Musings and Meanderings By John Allen Small

A Real Life Horror Story
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One thing I learned a long time ago is that some Halloween stories are scarier than others.

The one I am about to relate here may well be the single scariest Halloween story I have ever heard in my life... for the simple reason that this one happens to be true.

A few weeks back, I came across a story in a newspaper about a church in Canton, North Carolina, whose pastor announced that he was planning to "celebrate" Halloween by holding a book burning at his church this Saturday, Oct. 31. Being a lifelong opponent of book burning - a topic I've written about a number of times in this space over the years - that news alone was enough to raise the hairs on the back of my neck.

But then I read a little further and found the true horror. The books that Pastor Marc Grizzard reportedly plans to incinerate this Saturday night are copies of the Bible! To be more specific, copies of the Bible which are any translation other than the King James Version.

It seems that the KJV is the only translation allowed at the Amazing Grace Baptist Church of Canton. Grizzard was quoted as saying that all other versions of the Bible - including the Living Bible, the New International Version and (I can only assume) that Classics Illustrated comic book version of the story of Jesus one of my Sunday school teachers gave me when I was a teenager - are "satanic" and "perversions" of God's word.

I'm sure that news came as quite a shock to that sweet little woman who gave copies of that Classics Illustrated comic to myself and a number of other kids in good faith, believing that the best way to approach some people about the Good News was to put it in terms they could understand.

You know, the way Jesus used to do with his parables...

Some readers may recall that I obtained my journalism degree at a church-affiliated school: Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, a sister school to Southern Nazarene University here in Oklahoma. Along with the classes pertaining to my field of study and a certain number of electives, I was required to complete a minimum number of religion classes in order to obtain that degree.

One of the things I remember from one of those classes (it may have been Church History, but don't hold me to that) was something that was reported to have been said by one of the scholars whose work resulted in the King James Version.

This individual had stated something to the effect that those translators had done the best job they could with the Scriptural manuscripts available to them at that time - but that they also knew that it fell short, and that they hoped future translators would do a better job in the future.

Isn't it interesting that the theologians and scholars who gave us the King James Version believed that future translations would actually be a GOOD thing, while some in our supposedly more "enlightened" age would argue differently? What makes Pastor Marc Grizzard right and those learned scholars from days of yore wrong?

Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against the King James Version. I have several copies at home, not to mention one right here on my desk at the newspaper office. But I also have copies of several other translations, as well, and have taken just as much from my readings of those versions as I have from the KJV.

I have no qualms with any true believer who prefers one translation of the Bible over another. I do, however, tend to get somewhat annoyed at those who would argue that one and only one of those translations will get you into Heaven, and that all other translations are therefore to be treated as perverse.

And, boy oh boy, the patriot's blood in me really begins to boil at the thought of some self-righteous publicity seeking knucklehead burning books of ANY kind - and then compounding the travesty by cloaking their hatred or bigotry or just out-and-out stupidity in false piety.

It's un-American. In this case I would also argue that it's incredibly un-Christlike.

Meanwhile, there is a group of extreme right-winger types who have apparently grown concerned by the increased numbers of left-wing Christian political and social movements and have decided to respond by rewriting the Bible in their own image.

The Conservative Bible Project reportedly aims to remove terms described as "liberal bias" from the Bible. I can only assume that this would include exhortations to "love they neighbor," and Jesus' comments regarding the laying up of earthly treasures...

I am suddenly reminded of a cartoon for a Sunday school publication drawn many years ago by Peanuts creator Charles M. Schultz. The cartoon showed a young man thumbing through his Bible and telling a friend, "Don't bother me; I'm looking for a passage to back up one of my preconceived notions..."

(Copyright 2009, by John A. Small)

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