7 September 2006

A sword for the Lord and contemporary Bible distributors

Posted in if I'm stuck in this motel room at 9:26 am by indecisive79

So yesterday was Gideon day on campus. Nice-looking guys in suits distributing green New Testaments to anyone who wants one. They’re non-professorial old men on a college campus who (usually) manage not to look creepy, which isn’t an easy task.

So there are a few things that seem very weird about them. First, they have named themselves after a biblical man who is a hero in his young life (the story everyone remembers), swears he won’t lead his nation into monarchy, but then makes himself de facto king while he allows the country to fall into all manner of paganism. Did the Gideon Society take on this name to provide an institutional trajectory? Let’s hope not. Second, I find it curious that the society which is probably responsible for the most widespread free Bible distribution in America, and maybe the world, would assume that the only proper form of God’s holy word is a four hundred year old translation commissioned by and named after someone who was almost certainly gay, a lifestyle condemned by nearly all the KJV-only crowd. (And yes, I’m giving props to an old professor of mine; deal with it.) And don’t get me started on the incompleteness of these New Testaments+Psalms+Proverbs that they hand out; I’m not sure there’s even a reference to Gideon in them… Third, I believe their membership consists only of men. Though I don’t agree with the theology, I understand why some Christians think that women should not hold office in the church or preach from the pulpit. But for goodness sake, these guys aren’t preaching, and they’re barely even talking! Can’t a woman hand out a Bible just as easily as a guy?

I suppose that I appreciate something about what they’re doing. They are trying to spread what they see as the good news, and they are doing it in about the most polite manner possible, which is infinitely better than the typical hellfire and brimstone quad/street preachers (whom I haven’t heard from in awhile, actually). They just stand there and offer a Bible to anyone who will accept it. But simply offering a Bible–or, I should say, about a quarter of a Bible–seems like such an inadequate gesture compared to the task that the church is called to, i.e., to invite people to join in the furthering of the kingdom of God by letting them see the community of faith in action. But even so, I always take one of their testaments; after all, this outdated text actually functions quite well as a handy reference work in my field of study.