Sometimes knowledgeable and well-intentioned people can stray into territory unfamiliar enough to put them in danger of unexpectedly falling off a cliff.
Such was the case in an interview of Lee Greenwood by Steve Bannon on his October 19, 2021 War Room broadcast. Bannon is highlighting Greenwood’s project of publishing a ‘God Bless the USA Bible’ which alludes to his classic, 3-decade-long chart topping song. In the course of the interview, Bannon and Greenwood, no doubt unwittingly, fire a bazooka into the critical subject of biblical inspiration. The following is a transcribed excerpt of this recorded discussion as posted on the War Room’s America’s Voice Channel:
“Lee, one of the controversies now with this whole kind of cultural Marxism and struggle sessions, everything we’re seeing from woke culture, it’s really going back to the founders and going back to our documents, do you believe, in including this with the King James Version of the Bible, are you telling the world or implying you believe these are divinely inspired documents on the foundation of our country?”
“Oh, without a doubt, I mean, to tell you the truth, if anybody’s been to the original Statue of Liberty at Plymouth Rock, instead of a torch in the Lady Liberty’s hand, she’s pointing to God, and those original people who came over on the Mayflower, they were very religious and they knew they had to pray to their almighty God in order to survive this new land, and so, yes, these documents were written by people who put everything on the line, their family, their fortunes, and many of them paid the price for it, so you can’t just, like, ignore it. I mean these are things that, if you go to Washington, D.C. and see the beautiful buildings, and some of the monuments, you know, people think they’re going to tear down history. You’re not going to tear down the history of this country. It’s how we got started, we are under God, we’re a divine land.”
“ Given that . . . this wasn’t an easy process to get this Bible published. . . you’d think -- Lee Greenwood, the divinely inspired documents of our founding, the King James Version of the Bible . . . would be something any publisher would be all over, but you actually had to struggle to get this published, right? . . . “
Steve Bannon’s War Room Pandemic Broadcast, Episode 1346 Part 1, October 19, 2021
Well-intentioned, no doubt, this project could be seen as a very generous effort from Lee Greenwood, who by all reports is very supportive of great causes. Entertainers don’t quickly lend out their rights and connections to copywritten works, especially ones of this magnitude. Conservatives might naturally react with satisfaction that a notable celebrity is robustly supporting the nationalist/populist cause against globalists by reaffirming what most of them believe to be the hand of Divine providence in the implementation of the American idea of freedom.
But with an obvious intention to reinforce respect for America’s founding documents and leaders, Bannon and Greenwood are effectively demoting the Divine status of the historical Judeo-Christian scriptures in a way that could, far too easily, be picked up and imbedded in whatever vastly-decayed grasp on its spiritual heritage is still held by the American public at large.
Anyone with a theological background will instantly see the massive landmine stepped on in this conversation. It remains to be seen whether this theological faux pas disappears like a dud or explodes with damaging effects. That is, whether the idea put forth is picked up and becomes embedded in the popular mindset or not. I suspect that both Bannon (a serious Catholic) and Greenwood (a conservative Protestant), given the opportunity to clarify their statements, would likely agree that they don’t mean to say the Scriptures should be put on a par with any other documents. However, the clear and inescapable implication of what was said is that American historical documents were just as inspired as the Old and New Testament scriptures. Added to that, the tangible act of publishing them together in what is touted as a heritage ‘family bible’, which some are calling the ‘Trump Bible’ (a whole separate issue in itself), makes a powerful combined visual statement.
With all the due respect I have for our American founding documents, let me say, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO – a thousand times, NO! Inspired, yes, clearly – perhaps the most inspired human political documents in history. But not inspired in the same way and on the same level as the Judeo-Christian scriptures.
ALL of classical Judeo-Christian heritage is built upon the belief that there is a God, and that He has spoken to humans through the special revelation of himself. This concept was the primary driver of Western Civilization until the delayed tsunami of Enlightenment’s humanism finally washed ashore on popular cultural consensus in the 20th century. We know a lot about our Creator through the general revelation we see in the design of nature, but we learn specifically of his nature, actions and intentions through what theologians call ‘special’ revelation, or more generically, ‘The Word of God’. Throughout the history of Israel and even before, for a message to be received as the ‘Word of God’ there had to be a clear affirmation that God had directly delivered the message to humans by communicating this message through a confirmed prophet. Once that had happened and was confirmed to the people, this message was revered and protected with utmost care. The Word of God, delivered by the Spirit of God through a prophet of God is the action that produces sacred scripture. It doesn’t take one long when reading the bible to realize the significance of statements like, “the Word of the Lord came to . . . “ The issue of biblical revelation and inspiration is an extensive subject. For a deeper dig into how carefully this process was respected and guarded one can start with this article.
Presuppositions embedded in the anti-supernaturalistic rationalism of the Enlightenment effectively undermined the exclusiveness of special revelation, and dethroned the ‘inspiration’ of bible writers into the concept of general human inspiration, which we appropriately apply to works of literature, arts and other creative endeavors. This development set up the massive liberal/conservative theological controversies of the 20th century, leading to widespread splintering of the historical allegiances of denominations and their theological schools. It set loose a cancer upon biblical Christianity, for without the objective guidance of divine scripture, all interpretation and conceptualization collapses into a human-generated anthropocentric realm where some standard OTHER than biblical authority necessarily emerges as the prime guiding directive.
Francis Schaeffer’s huge How Should We Then Live? book and film project provided an extensive explanation as to why American freedom could ONLY escape falling into tyranny by recognizing and preserving the objective standard of special revelation. He reinforced the significance of special revelation even more pointedly in other works such as He Is There and He Is Not Silent. Schaeffer elevated American ideals in the proper way, by showing them to have come about as consequences of consistently applied biblical truths pertaining to the social and political realm. The American experiment in many ways is the human application of divine revelation to the governmental areas of life, but it should not be confused with the revelation itself. Schaeffer would have been apoplectic at the very thought of publishing American founding documents together with Holy Scripture and especially so when blithely presenting them in a way that implies that they both carry the same weight of inspiration.