Aug 5, 2011

The "Poverty and Justice" Bible

 | Spaeking of Justice
This excerpt was part of a longer post that covered several topics a couple of years ago. I had been asked to review a niche Bible designed, I gather, for Sojourners-style lefties.
(First posted 4 December 2009)

The American Bible Society has published The Poverty & Justice Bible—on recycled paper (because, you know, that makes a statement against Global Warming, perhaps the greatest human "injustice" some of our liberal friends are capable of imagining). They've sent me four copies to give away to our blog readers, and they hoped I would review the publication at TeamPyro. Here's the most succinct review I can give you tonight:

The "Bible" aspect of this work is of course its best feature, though I'm not at all a fan of the watered-down, dumbed-down, gender-neutraled, politically-correct "Contemporary English Version" they have used. I can't see any scenario in which such a poor translation would be truly useful, and with the plethora of translations available today, this one certainly would not be my choice. Perhaps one example of this translation's deep-down badness will suffice for this short review. Here's the CEV rendering of Acts 9:22: "Saul preached with such power that he completely confused the Jewish people in Damascus, as he tried to show them that Jesus is the Messiah." (ESV: "But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.")

The worst feature of the book, however, is the way it treats "poverty & justice." The editors' and (most of the endorsers') notion of "justice" is clearly straight from the canons of political correctness. Not that they really have much of any substance to say about either poverty or justice. There's a thin section of United-Methodist-style devotional essays stitched into the center of the book and unwisely titled "The Core." Aside from that, the main clues about the editors' perspective on "poverty & justice" come from the verses they have selected to highlight (or not). The highlights are in burnt orange (another unfortunate choice). Ostensibly these are all the key Bible verses about poverty and justice.

So with that in mind, I thumbed through to check a few verses that I knew would pose a challenge to the currently-popular politically-correct perspectives on "poverty & justice." It was frankly not surprising to see that 2 Thessalonians 3:10 ("If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat") didn't merit the editors' orange smear of approval. Neither did Deuteronomy 7:1-5, which spells out God's prescription for justice to the Canaanites, Perizzites, Amorites, and so on. Galatians 6:7 ("whatever one sows, that will he also reap") was ignored by the highlighter pen. Predictably, so was the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 and God's judicial abandonment of sinners to their sin in Romans 1.

In other words, the view of "justice" this Bible tries to promote is the same humanistic perspective we have heard nonstop from Tony Campolo, Ron Sider, Shane Claiborne, most of the Emergent/ing districts of the blogosphere, and Acorn.



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