Guess what’s coming this fall?
The Robertson family is publishing their own specialty Bible, The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible. It features ancillary notes on faith, family, freedom, and other traditional values. (Let’s hope this doesn’t include the “value” of pretending the whole Jim Crow era never happened.*)
Last week, I wrote for OnFaith about four modern versions of the Bible that I believe are ruining the Bible—four ways in which the proliferation of Bibles is having the opposite of its desired effect. Commoditizing Scripture is causing us to read and value it less, not more.
But I seem to have neglected one version: the vanity Bible.
To be fair, vanity Bibles are nothing new. Joyce Meyer has one. John MacArthur has one. Charles Swindoll has one. Max Lucado has three. Even Thomas Kinkade has his own Bible. (No word on whether it includes anything as awesome as this.)
Some of these so-called vanity Bibles are better than others. At least most of the people listed above can lay claim to being Bible teachers of one kind or another. And not all of them opted to have their name put in the title.
But a Duck Dynasty Bible?
The product description notes that one of the contributing family members is a pastor with 22 years of experience. That’s good. But that’s not why anyone is going to buy this Bible. People are buying it for the guys who make popular duck calls and star in a reality TV show of dubious authenticity. (I guess I could’ve just said “star in a reality TV show.”)
I don’t doubt the Robertson family loves the Bible. I don’t doubt they’re serious about their faith. But it’s hard to see this as something more than an attempt to extend the lucrative Duck Dynasty franchise.
Here’s the question: Should we be using holy writ to grow our own empires?
And can the notion of vanity Bibles be reconciled with Paul’s rebuke against those who rallied around the first-century equivalent of celebrity pastors?
“I follow Paul.”
“I follow Apollos.”
You can almost hear the modern-day version.
“I follow MacArthur.”
“I follow Driscoll.”
“I follow… the Duck Dynasty guys.”
If we want people to take the Bible seriously, maybe we should stop cheapening it with gimmicky novelty editions. No wonder Bible reading fell 20% in a single generation.
Related post: The real difference between Phil Robertson and Pope Francis
*In fairness to the publisher, I know from personal experience that the lead times on projects like this can be considerable. So it’s possible they signed this deal before Phil Robertson’s controversial comments about gays and African Americans last December. That still leaves larger question about the legitimacy of vanity Bibles unresolved, in my opinion.
11 thoughts on “Are vanity Bibles like this one ruining the Bible?”
Please! Say it isn’t so!! Oh boy, what a joke. He sure showed what kind of Christian values he has when he made his racist remarks. And people are supposed to flock to buy this bible that shares their family values? Lord, help us!
I’m afraid it’s so.
Ben hold on a second, 95% of real life TV programs are bogus. I also agree with the Bible not being commercialized like this but the appeal of the show is entertainment. Many people like it’s corniness and am one of those but at one time swore that I would never watch it.
Agreed…which is why I added the parenthetical comment at the end of that paragraph. I don’t have any problem with the show itself. I’ve watched an episode or two and see the entertainment value. (Although a few of its more devoted followers were offended when I suggested to them that it was less than 100% authentic.) My bigger concern is with a reality show becoming the basis for a Bible product and the overall state of the commercial Bible market.
Yeah that kind of offends me, so I went to a Christian Book Store looking for a Cambridge Cameo Bible but they did not have that. Instead I saw Dynasty Stuff, McArthur, and even, Military Bibles for every branch!!
There was so much commercialism that I had to get out of there, LOL.
Ben, while you have a point about the value of vanity Bibles, you have to remember that whoever publishers pursue to write a vanity Bible maya actually reach a group of people who wouldn’t normally read a Bible. So I trust you would be in favor of that. But on the flip side it does create a glut of Boble options that might actually confuse the intended audience. But whatever the case may be, let’s hope that somehow the Scripture will find its way into the hearts of people so that they embrace a relationship with Jesus.
I hear you, and yes…I’m all in favor of inspiring people who may not otherwise pick up a Bible to give it a go. And I know from experience that is one of the things that motivates Bible publishers. (It’s not all bottom lines and profit margins. There’s a genuine desire to see people engage the content of Scripture.)
But I also think there are a couple of caveats. One, does a particular specialized version of Bible honor the content of Scripture for what it is? Does it encourage people to read the Bible on its own terms? Or does it turn the Bible into something it’s not — e.g., a self-help book or a divine instruction manual for life?
Two, however strong the desire to reach people who don’t normally read the Bible, does it actually work? There will always be anecdotal stories. And to the extent that someone meaningfully connects with Scripture because of the Duck Commander Bible or some other specialty Bible, that’s something to celebrate, even if I don’t particularly like the vehicle in this case. But I think the bigger picture suggests these anecdotal stories are the exception rather than the rule. We’ve had more Bibles published in the last two decades than probably in the rest of human history…at the same time that Bible reading has trended downward. Not a little downward. A lot. My contention is that if all these specialty Bibles were making a difference, we should see the trend moving in the other direction.
Yes, I think people should just read the NIV, NVI or any other language’s version and then the world will be a better place.
The problem is that the purported ‘traditional’ values that the Robertsons perpetuate are values of the world, not the Kingdom of God. Plain and simple, and the unholy union of the two will indeed further damage and cheapen the gospel.