Saturday, July 14, 2012

A New Bible Museum in Washington D.C.

A new museum of the Bible is coming to Washington D.C. within the next four years. The New York Times reports that the museum is the brainchild of Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby. The museum's collection will reportedly include more than 30,000 items, such as illuminated biblical manuscripts, ancient papyri, and Torahs. Among items in the Green collection are the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls, and the earliest known translation of Psalms.

Green told the New York Times that “The goal is to create a museum around the story of the Bible." He claimed that “No book has been persecuted as much or loved as much. Its incredible story needs to be told.”

While a museum devoted to the Bible is intriguing, several facts surrounding the museum give me pause. First, the Washington Post reports that the CEO of the Museum of the Bible is Cary Summers, a consultant on the Creation Museum's planned Noah's Ark.

Second, Hobby Lobby and the Green family are publicly Christian and have a history of ties with Religious Right groups. According to Hobby Lobby's statement of purpose, the board of directors are to honor God by "operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles." Hobby Lobby has endured because of "God's grace and provision," the statement claims.

Hobby Lobby regularly buys full-page newspaper ads that promote Christian messages. For instance, in 2012, Hobby Lobby ran an Independence Day ad entitled "In God We Trust," featuring quotes that promoted the idea of a "Christian nation."

Among Hobby Lobby's affiliated companies are Mardel, a Christian store chain, and Every Tribe Entertainment, a Christian film studio based in Studio City, CA. Every Other Tribe's film offerings include Blink of an Eye, about a Muslim princess escaping "her veiled existence" and a forced marriage, and 1 Soul, about an African woman who must "confront the deceptions of ancient tribal beliefs and battle demonic forces" that seek to subjugate her.

Mart Green, CEO of Every Tribe Entertainment, produced two films about the Waorani tribe of Ecuador, Beyond the Gates of Splendor and End of the Spear. A 2007 commentary at Daily Kos argues that the films do a disservice to the Waorani people.
"Probably the best term for them is "Injun Exploitation"--the two movies produced by [Mart Green] are "End Of The Spear" and "Beyond The Gates of Splendor", both of which focus on the religious conversion of the Waorani people of Ecuador.  Sadly, the Waorani people are often used as a sort of "Wild Man of the Amazon" type show by dominionists (you know, the sort that went out of fashion at carnival sideshows back in the 40's) where they are pimped as "The Most Violent People In The World"; Ron Luce's "Teen Mania" group actually used the movie "End Of The Spear" as a lead-in for one of his "Wild Man of the Amazon" shows with a converted Waorani.  (The truth about the Waorani people is far sadder.  The Waorani are among the most endangered indigenous peoples on the planet, in large part due to missionaries invading their lands often in conjunction with oil companies; their population has declined rapidly, from 25,000 people in the 1950s (when originally contacted by missionaries and when they fought to remain uncontacted (outsiders are literally seen as cannibals by the Waorani)--the subject of the "Injun Exploitation" films) to only 2000 today.)"
The Green family behind Hobby Lobby has a history of ties with conservative religious groups. In 2007, the Green family pledged a $70 million donation to Oral Roberts University, according to Tulsa World. The Greens have also donated a $10.5 million building to Liberty University, as well as a 170-acre ranch to Rick Warren's Saddleback Church.

The idea of a Bible museum is fascinating, as the Bible has a long and rich history. However, the involvement of the Green family and Cary Summers makes me nervous about what messages the museum could possibly send. Will the museum depict the Bible in a historically accurate manner, or will a religious agenda be present?

I would welcome a Bible museum that explored the Bible's evolution through history, noting how scribal additions, translations, and social climate have affected its content. The Bible is not a single static document, but a dynamic collection of documents that evolved over centuries and cultures. If the proposed Museum of the Bible takes this approach, I will be relieved. However, given the conservative Christian roots of the Greens, I wonder if a more fundamentalist vision of the Bible will prevail.

For an overview of the Green family and its ties with conservative Christian groups, check out these commentaries  at Talk to Action and Daily Kos. For additional commentary on the Bible museum, visit the following links.

Salty Eggs: Mr. Jesus Goes to Washington

Friendly Atheist: Washington D.C. Will Be Home to 'Bible Museum'


  1. Will there be exhibits showing babies dashed against rocks, Job having his entire family killed over a bet between God and Satan, Abraham preparing to kill Issac to prove his loyalty to God, the Israelites killing the people of Jabesh-gilead then taking the virgin women by force as "wives", etc, etc?

    1. Buffy -- Heh ... Now THAT would make for some truth-telling.

  2. It's pretty obvious this "museum" will be an instrument of propaganda, and almost certainly a very crude one. Most likely the only visitors who will find it of much interest will be people who already have the same outlook as the perpetrators. As long as it's privately funded, I don't really object much. Refuting any blatant lies it tells will create "teachable moment" opportunities for atheists, and doubtless it will end up losing money.

    1. Infidel753 -- I worry that this will be the case too. I hope we're wrong. Once the museum is up and running, I'll have to visit and see what message it presents.

  3. This is nothing more than a ministry hiding behind the name museum. The president of Hobby Lobby probable never went to college and certainly hasn't 'wasted' time in museums and libraries--but he is directing this with a guy who was building a replica of Noah's Ark? Barnum and Bailey of Bibles. I heard they fund this with a write-off scheme with Jewish scrolls--using the Jewish heritage to proselytize the Jews and unconverted. That will go over big in the shadow of the Holocaust Museum.

    1. Anonymous -- I hadn't considered the Jewish proselytization angle. Interesting.

      When the museum is up and running, I need to drive down to Washington D.C. and check it out. I fear that my suspicions may be confirmed.


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