A recent Washington Post report about the soon-to-open Museum of the Bible quickly dives into what appears to be a potential nail-biting, heart-pumping controversy. Titled, “Will money from conservative Christians sway Bible museum’s professed mission?” the story seems to want to keep us all on the edge of our seats.
“When the $500 million Museum of the Bible opens Nov. 17 just blocks from Capitol Hill, it won’t promote a specific religion, its leaders say,” the lede opens. “The museum’s finances tell a different story.”
Dum, dum dum. You can almost hear the diabolical, mystery music playing in the background, as those opening lines cause one to wonder what sort of controversial antics those do-gooding, Hobby Lobby-owning Greens are up to this time.
What follows in the Post piece is an intriguing exploration of the donations that have been flowing into the museum, with questions emerging surrounding how much the Green family has given to the effort and just how influential Christian donors will be when it comes to the tone and sway of the museum. The piece continues:
Financial documents and interviews reveal a tangled relationship between the nonprofit museum; Hobby Lobby and its owners, the conservative-Christian Green family; and the National Christian Foundation, a donor-advised fund that supports key soldiers in the national battle for conservative Christian values.
The Greens and their craft-store empire have donated to the museum and to the foundation. In addition, the foundation and Hobby Lobby are the primary donors to the museum, according to interviews and financial documents. The circular relationship appears to benefit the family and the company, who have enjoyed large tax breaks for supporting their pet project.
The murky ties between the three entities have attracted the attention of museum and nonprofit experts who have expressed concern about the project’s political agenda, potential conflicts of interest and compliance with tax laws. These questions come on the heels of Hobby Lobby’s agreement this summer to pay a $3 million fine and forfeit thousands of artifacts that federal authorities said were smuggled out of Iraq.
At the end of the day, I’m fine with questions being asked about donations and tax law. Much of that is admittedly above my pay grade, though I don’t think it’s out of the question for people to at least dissect these elements. That being said, the story’s lede and the obsession over the museum’s stated goals is somewhat of a head-scratcher, especially considering that we’re still weeks away from it’s opening and don’t yet have a full picture of what’s inside.
It seems there’s still a bit of caution and confusion raging over the apparent change-of-course that was made when it comes to the museum’s aim — an issue The Washington Post has already litigated, though the topic seems to have once again worked its way into the latest funding report.
Just to clarify: Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, has said that the museum’s role isn’t to “espouse faith” and that those behind it “want to present the facts of this book” and to “celebrate this book.” Green continued, “We want the visitor to make their own decision.” And he wasn’t done there.
“The museum has fence posts — limits. It doesn’t overtly say the Bible is good — that the Bible is true,” Green also said. “That’s not its role. Its role is to present facts and let people make their own decisions.”
But some have speculated that this is quite different from what the museum’s original goal once was. According to the Post, the original mission was to “bring to life the living word of God …. to inspire confidence in the absolute authority” of the holy book.”
So, it appears the central question that’s really at play is just how much the Museum of the Bible will tout the holy book as truth, especially in light of these evolving statements.
There are a few important points that need to be made, though: Logic is, without a doubt, the best way to make a convincing appeal. It’s quite possible that, over time, the museum has recognized that the most applicable way to prove the Bible’s authenticity is to focus solely on the facts (i.e. the history, how the book was formed, how it impacted society).
And, since facts matter — and since history backs the biblical narrative — there’s no need to take any other route, specifically if the museum wishes to have a cultural presence and make a much broader impact on society. If one can lay out all the facts and prove that there’s an undeniable tapestry of truth without over-invoking theology and without relying on overt and exclusive Christian language, it’s logic, in the end, that wins people over.
Getting a first-look at the Bible Museum with Steve Green!
Posted by Faithwire on Thursday, March 2, 2017
So, in a sense, there’s not necessarily a tension between previously stating that the goal was to “bring to life the living word of God” and later clarifying that the museum plans to “present the facts of this book.” For Christians, the latter accomplishes the former — just ask anyone who has converted from atheism to Christianity.
Sure, emotion matters and dramatic conversions abound, but it’s the details that underpin the gospel that often lead people to repentance. In fact, presenting the facts surrounding the Bible and placing them in their proper context before leaving people to decide for themselves might actually end up being a profoundly effective mechanism of bringing people into the fold, especially in an era that demands “reason” yield theological conclusions.
Furthermore, the lede of The Washington Post piece seems a bit nonsensical. Who in their right mind assumes that a Bible museum wouldn’t primarily focus on (or “promote”) Judeo-Christian ideals? Also, is it really that shocking that evangelical Christians — and Christians more broadly – would be the ones funding the “museum’s finances?” Just as I’d expect a Quran museum to be funded by Muslims, I’d assume a Bible museum would have Christian backers.
As for whether there’s some sort of tax, I’ll let the details unfold before making any determination, though it doesn’t appear there’s immediate need to panic. I think we’d all be wise to show some restraint and to actually await what’s inside the museum before delving too deep into the rabbit hole.