The American Patriot’s Bible (Thomas Nelson, hardcover, 1,620 pages plus maps) is an attempt to demonstrate how absolutely intertwined American history and culture are with the Word of God. I would not call it a study Bible (although it does contain a decent concordance at the end). Rather, it would probably fit most readily into the category of “novelty Bible”. The easy-to-read NKJV text is peppered with callout boxes and glossy-paper articles all having to do with the influence of Scripture on the United States. At the very beginning are maps, lists, and a family-records section. This Bible is very well constructed and quite readable.
I have to admit that I approached this Bible with some degree of ambiguity. I love the Bible, and I love America, but my line of work has pretty much cured me of any vestiges of the so-called “American Exeptionalism”. The God of Scripture is not American, and I do not believe that America has any special prerogative in the Divine Plan. Under no circumstances can the promises given to Israel be applied to the US.
Having said that, it takes but a precursory look at history to see the unique role America has played, and continues to play. The US is unparalleled in its foundation on Christian principles, its progress in human rights, its support of Israel, and its support of missionary work around the globe.
And there most definitely is room for the Christian American to be patriotic, so long as he remembers where his true citizenship lies.
The fact that I read The American Patriot’s Bible during the 9-11 commemorations–a time when my own patriotism is at a hightened state–may have made me more charitably disposed to this Bible. It has many good features.
The call-out boxes deal with concepts such as “honor”, “humility”, “defender”, ect. and highlight a person, event, or speech from US history. Usually these have something to do with the biblical text at hand. The full-color sections deal with larger themes such as the Civil War or the Great Awakening.
Another cool feature: interspersed throught the Bible are markers showing where the various presidents placed their hands as they were sworn in. (Truly ironic is Bill Clinton’s choice of Galatians 6:8. Look it up.)
It is obvious to the reader that Dr. Richard G. Lee–general editor–is trying hard to be bi-partisan. He quotes Republicans and Democrats, and goes so far as to find some glowing things to say about President Obama. Yet, the partisan nature of certain issues cannot be avoided, especially when the Bible is so clear about them (ex. Abortion). To his credit, Dr. Lee does not shy away from these, either.
I was pleasantly surprised with the overall tone of the notes. While there a couple of times where it slips into American Exeptionalism, and at times even seems to hi-jack promises to Israel, the American Patriot’s Bible is, on the whole, worthwhile and interesting. It has even given me some material for an English-language Sunday School class I teach here, where we focus on the impact the Bible has had on language and culture.
As a post script to this review, I would like to reproduce a prayer that is found in page 475, as subtext for David’s ascension to the throne in I Chronicles. It was written by Josia Gilbert Holland in the 19th century, and I read it on Saturday as I watched video of the events of September 11, 2001, and then saw the thousands of people gathered in protest at the Capitol. It seems to have grown in its relevance:
God, give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty, and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong ruiles the land and waiting Justice sleeps.
(Disclaimer: This review was done in participation with the Thomas Nelson Book Review program for bloggers. While I do get a free book out of the deal, I am in no way pressured to write a positive review.)