Zondervan said this week it won’t publish a “God Bless the USA” Bible that critics said promoted Christian nationalism and skewed the lines between the secular and the sacred.
The special edition Bible is inspired by Lee Greenwood’s hit song and includes not only the text of Scripture but also copies of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance and the text of the Greenwood song. Its promotional website says it is “perfect to take to church, a Bible study, to work, travel, etc.” and is the “ultimate American Bible.” It is a product of Elite Source Pro.
A May 13 story in Religion Unplugged said Zondervan was in talks with Elite Source Pro to print the Bible. But this week, Zondervan told Religion Unplugged it would not publish it. A petition asking Zondervan not to print it had garnered more than 900 signatures.
“Zondervan is not publishing, manufacturing or selling the ‘God Bless the USA Bible’,” Zondervan told Religion Unplugged. “While we were asked for a manufacturing quote, ultimately the project was not a fit for either party, and the website and marketing of the NIV project were premature.”
The petition labeled the “God Bless the USA” Bible a “toxic mix” that “will exacerbate the challenges to American evangelicalism, adding fuel to the Christian nationalism and anti-Muslim sentiments found in many segments of the evangelical church.”
Hugh Kirkpatrick, president of Elite Source Pro, told Religion Unplugged he and a few friends got the idea for the Bible last year, when America’s history was being attacked.
“In past civilizations, libraries have been burned. Documents torn down. We started seeing statues coming down, and we started seeing history for good or bad trying to be erased,” Kirkpatrick said. “That’s when we started thinking, okay, how far does this erasing of history go? Love it or hate it, it’s history. But how far does it go…? Part of having these statues … is so that we don’t repeat those same mistakes.”
He added, “If the Bible contained Holy Scripture, but it also contained these documents, it would be a one-stop-shop for people to learn the basics of why the founders built into those documents divine providence.”
But several authors published by Zondervan – Shane Claiborne, Doug Pagitt, Lisa Sharon Harper, Jemar Tisby and Soong-Chan Rah – urged the company not to print the unique Bible.
“American nationalism is its own civil religion, where America rather than Jesus is the center of attention,” they wrote at Religion Unplugged. “Instead of Jesus and the Church being the light of the world and the hope for humanity, America becomes the Messianic force in the world. ...
After all, the Bible does not say ‘God bless America.’ It says, ‘God so loved the world.’ The national anthem should not be in the church hymnal, and the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States should not be in the Bible.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Ehrlif
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.