I Left my Bible in San Francisco

Gideon prays for a Bible

I’m staying at the Hilton, Union Square in San Francisco. Surrounding me are over 10,000 (is that a proper myriad?) religion and Bible scholars gathered for the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting. I travel light. Having left my Bible behind I went to look up something in the Gideon general issue. It is not here. The world’s largest academic conference focusing on the Bible, four hundred years after the King James Version hit the shelves, and I am Bible-less in my hotel room. Of course, once I get to work I will be surrounded by Bibles, some of them walking, talking resources who have the whole book memorized. Yes, the Society is that kind of place. The Gideon hotel Bible is an American institution. It feels like a constitutional right. When my daughter was very young and we stayed in a hotel, she found the Gideon Bible and asked what it was. We explained that the Gideons leave a Bible in hotel rooms all across the country. “That’s just weird,” she said with all the conviction of a pre-teen.

There are current movements to remove Gideon Bibles from hotels. They do, after all, represent a privileged position to Christianity in a nation founded on religious freedom. No one is forcing you to read that Bible, but it is there, like a tell-tale heart, in your bedside table drawer. Thumping incessantly. To read or not to read? What’s on the TV?

My favorite discussions at conferences like this are with scholars who find the privileging of one religion distressing. Our culture is so grown up in so many ways; we are more enlightened about sexuality and gender and race, and yet, and yet… We still like to have that Gideon Bible nearby. We like our political candidates Christian. Preferably Protestant, although a Catholic will do if he (inevitably he) is on the right side of the right issues. We are vaguely and implicitly afraid of those who don’t share our convictions.

In a moment of levity near closing time yesterday, a customer stopped by to say Routledge should have more gimmicks. Many publishers have giveaways, and some have little games that bearded, bespectacled professors sometimes even play. The customer suggest darts, or even a little shooting range. I said, “Guns and theology are sure to lead to trouble.” Although he laughed, I was serious. Few things in this world can be justified as easily as religiously motivated slayings, at least in the minds of the perpetrators. And to borrow a phrase from a budding genius, “That’s just weird.”

One thought on “I Left my Bible in San Francisco

  1. Pingback: Biblical Studies Carnival 69 (November 2011) | Remnant of Giants

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