year, I noted the growing acceptance of the idea that “666” in the Book of Revelation was a mistaken transcription of an Arabic phrase revealed to the book’s author by God and warning about the rise of Islam. This absurd proposition has been received despite the fact that it has no historical basis and despite the fact that its originator, Walid Shoebat, lied about having consulted ancient manuscripts. And despite the fact that the final passage of the Book of Revelation encourages a “hands-off” approach to the text, with a warning which has been regarded by Christians as generally applicable to the Bible as a whole:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Or, to use the translation found at the LOLCats Bible, a wiki project which is of comparable scholarly value to Schlafly’s effort (although more fun):

Birdcat say: if pplz adz stuff to teh profetzi of book, Ceiling Cat make them sicz, leik sayed in book.

And if pplz photoshpz the Heliez Bibul, Ceiling Cat sez no can has cheezburger!

5 Responses

  1. This is the ultimate proof that alot of these Evangelical types are not so much real Christians as they are violent and authoritarian.

    No real Christian would ever accept editing the Bible like that.

  2. I had no idea such an awesome thing as LOLCats Bible existed. I intend to proselytize it from my town square this very afternoon.

  3. Maybe they want to change “Thou Shalt not Covet thy Neighbor’s Ass?”

  4. […] strange interpretation might be useful in America, where plans are underway to create a Conservative Bible, in which the entire story would be excised as a liberal […]

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