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Leave the Bible alone

The God Bless the USA Bible should never have been made

Former President Donald Trump holds a Bible outside of St. John's Church on June 1, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Associated Press/Photo by Patrick Semansky

Leave the Bible alone

If you are a Christian, familiarity with the Constitution and Declaration of Independence is good. America’s founding was, after all, doubtlessly influenced by its heavily Protestant character.

If you are a Christian, familiarity with the Bible is even more important. We rely on God’s Word to sustain us in our daily relationship with Christ. The Word is a “lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path,” as Scripture says.

Generally, it is hard to complain about greater familiarity with America’s governing documents or Christianity’s governing document.

But fusing America’s founding documents with the Word of God is a syncretistic expression of civil religion that goes farther than what those who love their country—and, more importantly, for those who love their Bibles—should ever allow.

How unfortunate it is, then, for former President Trump during Holy Week to get on X and hawk the God Bless the USA Bible. It markets itself as the “only Bible endorsed by President Trump!” The Bible’s translation is the King James Version, which one assumes was chosen as the translation because it is in the public domain and is, therefore, free to use without copyright entanglement.

To put matters bluntly, a Bible like this should never have been made. That is not because I’m anti-Bible or anti-Constitution. Actually, I am very much in favor of both. They fuel both my heavenly citizenship and my earthly citizenship. But fusing the two in the name of religious-civic identity can quickly become a form of identity politics for the political right. The Bible is not a symbol of American identity even while we proudly herald the Bible-influenced shape of American life and values. There is an ever-present temptation to allow one’s theology to bend to one’s politics when it is our politics that should bend to our theology.

President Donald J. Trump lacks all the authority—and sincerity—to stand up and advertise a Bible for $59.99. Really, no one does, because Bibles of this sort should never have been made in the first place. Of course, when you’re dealing with a figure like Trump who makes little pretense of honoring what’s inside the Bible, one does not expect there to be any compunction about using the Bible as political agitprop. Trump has a track record of using the Bible for political theater. One recalls the garish display of standing in front of St. John’s Church in June 2020 to project strongman machismo in response to the protests engulfing the nation’s capital. To be clear, the riots were violent and unjust. Responding to vigilantism, however, does not justify waving the Bible like a magical shield.

The Bible is no prop, and Christians would do well to resist the syncretistic ploy of melding church and state in this way.

Situations like the God Bless the USA Bible present easy occasions for all the token anti-Trump voices to stomp on Trump for bastardizing Christianity.

They are not altogether wrong to pounce.

Trump peddling a patriotic Bible is gimmicky civil religion. Even if Bibles like this are a well-worn gimmick by now, the Bible is no prop, and Christians would do well to resist the syncretistic ploy of melding church and state in this way.

But being even-handed requires criticism to go in all directions. You know what’s also worth criticizing? The Democratic platform’s assault on human nature and human dignity.

Allowing what is popular and politically correct to determine the intensity and proportion of moral outrage is not the way for Christians. A wrong is a wrong regardless of whose tribe does it.

I don’t mean to engage in a classic example of “whataboutism.” I simply want to put all offenses on the table. Moreover, there are some sectors of American evangelicalism that would do well to express more outrage, even any outrage for that matter, at the Democrats’ anti-human agenda rather than directing the entirety of their ire at the former president’s behavior.

I want a United States where non-Christian presidents do not invoke the Bible for their own political gain. I also want a United States where one of the major parties is not in high rebellion against God’s creation. The former is cartoonish, cringey, and crudely utilitarian. But the latter is bloody, deadly, and also violently utilitarian.

I see no evidence to suggest that the former president is a born-again Christian. But, as I said, it’s Holy Week. This is the capstone week of the Christian narrative, which means I should not end this column merely angry or annoyed but redemptive, because the gospel is good news for Donald Trump, too.

Mr. President, Jesus loves you. He was punished for the sins of His people and raised on the third day to demonstrate and prove that He is the Savior of the world. If you repent of your sins and throw yourself at the mercy of Christ, He will forgive you and reconcile you to Him. Jesus can give you a new life.

Do you know why? Because the Bible tells me so.

Andrew T. Walker

Andrew is the managing editor of WORLD Opinions and serves as associate professor of Christian ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. He resides with his family in Louisville, Ky.

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