Conservatives Are Rewriting the Bible to Free It From "Liberal Bias"
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In 2006, Andy Schlafly, best known as the son of notorious anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly, launched a wiki site called Conservapedia as an alternative to Wikipedia. The nation’s sixth most frequently visited Web site had, he felt, become dominated by liberal and anti-Christian bias.
Now Schlafly has a new project: rewriting the Bible to free it from liberal bias. The new translation will be free of “emasculated” and “dumbed-down” language as well as “liberal wordiness.” So-called “later-inserted liberal passages” will be deleted entirely. All of these changes will be made by amending the King James Version of the Bible through an online wiki format.
While the Conservative Bible Project (CBP) has so far been regarded largely as a joke, it does raise some interesting questions. The idea of writing a sacred text through a wiki is largely unprecedented. The CPB also marks an escalation in what Robert S. McElvaine has called “ Grand Theft Jesus”—the appropriation of the Christian tradition for political ends. Is Schlafly a profoundly cynical politician, attempting to manipulate religion in a way that would put Machiavelli and Karl Rove to shame? Or does he truly believe that the Bible has been tainted by “liberalism” for over a thousand years?
The Jefferson Bible as Precedent
Curiously, the CBP is reminiscent of The Jefferson Bible, written in 1820 by our nation’s third president. Thomas Jefferson felt that the teachings of Jesus had been abused and corrupted by Christians, but that the “genuine” teachings of Jesus were “as easily distinguished as diamonds in a dung-hill.” Jefferson removed passages referring to the supernatural, as well as what he considered to be misperceptions by the Gospel writers. Critics accused him of paraphrasing the Bible to suit his own ends. Is Schlafly simply a modern day Jefferson, seeking conservative diamonds in a liberal dung-hill?
The CBP differs from The Jefferson Bible in at least three respects. First, although Jefferson used religious language in the Declaration of Independence and other writings, his revision of the Bible was a private pursuit: He never allowed The Jefferson Bible to be published during his lifetime. Second, Jefferson recognized that his views were highly unorthodox. By contrast, Schlafly identifies as a practicing Catholic and argues that his reading of the Bible is, in fact, orthodox. Finally, the nature of the revisions is fundamentally different. The Jefferson Bible rejects supernaturalism as well as the tenets of Calvinism.
However, Schlafly’s projects—Conservapedia and the CBP—do not seek to combat specific ideologies so much as a species called “liberals.” Conservapedia defines a “liberal” as “someone who rejects logical and biblical standards, often for self-centered reasons.” In this world, liberals are incapable of understanding the Bible, or even logical thought. Where Jefferson excluded doctrines from his Bible, the CBP seeks to exclude words. “Accountability,” for instance, is a conservative word that enriches understanding of scripture. “Laborer,” on the other hand, is a liberal word and has no place in the Bible.
“Young girl”? How about “floozy,” “bimbo,” or “temptress”?
So how is the new translation proceeding? As of October 11, the completed “translations” on Conservapedia include Mark 1-8, Matthew 1-9, Luke 1-2, John 1-3, Philemon, and a few verses from Genesis, 1 John, Jude, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. As for the Hebrew Bible, only Genesis appears to be slated for translation. Calling the works in question “translations” may be a misnomer since work with Greek originals seems to be intermittent at best. For the most part, the changes are simply re-phrasings of passages from the King James Version.