Democrats and Republicans might be on the verge of “shutting down the government” (hooray?) due to a financial dispute, but beloved members of BOTH our nation’s dumb parties can agree, and do agree, on one thing: the Bible is totally the best book ever! Surely any political blog worth its salt should eventually review every politician’s favorite book, right? Especially since this Year of Our Lord 2011 is the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, which is more or less the Chronicles of Narnia minus the talking beaver.
Now, we don’t believe that every politician has actually read this unanimous “favorite”; we just figure now is as good as time as any to write about the 17th-century Word of God (meaning your reviewer had no idea it was the 400th anniversary of the KJB until he read this essay in Vanity Fair by one Christopher Hitchens, whose writing seems to have been reinvigorated by his dire state).
SO, what is this Book? What is its purpose aside from being praised every time someone runs for public office and tearfully quoted at press conferences every time an American citizen goes on a shooting rampage?
No one can be sure. Ambitious readers (i.e. any half-literate person in the English-speaking world until just a little while ago) would probably say the King James Version is a treasure-house of English prose and a store of great stories that tells us something about our lives as humans. Modern Christians might say it’s a soothing bubble bath of Jesus Words. To Jews, the Bible — in the original Hebrew or in any translation — is more like a band that was really great before it sold out and got a new lead singer with flowing locks and a hippy beard. Greater commercial success, less artistic integrity, etc.
This is understandable, because while the Old Testament has war, sex, wrathful cries for social justice, full-blooded human characters and countless strange tales, most of the New Testament is vague and boring even in the parts about mass killing. Where does American politics fit into any of this, aside from the Bible being inseparable from American politics?
We needn’t mention the obvious stuff about dumb and dangerous Christian fundamentalists from the Republican Party, or our bipartisan attachment to the lands of Judea and Samaria. We need to look further afield, to probable anti-christ Barack Obama.
If his Facebook page can be believed, our current president relishes the Bible (as well as other olde stuff like Shakespeare and beloved Vegas entertainers Emerson, Lincoln and Melville) as a “Favorite Book.” Fitting, because many believe the Bible actually MENTIONS Barack Obama:
And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
We’re not sure that Apocalyptic passage describes Obama very well at all. It might be more useful to look towards the words of Job as a commentary on “hope” and those who get their hopes up (all of us?):
I have said to corruption, “Thou art my father”: to the worm, “Thou art my mother, and my sister.” And where is now my hope? As for my hope, who shall see it? They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust.
The Bible, by various authors, as translated into English during the time of King James I, lots and lots of pages, $11.79