Time: Conservative Bible Project 'Insane' but 'Green Bible' Evangelical-friendly

October 5th, 2009 3:54 PM

A year ago Time magazine's David Van Biema wrote up a short, favorable take on the so-called Green Bible, an edition based on the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) that placed "green references" in "a pleasant shade of forest green, much as red-letter editions of the Bible encrimson the words of Jesus." But wait, there's more, The Green Bible also includes "supplementary writings" several of which "cite the Genesis verse in which God gives humanity 'dominion' over the earth" and "Others [which] assert that eco-neglect violates Jesus' call to care for the least among us: it is the poor who inhabit the floodplains."

Even though The Green Bible is risible both from a commercial standpoint as a marketing ploy and theologically as a bastardization of the real heart of Christian doctrine, neither charge was entertained as a valid criticism by the Time staffer. Van Biema even hinted that evangelicals, 54 percent of whom "agreed that 'stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost'" might embrace the translation despite strong reservations from conservative theologians.

Yet the same reverent treatment was spared the online  "Conservative Bible Project" spearheaded by some folks at Conservapedia. Time's Amy Sullivan slammed the project as "insane" in her October 5 Swampland blog post:

This is insane. The guys at Conservapedia (aka, "the trustworthy encyclopedia") have decided to retranslate the Bible in what they're calling the Conservative Bible Project, because "liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations."

And you thought liberal bias was limited to the evil mainstream media. Apparently the early Church fathers had their own problems, because the Conservapediacs are particularly intent on scrubbing the Bible of "liberal" passages they say were inserted into the original canon and therefore shouldn't be considered sacred. Passages like the story of the adulteress whom Jesus saved from being stoned with the famous line: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Conservapedia complains that liberals have used this story to argue against the death penalty. Plus, this Jesus character sounds like a radical moral relativist.

Also among the goals of the project: replace liberal words like "labor" with preferred conservative terms; use concise language instead of "liberal wordiness"; and--my favorite--"explain the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning." Jesus talks about economics more than any other secular subject in the Bible, so they've got their work cut out for them. I look forward to learning the free-market meaning of "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

While this writer personally disagrees with and finds huge dangers in an explicitly "conservative" interpretation of holy writ, Sullivan goes beyond issuing a warning about tampering with holy writ by suggesting the effort is no more than an attempt to pen a Bible that both the Church Lady and Gordon Gecko would love.

In doing so, she fails to consider some of more legitimate theologically conservative concerns that the project managers point to, such as "gender neutral" phrasing in some translations and language in other translations that glosses over the stark biblical teachings on Hell and eternal punishment. 

Both the Green Bible and the nascent Conservative Bible project have room for both scorn and thoughtful criticism. It would be helpful for Sullivan to admit as much to escape the charge of being a hypocrite who should first remove the log from her magazine's eye before picking the speck out of those of conservative online activists.