Hubris, Thy Name Is “Conservative Bible Project”

I’m not sure I even know how to write about this. It is so far beyond the pale that all I can do, I think, is tell the story.

There is a web site called Conservapedia. Apparently Wikipedia is too liberal for them, so they have their own online wiki-based encyclopedia. (“The Trustworthy Encyclopedia” is the sub-title, under a logo made to look like the multi-language globe of Wikipedia … except this one is covered by a big American flag. Apparently only American opinions count. But I digress.)

This site has started a new wiki project entitled the “Conservative Bible Project.” I’m going to just quote the opening page, so I’m not accused of distorting their message through my liberal bias, as it were:

Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations. There are three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning:

  • lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts of Christianity
  • lack of precision in modern language
  • translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.

Of these three sources of errors, the last introduces the largest error, and the biggest component of that error is liberal bias. Large reductions in this error can be attained simply by retranslating the KJV into modern English.

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:

  1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
  2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
  3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level
  4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop; defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.
  5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”; using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census
  6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
  7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
  8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
  9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
  10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”

Thus, a project has begun among members of Conservapedia to translate the Bible in accordance with these principles.

Wow. Just … wow. I’m actually just about speechless at the combination of hubris, ignorance, and distortion present in those ten guidelines.

Here are just two small points, among many, many that I could make:

  • “Free-Market Parables” — so the point of Jesus’s parables was to promote capitalism? Jesus was all about derivatives and NAFTA? The parable of the Sower is to discourage farm subsidies? The problem, of course, is that for many conservatives the so-called “free market” IS a religion. Greed is their god, not Jesus, and anything that gets in the way of that greed is obviously of the devil. Fettering the market to prevent the poor and powerless from being harmed is obviously demonic, in their eyes. I wonder what they do with the rich man and Lazarus — give the rich man more stock options and fire Lazarus one year before retirement so they don’t have to pay his pension?
  • “Liberal Wordiness” — as another writer aptly points out, “how are you going to abide by the conservative mandate to avoid “dumbing down” Holy Writ while at the same time avoiding big words liberals use?” Here’s a clue, dear erstwhile Bible translators: the reason other transations use multiple names for God is because the Bible uses multiple names for God. (I started to put “you twits” on the end of that, but the fact that I’m referencing Wikipedia ought to be enough.)

By far, though, the worst aspect of this misbegotten effort is the subjugation of the Bible, and of Jesus, to a political philosophy. It is one thing to read the Bible and interpret it as supporting your position; it is quite another thing to rewrite it to support your position.

I’m sure, to the people that are doing this, it seems perfectly acceptable to write their own conservative translation of the Bible. To me, it is ultimately a very sad story. Rather than come together over the word, as fellow followers of the Christ, to try to hear the Spirit’s Word to us within the written Word, we simply move further and further apart, with our own churches, our own mission groups, our own television channels and radio stations and publishers and web sites … and now, one side has its own Bible. Once again, a story that appears to have come from the Onion is actually true, and once again I am reminded of the quote from “Hannah and Her Sisters”:

If Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.

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