Book Review: The Patriot's Bible (part 2)
Does the Patriot's Bible glorify nationalistic violence?

Read part 1 of Greg Boyd's review of The Patriot's Bible.

It's perhaps not coincidental that the Patriot's Bible offers no commentary on any passages related to our instruction to love and do good to our enemies.

But the Revolutionary War is not by any means the only nationalistic violence celebrated in the Patriot's Bible. To the contrary, the glory of nationalistic violence permeates this Bible. For example, every book of the Bible opens with a montage of national monuments, symbols, stars and stripes, etc… which include, with few exceptions, images of armed soldiers, bombers and battleships. Most stunningly, each Gospel opens with a scene that includes soldiers struggling to raise a flag under the words "In God We Trust." All the subsequent books of the New Testament open with a montage that includes a flag waving behind the Statue of Liberty on one side and armed marching troops on the other. It's quite breathtaking - and I don't mean this in a good way.

Similarly, a very high percentage of the commentaries sprinkled throughout this Bible exalt American wars and their heroes. To give but one example, a comment in 2 Samuel about how "the mighty have fallen in the midst of battle" (2 Sam. 1:25) elicits a half page commentary entitled "Duty-Honor-Country." In it the commentators review a famous speech given by General Douglas MacArthur in which he claims that "[t]he solider, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training â€" sacrifice." In facing danger, MacArthur adds, the soldier "discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when He created man in His own image."

The soldier on the field, prepared to die and kill for his country, apparently exemplifies the greatest act of religion and the best expression of what it is to be made in the image of God!

(I have to assume MacArthur and the commentators of the Patriot's Bible only intend to refer to American soldiers, though it remains unclear how they could justify such a selective application of the imago dei). The commentary becomes even more amazing as it recounts MacArthur's statement that "…the solider who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind." The contributors clearly agree with this theology, for they comment that, "as long as other Americans serve their country courageously and honorably, [MacAthur's] words will live on" (p.341).

Without in any way detracting from the courage of soldiers who lay down their lives for their country, I find myself utterly confounded as to how Christian commentators can agree that a military combatant is "the noblest development of mankind." Since Christ is the perfect illustration of what it means to be "in the image of God," and since he is our Lord and the one we are called to imitate, shouldn't he be the criteria for what constitutes "the noblest development of mankind?" Yet, he refused to buy into the Jewish nationalism of his day (despite the fact that Israel, unlike America, actually had been sanctioned by God in the Old Testament). And he laid down his life for his enemies rather than engage in violence against them (Mt 26:53) or allow his disciples to do so. (Jn 18:10-11, 36).

May 26, 2009

Displaying 1–10 of 19 comments


November 12, 2009  4:13pm

I further look at the context of the article and further have to ask a question. Even though I agree that as followers of Jesus Christ who should stand as non-violent in our approach to those whom would be enemies to the cross, well in regards to this what would be the stand of a people in the face of their family being attacked, or a friend? Would we just back and just give it all to GOD at that moment? Or would we interfere and protect them? I firmly believe that as a follower of Jesus Christ that the first act in any situation would be to stand and seek GOD in regards to it. I would go further in saying that praying the "Lord's Prayer" daily, seeking GOD's face and then his hand in matters of life and the lives of other nations should always be our first priority. Then being a witness to others and demonstrating who CHRIST is through our actions. War is never a good thing in any way nor being a part of it. Sometimes it cannot be avoided and you are thrust into it. I say this from first hand experience. When your family is in danger and there is no place for escape then you must stand and fight. Even JESUS grew angry in the temple when HE saw the money changers engaged in profit in the House of GOD. He made a whip and ran them out of the temple. HE stood for what HIS father is. What further bothers me is the use of the term, "white Europeans," as this is a bad thing. I have read and listened to those who have revised text books in public schools use that very same term in regards to the evil bad things that these Europeans have done to this country. Real history says otherwise to this. Even revised texts about Christopher Columbus never mention his faith in GOD or his desire to spread the Gospel. Yes he did make mistakes and terrible things occurred but just remember that he did have a crew and not all of them went with him for the gospel's sake. Instead of looking at the fact that we have so many "personalized" Bibles look instead at what they are targeting. From Women's Bibles, Men's Bibles, Teen Bibles, etc. these personal Bibles make the the Word more personal to particular groups and helps them to understand just how the Word can be applied to them. Some people think there should just be the KJV version and nothing else. The developers of the Patriot Bible have heart in what they are trying to do. It is not perfect nor is it a bad thing. There is a relationship between what our American history and the Word of GOD is. The founders had such a relationship and their many quotes demonstrate this fully. It is not this particular Bible which will further add fuel for those who deny the very existence of GOD for they will always find reasons for such. Look not to what appears but instead for what does not appear.

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June 11, 2009  7:49am

Thank you Greg Boyd for your thorough critique of this Bible. Jesus modeled for us how to live and love each other. His "Good News" was a threat to the government of his day. Jesus did not repay evil with evil when threatened by his enemies but rather laid down his own life in the ultimate act of peace. This is scary for us as Christians since it does not promise us safety here on earth. Faith requires courage, while guns and bombs do not.

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Alan Gallivan

June 02, 2009  6:31pm

I think Boyd's penetrating words reveals the heart of the matter very well. He says, "This [intense glorification of national violence] simply reveals how thoroughly the Gospel of Jesus has been co-opted and redefined by the Gospel of American Patriotism in this Bible." We must reinforce that the danger of such a bible is that it is not merely a catalyst for skewing the central message of the Christian Gospel, but that the American Patriot's Bible is a consequence of a worldview which has unfortunately been increasingly prevailing among Christian Americans, and is hopefully rejected thoroughly by American Christians, and Christians living in any other nation-state. If America has anything worth celebrating, it is that "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone [including Americans] to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

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June 02, 2009  5:03pm

Jarrod, You stated, "'Whatever you do, do heartily as unto the Lord,' writes Paul. I assume that applies to the employee behind the counter at Starbucks as much as to the soldier in Iraq. Or in the trenches in WWI or in the rice paddies of Vietnam." Does this also apply to prostitutes, drug traffickers, and porn stars? Should not their profession be taken into account as they "Do it unto the Lord?"

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June 02, 2009  1:51pm

All this reminds me of seeing those swastikas at the front of Nazi German churches. If we named the other countries throughout history that might be likely to embrace a Patriot's Bible, would we want to be in that company?

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May 30, 2009  12:33pm

This "Patriot's Bible" will do nothing more than create an even greater number of Atheists by proving to them their point that the Christian religion is a racket that is into creating a jackbooted nation of thugs.

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missional girl

May 29, 2009  4:59pm

I love my country but patriotism does not supersede my love for the Lord Jesus. I am curious to see how the Patriot's Bible handled passages having to do with slavery and the genocide of Native Americans.

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May 29, 2009  4:47pm

Ok, I, too, think this Bible is in bad taste. However, the tone of this review, and of several of the comments, seems to be saying that Christians cannot (or should not) be soldiers. What kind of military would we have if all Christians abandon military service? I submit that our military, as flawed as it is, is better because of the presence of Christians within the ranks. And how can Christians, who hold such pacifistic views, rightly enjoy the freedoms that have been won by men in arms? As long as evil exists on this earth, and as long as evil men and women assume power over others, war will continue to be a necessary evil. I think Pastor Greg needs to respond to this issue. It's easy to criticize the military, but how about some balanced treatment?

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Chad Hall

May 27, 2009  3:32pm

This post reminded me that just yesterday on Facebook I noticed "The Bible" listed as a "consumer good." I guess we have to face it that many members of our society lack a category for understanding the Bible as anything but a product that can be (re)packaged and sold. Though I do find the patriotism packaging especially distasteful.

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Sam Andress

May 27, 2009  2:41pm

Obviously this group of Christians who felt the need to publish a "patriot's" Bible do not believe in the efficacy of the Scriptures. Because there is certainly nothing in the Hebraic worldview that would correlate to commending patriotism in a modern liberal-democratic nation-state.

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