There’s No Such Thing as an American Bible

The presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States, who weeks ago started selling shoes, is now peddling Bibles. During Holy Week.

What’s special about this Bible? So many things. For example, according to a promotional website, it’s the only Bible endorsed by Donald Trump. It’s also the only one endorsed by the country singer Lee Greenwood. Admittedly, the translation isn’t distinctive — it’s your standard King James Version — but the features are unique. This Bible includes the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance and part of the lyrics of Mr. Greenwood’s song “God Bless the USA.” Perhaps most striking, the cover of the Bible does not include a cross or any symbol of the Christian tradition; instead, it is emblazoned with the American flag.

While part of me wants to laugh at the absurdity of it — and marvel at the sheer audacity — I find the messaging unsettling and deeply wrong. This God Bless the USA Bible, as it’s officially named, focuses on God’s blessing of one particular people. That is both its danger and, no doubt for some, its appeal.

Whether this Bible is an example of Christian nationalism I will leave to others. It is at least an example of Christian syncretism, a linking of certain myths about American exceptionalism and the Christian faith. This is the American church’s consistent folly: thinking that we are the protagonists in a story that began long before us and whose main character is in fact the Almighty.

Holy Week is the most sacred portion of the Christian calendar, a time when the church recounts the central events of our faith’s narrative, climaxing in the death and resurrection of Jesus. That story, unlike the parochial God Bless the USA Bible, does not belong to any culture.

Holy Week is celebrated on every continent and in too many languages to number. Some of the immigrants Mr. Trump declared were “poisoning the blood” of America will probably shout “Christ is risen!” this Easter. Many of them come from the largely Christian regions of Latin America and the Caribbean. They may have entered the country with Bibles in their native tongues nestled securely among their other belongings.

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