The story of the Kuduk Bible translation has been nagging at my mind this week. According to reports, this translation so offended the people of the Indian province of Jharkhand that people were rioting in the streets, debating it hotly in the political assembly and the local Bible Society quickly responded by apologizing and removing the Bibles from circulation. As a Bible translator, I can only look on with a mixture of envy and regret. First, envy that a translation could make such a splash. How often do translations come out in other parts of the world and scarcely cause a ripple? And second, regret that the Bible Society would pull the offending books so quickly. But at the same time, I expect that a Bible society walks a fine line in a region like Jharkhand where a tiny minority of Christians live in a delicate balance with a majority Hindu and Islamic population.
This brings up for me what is a very troubling question: Why doesn’t my Bible offend me? The carnage and ethnic hatred portrayed in the Old Testament is not much different from the ongoing scenes of centuries old ethnic hatreds in Georgia. So why do I revere the story in The Book but despise the situation in the news? And the tacit approval of slavery in the New Testament is not so much different from the passivity of the vast majority of professing Christians in the face of the genocidal abortion of this century. Why am I not offended?
Far more offensive is, or I should say ought to be, the plain teaching of Jesus Christ which somehow we have managed to spiritualize into insignificance. The materialism and worldliness of American churches ought to shock us. It ought to cause us to run from our prosperity-soaked self-help sessions shouting Ichabod!, “the glory of the Lord has departed.” Our failure to either be offended by the Gospel or to align our lives with it has put us in a particularly weak bargaining position with the world. This was highlighted for me during the recent spate of online debates about homosexuality. Advocates of gay rights in the church ask very rightly why they should be asked to give up their lifestyle choices when straight Christians have not denied themselves anything. Rates of premarital sex and divorce are not appreciably different within the church when compared to the world at large. Our materialism as Western Christians is the aspiration and model of prosperity theology throughout Africa. Yet we want gays to renounce their lifestyles while we justify our own.
So perhaps we need to look at the Bible again and seek to understand its pacification in our time. Have we tamed and spiritualized the Message to the point where it is as sharp as a two-edged wet noodle? Should our activism directed at the world instead be turned inward so that judgment might begin in the family of God? Should our seeker-centrism be transformed into seeking the lost and visiting orphans and widows in their distress?
I hope I haven’t offended anyone…