Zondervan said that it would not print a Bible subtitled "God Bless the USA," after critics accused the Bible of promoting Christian nationalism and blurs the barriers between the secular and sacred. The person behind the project, however, said the project won't stop despite the backlash.
The special edition Bible is an Elite Source Pro project. Christian singer Lee Greenwood's chart-topping song "God Bless America," reportedly inspired the said new edition and contains copies not only of the text of the Scripture, but the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the lyrics of Greenwood's song as well. Its promotional site boasts that it's "ideal for taking to the church, a study in the Bible, for working, traveling, etc" and is the "ultimate American Bible."
The "God Bless the USA" Bible was described as a "toxic mix" by the petition that "will exacerbate the challenges to American evangelicalism, adding fuel to the Christian nationalism and anti-Muslim sentiments found in many segments of the evangelical church."
Zondervan was initially in discussion with Elite Source Pro to print the Bible. However, Zondervan said this week that it will not be published.
Zondervan told Religion Unplugged that they are "not publishing, manufacturing or selling the 'God Bless the USA Bible,'" and that the NIV project's website and marketing were "premature" and "not a fit for either party."
Meanwhile, several authors for Zondervan wrote at Religion Unplugged that "American nationalism is its own civil religion," in which America, rather than Jesus, is the object of focus.
"Instead of Jesus and the Church being the light of the world and the hope for humanity, America becomes the Messianic force in the world," they argued.
"The national anthem should not be in the church hymnal, and the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States should not be in the Bible," they added.
Hugh Kirkpatrick, president of Elite Source Pro, said that he is well aware that some will argue that the Bible is an example of White Christian nationalism. Nonetheless, he maintains that their proposed edition is divorced from politics, and that their goal was to simply get more people to read the whole Bible, as well as the foundational documents of the United States, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or political leanings.
"We've never heard of anyone throwing a Bible away. It's always prominent somewhere in the house, it's either on the coffee table, it's somewhere that's accessible," he said. "So, if the Bible contained holy scripture but it also contained these documents it would be a one-stop shop for people to learn the basics of why the founders built into those documents divine providence."
Preserving the Bible and America for future generations
Religion Unplugged noted that Kirkpatrick and his friends came up with the concept for the Bible in the fall of 2020. The idea began to take shape when they heard home school parents complain that public schools no longer teach American history and that students are not taught to read and understand the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Christian singer Lee Greenwood, now 78, who agreed to the project, wants to "leave a legacy for future generations to have both the complete Bible and complete founding documents," relayed Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick told the Religion News Service that the "God Bless the USA Bible" is not a sign of Christian nationalism. The flag on the Bible's cover, he said, doesn't even stand for former President Donald Trump or the movement to make America great again.
Rather, the "God Bless the USA Bible" is a patriotic book, Kirkpatrick said, adding that it will be "helpful" to have both Scripture and a copy of the U.S. Constitution in one package. After all, he believes that America's Founding Fathers were inspired by God's Word when they founded the United States. He added that he also believes that America was once a Christian nation but had been "sliding away from that."
"The Bible and the Constitution someday could be a banned item in the United States," he said. "That sounds odd even to say but there are other countries around the world that you can't have a Bible."
That said, despite the pushback, the project hasn't stopped and the "God Bless the USA Bible" will still be available come September this year.
"This project is not stopped," Kirkpatrick said. "In fact, it's got gasoline poured on it."