Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, The American Patriot's Bible (henceforth Patriot's Bible) consists of hundreds of commentaries on various patriotic themes, ranging in length from one sentence to four pages, inserted at various points throughout the New King James Version of the Bible. Every special interest Bible imposes a certain agenda that to some degree colors the Word, but the Patriot's Bible takes this "coloring" to a whole new level. There's not a single commentary in this Bible that even attempts to shed light on what the biblical text actually means. To the contrary, the text of the Bible is used merely as an excuse to further the patriotic agenda of the commentators.
There are a multitude of problematic aspects to the Patriot's Bible, including the remarkable way it excludes from consideration almost every aspect of American history that could blemish the image of America or its heroes. For example, on the basis of Zechariah's prophecy that the Messiah would "speak peace to the nations" (Zech. 9:10) we are given a full page eulogy of Christopher Columbus that celebrates how God had destined this "devout Catholic" to bring the good news of salvation to an unreached people group. Absent from the commentary is any discussion of how he and his fellow pioneers deceived, maimed, raped and murdered a large number of these unreached people.
Yet, the selective retelling of American history found in the Patriot's Bible is not what concerns me the most. What disturbs me more is the way the commentators attempt to give their idealized version of American history divine authority by weaving it into the biblical narrative.
The central assumption that undergirds the Patriot's Bible is that America is, in a unique sense, a nation established, governed, blessed and protected by God. Throughout the Patriot's Bible, but especially in the Old Testament, an explicit parallel is drawn between Israel and America.
For example, George Washington is exalted as the "American Moses," about whom the commentators wonder "[h]owâ€¦is it possible for so much greatness to be embodied in one man?" Similarly, as God brought the Israelites out of oppression and led them into the promised land, so God led the brave pioneers of America out of their oppression and brought them to their promised land. As God fought on the side of the Israelites to ensure victory over their foes, so God's providential hand was at work in all of America's military victories. And just as God used the children of Abraham to bless the whole world, so God has used, and wants to continue to use, America to bless the entire world by bringing it freedom.
A question never addressed in the Patriot's Bible is why anyone, American or otherwise, should agree with any of this. The Patriot's Bible never tires of offering the reader quotes from various famous people in American history who believed all of this, but this simply begs the question. Why should we today regard the claims to divine favor found throughout our history as any different than similar claims made by political leaders of countries and tribes throughout history? After all, with very few exceptions, all countries and tribes throughout history have believed they were established, governed, blessed and protected by some god or another. When we read about early American pioneers who claimed it was "manifest destiny" that white Europeans would conquer and rule this continent, we have to ask ourselves why we shouldn't regard such proclamations as simply a new version of a very old pagan mantra. (We're also justified â€" indeed, required â€" to wonder what impact the contemporary Christian endorsement of this white European interpretation of providence might have on American Indians, African Americans and others who continue to suffer as a result of the violent European conquest of this land).