Monday, March 10, 2008

The Poverty and Justice Bible

The Bible that reveals God's passion
"Almost every page of the Bible speaks of God's heart for the poor. His concern for the marginalized. His compassion for the oppressed. His call for justice.  The poverty and Justice Bible megaphones his voice as never before. Using the clear Contemporary English Version (CEV) text, it highlights more than 2,000 verses that spell out God's attitude to poverty and justice. And at the core of the groundbreaking Poverty and Justice Bible are in-depth studies and practical suggestions on what we can do to tackle poverty and injustice in our world today. The Poverty and Justice Bible. You know God cares for the poor. Now you can know how much."

Wow. Sounds incredible! Quite the sales pitch, wouldn't you say? I always knew that God cared for the poor -- but I think I'll need this copy of the Bible in order for me to know how much. Never before has this been available to me!! Huh? Well, honestly, I decided that something this goofy needs further investigation. So here goes...

According to the Poverty and Justice Bible's website, the inspiration behind the new printing came from Rick Warren. (And, no offense to Rick Warren, but that alone is enough to red flag it for me.) Apparently, Rick Warren "discovered" that there were 2,000 verses in the Bible on poverty... and he couldn't believe he had never noticed them before. Silly him! Huh! I don't believe that's true. I believe that he hadn't counted them before, but I'm pretty sure he noticed they were there. And then Bono of U2, the other major United States theologian, pointed out that the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor and then referred to the 2,000+ mentions of poverty in the Bible saying, "that's a lot of air time!" Of course, knowing that this particular work was thought of and funded by such thinking folks... but no. I'll still do more looking at it. :-)

Also according to the website, there are 50 in-depth studies in this Bible - all based on scripture. The studies you can do range from "equality to education," from "farming to fair trade," and from "wages to water." So I looked at their sample studies. They're hardly in-depth, and their content is somewhat questionable. 

For example, there's an "in-depth" study on the media. The study criticizes our celebrity-obsessed, trivia-driven world...  and then goes on to criticize specific shows like "Big Brother" and "X Factor," neither of which I can comment on because I have not seen either one. From the bit of TV I do watch, though, I would imagine that they might have a decent reason for criticizing these shows. The study goes on to say that wise people know when to laugh and when to listen. They take wisdom seriously and understand the need for understanding. Then there's a "dream" section where you're supposed to reflect and, apparently, dream a bit. This particular dream requires you to launch the Poverty and Justice TV channel and figure out the schedule. Then there's a "do" section... and this is where they really, really lose me. I'll quote it in its entirety: "Identify your ignorance and do something about it. Use the media to stretch your mind and make you wise. Seek out wise writers, respected reporters, intelligent entertainers - and learn from them." Really?!? This is your solution?? And all this is supposed to be an in-depth study on Proverbs 14:6-9, which says, "A mocker seeks wisdom and never finds it, but knowledge comes easily to those with understanding. Stay away from fools, for you won't find knowledge there. The wise look ahead to see what is coming, but fools deceive themselves. Fools make fun of guilt, but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation." Frankly, any "Bible study" that tells me to go to the media to  make me wise...oy. And intelligent entertainers?? What's up with that??

Then there's a study of Romans 13:8-10. This passage says, "Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God's law. For the commandments against adultery and murder and stealing and coveting - and any other commandment - are all summed up in this one commandment: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God's requirements." Considering this passage, one might assume the study to be related to LOVE in a big way. But not really... the study is entitled "Sun" and is about (I kid you not) GLOBAL WARMING and its affect on the poor. And I quote: "Paul was a great traveler... I wonder, if he were alive today, would he be zooming around Turkey on the Asia Minor equivalent of EasyJet?Would he be insulating his tent and reducing his carbon footprint? ...The Bible says that God will end the world and not Global Warming. But that doesn't mean we can ignore it. Experts argue about the effects of climate change, but, like so many global disasters, it will probably be the poor who suffer the most." It goes on to say that if we truly love others, we care about their living conditions and that means changing our lives so as not to damage theirs.  "Monday to Saturday matters. Sing as loudly as you like, but hypocrisy will shout louder. Nice song, shame about the lifestyle."

And last but not least, the study on Amos 5:21-24, which says, "I hate all your show and pretense - the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry." So... God isn't interested in the burnt offerings and grain offerings and choice peace offerings of His people. Why... but let's see what the study says in explanation... Ah! According to the study, this passage is a study on the WORLD. God created man and woman - and a role for them. Humankind was appointed to take care of the land and to look after it. Today, we aren't looking after it because "deforestation and urbanization are growing at an unparalleled rate. Care of the earth is replaced by exploitation." But a cursory glance at even just verses 25 and 26 show that God wasn't interested in their offerings because the people were more interested in their pagan gods (Sakkuth and Kaiwan) than they were in Him. The "dream" section of this in-depth study says, "On which bits of land can you have an impact? How would you like them to look?" And the "do" section? "Cultivate a relationship with your garden. Show it you care." Oh, my. I don't really think that's the point of the biblical selection. Do you?

Ah, well... as Rob Bell so eloquently states: "The real danger in our world may not be people failing to read the Bible - it may be what happens when people actually do read it..." This quote is also taken from the web site promoting the new Bible version. I'm sure that he must have said this meaning it in some positive way. And I've been trying to wrap my brain around what that might be for quite some time now... just having trouble getting it digested.

All that to say that I don't think I'll be spending my money to get a new Bible. My old one should do just fine.

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