A proposed bill to make the the Holy Bible the Official State Book of Tennessee is now making its way through the state legislature in Nashville, Tennessee. The political claim says the Holy Bible is of great historical, cultural, and economic importance in the development of Tennessee. Informed Tennesseans and the Tennessee news media see that claim as a political lie Tennessee politicians are telling on behalf of the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical establishment in Tennessee. In other words, this bill is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to get state government to officially recognize Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism as the State Religion of Tennessee.
Here is what American founding father Benjamin Franklin had to say about this sort of thing more than 200 years ago:
When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ‘tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.
—Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Richard Price. October 9, 1790
A Christian acquaintance of mine who taught for a Christian college program in Oregon prior to his recent retirement once remarked that Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals in the United States behave as if their faith tradition is a fetus that is about to be aborted in the body of American life. Proposed bills like this one in the Tennessee legislature are nothing less than a fetal cry for help by a religious tradition that senses impending extermination at the hands of American culture. The basic fact this faith tradition fails to understand is simply this. It is its own worst enemy, and it has been exterminating itself from within for years—and will continue to do so as long as it remains on a course that gives lip service to the following scriptures while denying them with most of its actions in American life:
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
This proposed Bible bill in Tennessee, which will certainly be struck down in court if it passes, will leave Three Stooges cream pie on the face of every fundie citizen and legislator in Tennessee just like the Scopes Monkey Trial did in 1925. In the end, all it will do is tighten the hangman’s noose a little more around the necks of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism in Tennessee.