The New York Times yesterday ran an article, The Museum of the Bible is a safe space for Christian nationalists, that was somewhat less positive than the article, Hobby Lobby Museum of the Bible, that we ran on PT in October. Our article, I am afraid, was not so positive either, but we kind of gave them a pass for appearing (or trying to appear) more or less neutral. The Times article, by Katherine Stewart, gives them no such pass and makes it appear as though the museum is intended as a kind of fifth column designed to promote a right-wing Christian theocracy in the United States and abroad.
Despite their removing some verbiage about the absolute authority of the Bible from their mission statement, as we noted in PT, Ms. Stewart claims that
The museum is a safe space for Christian nationalists, and that is the key to understanding its political mission. The aim isn’t anything so crude as the immediate conversion of tourists to a particular variety of evangelical Christianity. Its subtler task is to embed a certain set of assumptions in the landscape of the capital.
Ms. Stewart singles out Ralph Drollinger of an organization called Capitol Ministries, who apparently believes that “Christians in government have an obligation to hire only Christians and that women should not be allowed to teach grown men.” I do not know precisely Mr. Drollinger’s affiliation with the museum, but he led a training conference at the museum dedicated to “creating and sustaining discipleship ministries to political leaders.” Further,
Mr. Drollinger is dedicated to communicating those views in weekly Bible study groups. The participants in his groups, however, aren’t just anybody. They include Mike Pompeo, the director of the C.I.A.; Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Vice President Mike Pence; Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education; and other senior officials in the Trump administration. Mr. Drollinger seeks to institute similar if less-star-studded Bible study groups in all 50 state capitals.
Ms. Stewart relates what she calls the “intensely politicized religion” to Steve Green, the founder of the museum and the president of Hobby Lobby. As we noted, the original mission statement of the museum was “to bring to life the living word of God, to tell its compelling story of preservation, and to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible,” though that was later softened. If you read Ms. Stewart’s article, you will realize that the softening of that statement was a fiction. As the author notes, “… the location of this museum was an act of symbolic and practical genius. If you’re going to build a Christian nation, [Washington] is where you start.”