From Consortium News
Co-written by *Michael Winship
In Babylon-on-the-Potomac recently, the brand new, $500 million Museum of the Bible had its grand opening. Donald Trump did not attend, perhaps fearing a fate like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark when the remnants of the Ten Commandments are unsealed, holy mayhem ensues and miscreants melt like candles.
Just a couple of blocks from Capitol Hill, the museum sprawls across eight floors and 430,000 square feet, giving visitors a chance to meet New Testament re-enactors, see a burning bush and Bibles that belonged to Babe Ruth and Elvis, walk through a replica of a village from the time of Christ, experience a motion ride called Washington Revelations and grab a snack at the Milk and Honey cafe' (There's also a cafeteria-style restaurant called, you guessed it: Manna).
At the gift shop, you can buy key chains, hats and T-shirts, frankincense and myrrh body wash, a $1,250 leather foot stool shaped like a rhinoceros (because rhinos were on Noah's Ark, of course) or a $125,000 bejeweled pomegranate made of Jerusalem stone (the Song of Solomon: "I would give you spiced wine to drink from the juice of my pomegranates").
As the old joke goes, this is what God would do if He had money.
To be fair, by most accounts, the museum is well designed and executed, high-tech and state-of-the-art. Philip Kennicott, art and architecture critic for The Washington Post, wrote, "What it does well, it does as well or better than any museum in the country," but added:
"There... is a lot of slippage between [the museum's] claims that the Bible is enormously influential (which is indisputable) and that the stories it tells are fundamentally true (a claim disputed not just by atheists, agnostics, secular scholars and scientists, but also by billions of adherents of the world's other religions). Every resource of museum design and careful argumentation has been mustered to sweep up these unrelated ideas in one, big, overwhelming package."
What has many observers far more concerned are connections among the new attraction's principal funders and the right wing. Here its mission becomes suspect, more political than religious, although with the right wing, it is always difficult to separate the two, each possessing a will to dominate.
Museum of the Bible 360 Degree Tour
(Image by YouTube, Channel: Museum of the Bible) Permission Details DMCA
The Post describes a tangled relationship between the nonprofit museum, its corporate backer Hobby Lobby -- the very rich, closely held craft store chain controlled by the Christian conservative Green family -- and another principal backer the National Christian Foundation, a donor-advised fund "that supports key soldiers in the national battle for conservative Christian values."
The foundation, self-mandated to "advance God's kingdom," has given millions to churches and others, counting among its grantees opponents of abortion and same-sex marriage. As for the billionaire Green family, their craft-store empire gained notoriety when it won a Supreme Court ruling allowing it to deny on religious grounds Obamacare coverage of contraception for its employees. Oh, and just in case you haven't heard, they recently were fined $3 million in fines and forced to turn over thousands of antiquities smuggled out of Iraq. (Down goes one of the commandments -- see Deuteronomy 5:19.)
Those involved claim that the museum's purpose simply is to expose visitors to the story of the Good Book and that its motives are nonsectarian and apolitical. Sure. But the opening gala was held at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. The cheapest ticket was $2,500 and apparently no collection plate was passed for the hungry and homeless, on the grounds, we presume, that it would be an unfair tax on the rich. Organizers claim that the choice of a venue had all to do with finding an available space large enough and nothing to do with currying favor with the owners of the inn.
Hobby Lobby CEO David Green backed Sen. Marco Rubio's 2016 presidential candidacy but endorsed Trump in the general election, and his son, museum chair and Hobby Lobby president Steve Green, recently told the Christian Broadcasting Network, "We are seeing that the current administration with President Trump is a friend of religious freedom and has taken steps to strengthen and confirm that we are a nation that values the freedoms our founders gave us."