Sunday, September 06, 2015

Evengelical Propaganda - the "Museum of the Bible"

While Syrian children are dying while fleeing civil war and religious extremism, American evangelicals - in particular, the founders of Hobby Lobby - are squandering millions of dollars building a massive propaganda vehicle in Washington, D.C., just a short way south of the National Mall.  For me, it's a symbol of the misplace values of the "godly folk" whose only real agenda is to force their childish beliefs on all of us whether we like it or not.  For these folks, the Gospel message of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless doesn't exist.  Instead, the engage in conduct that makes the Pharisees of the Bible sound upright and the height of morality.  The Washington Post looks at this travesty being built in the nation's capital.  Here are excerpts:
To many in the scholarly community, the museum seems like an oversize piece of evangelical claptrap. Some academics and curators also worry about the origins of its collection — the more than 40,000 biblical artifacts were amassed in a remarkably short time by Hobby Lobby President Steve Green.

Why did Green want to turn his private collection into a museum? A number of academics have questioned his family’s motives. “I don’t expect the Bible Museum to be anything other than a tax-deductible kitsch attempt at spreading Christian fundamentalist propaganda,” archaeologist Dorothy King said. In an interview with NPR, Jacques Berlinerblau, a professor of Jewish civilization at Georgetown University, questioned the location of the museum, two blocks south of the Mall, where it might overlook periodic rallies opposing abortion or same-sex marriage, offering brick-and-mortar moral support to conservative causes. Sarah Posner concurred, writing in Talking Points Memo: “The museum will be a living, breathing testament to how American evangelicalism can at once claim it is under siege from secularists, the LGBT rights movement, or feminism — yet also boast of acquiring a prime private perch, strategically located at the nation’s epicenter of law and politics.”  

There also have been questions about what approach to the Bible the museum will take. Green has promoted a public school curriculum based on the Bible as a factual historical text. Another ideological red flag: Museum President Cary Summers consulted for the Creation Museum in Kentucky, which teaches creationism as fact, with didactic material showing dinosaurs and humans living side by side on a 6,000-year-old planet Earth. The Summers link has prompted unflattering comparisons of the two museums.

The Green family’s initial public line on the Museum of the Bible seemed to confirm some of the concerns. The museum’s 501(c)(3) filing in 2011 declared that its mission would be “to bring to life the living Word of God, to tell its compelling story of preservation, and to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible.”

Beyond the possible motives for the Museum of the Bible, some scholars question the collection itself. Green began spending heavily on it in 2009. He had amassed more than 30,000 items by June 2010 and has added 10,000 more since.

That 40,000 number, however, is suspicious to Roberta Mazza, a leading scholar and professor at University of Manchester in Britain. The UNESCO convention controls the export of antiquities and makes it bureaucratically difficult to legally sell abroad objects that were excavated after 1970. Mazza wonders how Green managed to collect so much “in such a brief period of time and in the context, in theory, of a strictly regulated antiquities market?” 

Heightening their skepticism, Mazza and other scholars identified one item in the Green Collection — a Coptic papyrus fragment with lines from Galatians 2 — that was once advertised on eBay by a seller who was later banned from the site for allegedly selling looted antiquities.

Apparently mindful of skeptics, the Greens hired David Trobisch, a prominent liberal academic, to head its collection.  If Trobisch doesn't sell his soul for money, then the museum will document that there is no "official version" of the Bible and that the text was re-written at will over the centuries after first being authored by ignorant goat and sheep herders in the case of the Old Testament.  If done right, the museum would show that the Bible is anything but the "inerrant word of god."  I suspect, however, that this is not the Greens' agenda to tell the truth.  Propaganda is the real goal, in my view.

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