Does Scripture Speak for Itself?
The Museum of the Bible and the Politics of Interpretation
by Jill Hicks-Keeton and Cavan Concannon
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Pub Date 06 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 29 Sep 2022
Is the Bible the unembellished Word of God or the product of human agency? There are different answers to that question. And they lie at the heart of this book's powerful exploration of the fraught ways in which money, race and power shape the story of Christianity in American public life. The authors' subject is the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC: arguably the latest example of a long line of white evangelical institutions aiming to amplify and promote a religious, political, and moral agenda of their own. In their careful and compelling investigation, Jill Hicks-Keeton and Cavan Concannon disclose the ways in which the Museum's exhibits reinforce a particularized and partial interpretation of the Bible's meaning. Bringing to light the Museum's implicit messaging about scriptural provenance and audience, the authors reveal how the MOTB produces a version of the Bible that in essence authorizes a certain sort of white evangelical privilege; promotes a view of history aligned with that same evangelical aspiration; and above all protects a cohort of white evangelicals from critique. They show too how the Museum collapses vital conceptual distinctions between its own conservative vision of the Bible and 'The Bible' as a cultural icon. This revelatory volume above all confirms that scripture – for all the claims made for it that it speaks only divine truth – can in the end never be separated from human politics.
‘A keen, insightful reading of the white evangelical Bible that the Museum of the Bible hallows, magnifies, and markets with such zeal in the nation’s capital. A learned excursion through the museum’s acutely politicized exhibitions that is a tour de force both for biblical studies and American religious history.’ Leigh Eric Schmidt, Washington University in St. Louis
‘This book shows how contemporary white Americans manufacture the Bible they need to achieve the political future they want. In this incisive work, two brilliant scholars offer a coruscating view of how scripture operates as an ideological weapon. Required reading for students of religion, race, and politics in the U.S.’ Kathryn Lofton, Yale University
‘Does Scripture Speak for Itself? uses one book and one museum to unpack with incisive reflection the manifold ways that white evangelicalism has leveraged a particular rendering of biblical Christianity for political gain. Combining business history with exegesis, cultural analysis with media studies, ethnography with sharp scrutiny of power, Jill Hicks-Keeton and Cavan Concannon’s outstanding book is a must read for anyone trying to grasp the institutional juggernaut that is the modern religious right.’ Darren Dochuk, University of Notre Dame, author of Anointed With Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America