This post is a confession of sorts.
I am and have been very suspicious. I grew up in a mainline denomination, though in a conservative church in that tradition. I grew in Christ through a parachurch ministry that emphasized Bible reading, discipleship and evangelism. During that time I attended Baptist churches. Through the providence of God, I ended up at Covenant Seminary, which is owned and run by the Presbyterian Church in America. Since then I have been an ordained pastor in the PCA, both with RUF and now with City Presbyterian Church.
I like to think of myself as Reformed. Well, sometimes I do. I’m not sure. I think the PCA and the Reformed camp of the church takes itself far too seriously far too often. I often advocate for a chillaxin’ of views and a bigger tent so we can associate with and get along with the wider church. But then I often feel like I identify with the church on more of the left. So much of evangelicalism in America today just drives me bonkers. So when I’m in that bigger tent that I’ve advocated for, my alarm bells go off and I have a hard time keeping silent. It often puts me in no-man’s land, and then I’m not sure what to do.
This weekend was one of those times. I was invited to a fundraising dinner for the new Museum of the Bible that’s being constructed in Washington DC. This is a project that’s being headed up by Steve Green, one of the sons and owners of Hobby Lobby, a privately-owned company right here in Oklahoma City.
As I’ve interacted with Hobby Lobby and the Green family, I only come away with profound respect for them and their company and mission. They are truly great people and they treat their employees really well, for example paying them far above the minimum wage. They do that because they think it’s the right thing to do. They’ve been in the news lately for their fights about abortion, abortion pills and the rights of companies to follow the convictions of their owners. That’s a bigger and different issue, but I assure you the Greens are fighting these rulings because of their beliefs, and that those beliefs are rooted in humility not in hubris.
When I get invited to something the Greens do, I try to attend. That only makes sense.
But my wife Julie can tell you that I wasn’t very happy about it. Enter the suspicion. I don’t like being told I have to wear a suit and tie. I didn’t like a 5:30pm start time. I didn’t like the idea that I was going to be asked for money. And the biggest suspicion of them all is that this Museum of the Bible is something that I would never ever like in a million years. I knew it will be something I’m embarrassed about and that will be a cheesy attempt to guilt or shame people into liking the Bible through some sort of Veggie Tales or Mardelsian chintzy method. (There – I said it.)
It wasn’t like that. You knew that was coming, right?
It was a beautiful and incredible (though long) event. First class, no doubt. Steve Green has amassed a personal collection of over 50,000 items that he’s purchased since 2010, many of them the most revered and distinguished of their kind. He’s amassed a first-class team of scholars. He’s pursuing incredible research and wanting to talk about the Bible on its own terms as an important book in our world and culture that people should know about. This isn’t a weird huge grand bait and switch.
Steve reminded the audience about the various lists that had been published over the past years, especially centering around the new millennium. These were those Top X lists that were and are so common. You can look at Time’s list here and see what is number one: Gutenberg Prints the Bible. He talked about the Bible as a document and not only as a book of faith. He talked about the profound effect the Bible has had in our world and how it’s not being read or talked about or understood and that that’s a problem. How can we argue with that?
I watched as the team showed the slides for the plans for the museum itself. And I thought, “This looks amazing. I want to go to there.” I did. I do. They are sparing no expense. It will not be cheesy. Anything but cheesy. This isn’t an in-your-face told you so middle finger to American culture. This is something that I think will really engage people in a tasteful, meaningful way to tell people about the Bible and the stories inside of it, the culture, the artifacts, the history, and yes also the faith. People just don’t know this story, even though the Bible is always the best selling book every year.
So – why am I against this? I’m not. I wasn’t exactly against it per se. I was suspicious about it. I don’t want another Creation Museum or wacky theory promotional site. I don’t want to further alienate the very people we seek to minister to. The Museum of the Bible won’t be like that. We can all rest easy, or at least I can. I’m in and happy to be involved and promote the Bible in whatever form you’d like to read it in and tell you that it’s that very Bible that we’re preaching every week at City Presbyterian Church and if you read it some or any, I’d like to talk to you about it and hear what you think. Thanks Steve Green for what you’re doing, for your vision and leadership and passion and I’m glad God gave you this project and the means to pull it off this way.
And I’m sorry my heart is like that.