Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Fully Conservative!

I can't decide whether to laugh or sigh over this one. Apparently conservatives over at the near-parody site, Conservapaedia (where they have started to define their own little reality, as opposed to the rest of the world, I guess) aren't happy with the Bible and have decided to rewrite it. (And no, this is apparently not a hoax nor a bad joke.)

That Jesus fellow was a bit too liberal for them. Too much 'give to the poor', 'care for your neighbor' and 'do unto others'. Nope! They want more support for the free market, less touchy-feely niceness, more condemnation, more paternalism, and more hellfire and damnation.

I shouldn't be surprised, I guess. Every single religious group wants to rewrite the bible/reinterpret the bible to fit their own views. That it took this long for "conservatives" to add their heavy-handed dose of moralism and politics to to the list is the actual surprise. I'm sure this version will emphasize their "family values", even if it means bastardizing the text to do so.

Where they got the idea that it was the "liberals" who wrote, edited, collated, and interpreted the bible, I have no idea. Obviously they aren't that knowledgeable about biblical (or world) history. But they want a Whole New Bible with all the 'bias' removed. Because, you know, two thousand years of biblical criticism, theology, and religious analysis have been totally wrong the whole time! Aren't you just quivering with excitement that a bunch of 'conservatives" have decided to FIX the bible?

What about the Biblical Literalists? Aren't the most conservative of the christian sects on the end of the spectrum that believes the bible is without flaw? And even if it is not inerrant, it is divinely inspired..do they really believe that everyone is wrong and that rewriting it is necessary? Will anyone using another bible transation be considered an un-believer now, since the message is changed? So much for the Bible as a holy book with inspirational power, eh?

And, just to add a dose of hilarity to the process - -they aren't actually going to go back to the original texts...they are going to rewrite the King James Version of the bible to fit their lovely set of beliefs. I suppose it's like a meaner, less-accurate version than the Surfer Bible, when you come right down to it. A target for ridicule and mockery, nothing more.

And just look at the criteria! I had no idea that christians were clamoring for a "fully conservative" version of the bible. Can you even call that a bible anymore?

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:

1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity

Oh, yes, gotta make sure to preserve that paternalistic, opporessive male-dominated society. Them uppity wimmen are just causing problems left and right. (I'm curious where they are finding 'gender inclusive' language in any standard translation of the bible, except perhaps for humankind instead of mankind.) Is that what is emasculating? That we might say "humankind" or take the meaning of 'mankind' to mean men and women? Ok, let's go back to the sexist language of the bible and make sure to put women in their place - at home, as chattel. Oh, goody.

3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level

So, they should be reading in the original Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin, right? Admittedly, there are a boatload of "new age" translations of the bible that remove the purposely archaic and ponderous language of the KJV to make it more accessible to many people. It is dumbed down if it doens't contain the thees and thous and spakests? On what do they base the idea that a passage is "dumbed down"? -- just disliking the text is not reason enough. Well, ok, maybe it is for them. The KJV is already a primarily word-for-word translation, and the NIV is only slightly more understandable.

Anyone who has actually tried to read the bible in any of the original languages, or in a word-for-word parallel translation, would never say that the bible is 'dumbed down' and needs to be fixed. And, without understanding the very complex koine Greek (the original language of the New Testament), how can they possibly make any word changes based on the KJV alone? That is just dishonest and deceitful. But, truth doesn't seem to be the goal of this particular endeavor.

And, how insulting - the NIV is the 1978 translation of the Bible, long hailed as a very good translation, and is the most popular bible translation used by evangelical churches. I'm sure they'll be thrilled to be told that they are wrong.

4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop; defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.

Oh, yes. Because the original Hebrew and Greek texts used the wrong word. Words have specific meaning that can't just be discardes. That's staying true to the message of the original text. So this version is going to be specifically geared towards a conservative political and social agenda, no matter what the actual words in the original are. They don't really matter any more -- it's the way that they can be used and twisted now that are important. Gotcha. That sort of throws the infallibility and god's word part of biblical history down the tubes. And on what sort of scholarship do they base the comment "defective translation"? None, I'm guessing. I'm sure it's "We really want Jesus to say HATE here instead of FORGIVE, so we'll just change his words a teeny little bit...there! Now our social agenda has a biblical basis!"

This is the "goal" that is most objectionable, actually. What in the hell are 'powerful conservative terms"? Loaded code words? Why is the use of comrade - a venerable and context-appropriate word, objectionable? Because to the simple-minded it cannot mean anything except a left-wing label? Comrade and volunteer are not the same word and have very different meanings. What purpose replacing them except to skew the text?

5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”;[5] using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census

6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.

Conservative religion is nothing without the opportunity to threaten your opponents with hell and damnation. The bible actually has very little to say about hell...they must be adding it in to fulfil their own fantasy. Kind of scary, actually. And, this really sort of contradicts number 8 below about 'adding shit in that wasn't there to start with'. Must be ok if its their stuff.

7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning

Oh, because first century prophets were proponents of the free-market philosophy and Jesus was all for corporate sponsorship and wide-open capitalism. Well, that's obvious! How could we have missed that in the existing text?

8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story

Um, inserted by who, exactly. What about the later-inserted passages that aren't so liberal, but that support their ideology...those are ok, right? These right-wing ideologs know better than the combined scholarship of the church history, what should and shouldn't be included? And we're talking about the collection of stories with possibly hundreds of authors, copied and rewritten hundreds of times with all the intention and unintentional changes that entails. THsi is like making a copy of a copy of a copy a thousand times removed and claiming that you have recovered the original meaning. What unmitigated arrogance.

9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels

Ah, so we can pick and choose which bits of the gospel they want to believe, because all those other authors aren't as accurate as a purported eyewitness without much evidence and who wrote contradictory stories. Got it.

10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”

But they're not going to "dumb down" the bible, (see 3, above), just remove all that exceess, high-falutin' academic wordiness...complex ideas can rarely be expressed in simple terms, but these idiots are more concerned with the appearance of intellectualism than with actual accuracy. Hah. And what is "word-to-substance' ratio? I suppose that some of the more nuanced ideas might be a bit too dififcult for the Fox News cohort to grasp. They seem to want a soundbite bible, without any neccessity for actual critical thought or worry about shades of gray in interpretation.

They also don't seem to understand the reasons behind the different words and the ambiguities in the bible - preferring instead to gloss over the different authors, different ideas, different contexts to clarify their New Word for a simpler, more gullible audience.

What idiots.

It's not much different than the thousands of interpretatios and 'teachings' put forward by various churches, really. I've heard some really ridiculous and somewhat scary "meanings" attributed to bible verses by some people. So finally trying to codify your own "version' of the bible by publishing your edited, bowdlerized, "special" version isn't too far off. It's the next step, I guess - you can now claim the bible says anything you want, just rewrite it to say what you want and voila! Instant validation, espeically if you can still manage to claim divine inerrancy and the factual truth of the now-rewritten bible you just produced. How convenient.

Now, I don't take anything in the bible is anything more than allegorical myth, but I do accept that there is a historical body of scholarship that lies behind it. There are reasons that it says what it says, and contains what it contains, and you can evaluate the context, history, authorship, and concordance of the bible based on well-accepted criteria. As a work of literature, it has a long and colorful history. As a work of religious expression, it has been used and misused through history to rationalize and justify behavior, both good and bad.

I suppose that I should not be so upset over this particular revision - with several hundred bible revisions in English alone, the differences and changes are monumental already. I just recoil at the idea of rewriting it with a specific purpose in mind and presenting it as a 'corrected version' that fundamentally intends to change the content, not just the dialect, with very little scholarly input. It is as offensive an effort as expurgating classics, like rewriting Huck Finn to eliminate the racial content because it offended someone, or changing Shakespeare to eliminate "new" word usage, which are considered a gift to the English language. Neither of these things is improved by changing content, which is far different than translation. It's one thing to express the intent of the text in another language (even Cockney or Ska!) , quite another to change the meaning of the words without valid reason to.

logos (word) does not equal Truth, no matter how much you want it to (one of the suggestions is to replace the word "word" in the beginning of the Gospel of John, and replace it with "truth"). The rest of their "examples" on the website are equally specious. Shrewd does not equal resourceful, unless you intend to change the meaning of the passage. And only in the mind of a fanatic does using the word 'laborer' mean that the author has a socialist agenda. Tin-foil hat time, people. Get a grip.

Do we really need a more conservative message shouted from the pulpit? -- that's the way to create a Christian Taliban: don't question, don't think, just obey the hyped-up language and political ideals spoken from a religious leader. This rewrite seems to imply that every christian worshipping today needs to be more conservative, to combat some imagined flaw in society. And if you aren't that conservative, you are reading a dumbed down version (NIV) and not getting the 'real' message. That turns the tables a bit, actually - how often have non-believers heard "you're not reading it right. You don't understand it properly".

I think the bible has a lot of good ideas in it, and I think that using it as a guide for figuring out 'the truth' helps a lot of people. But combine the idea that 'we need to conservatize the bible with a political agenda' with the widespread acceptance of the bible as "gods words" - how many people will go along with the idea and shove the philisophy of the christian church even further to the right?

Hopefully, this farce will be rejected for what it is: a novelty, a boutique version of a book that is clearly recognized as a parody or amusing alternative version. Hell, the bible has been translated into Klingon and Elvish, there is a Rasta version and Surfer Bible and and Illumintaed Goth version. I think, though, that these translations are not trying to change the basic message, as the Conservapaedia version seems to intend. Hence, my complaint.

Well, maybe not the Klingon version. I can't imagine they're all into the Golden Rule.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seriously. When do you work?