Whether or not you’re religious, a museum about the Bible has potential to be fascinating. Even if you believe that it’s chock-full of myths, its impact on the world is undeniable, and learning about how it came together is interesting on sociological, anthropological, and historical levels.
But in the hands of the Hobby Lobby founders, the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. appears to be a “safe space for Christian nationalists” rather than an educational resource for history buffs, according to Katherine Stewart in an op-ed for the New York Times:
A typical museum might invite visitors to explore the multiple meanings of the Bible and the complex history of its reception in different cultures over time. But this museum is not the place for that kind of inquiry; you’re here to celebrate. The exhibits will rock you — literally, when you take a simulated roller-coaster ride through selected biblical inscriptions on display in the nation’s capital — but they won’t shake your convictions.
If you walk in thinking that the Bible has a single meaning, that the evidence of archaeology and history has served to confirm its truth, that it is the greatest force for good humanity has ever known and that it is the founding text of the American republic — well, then, you will leave with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
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.
I may be in the minority on this, but the thought of a “safe faith” — one that is free from challenges and hard questions — absolutely bores me. Any belief system that shapes how you look at the entire world is bound to have challenges and possible contradictions. A museum like this ought to make believers think about one’s certainty regarding biblical inerrancy, especially given the political undertones about which books were worthy enough to be considered part of the sacred canon and which ones were tossed out.
It seems that some of my hardest questions — why were some writings good enough for Catholics but not Protestants, which texts are meant to be read literally versus allegorically — go unanswered. And that’s because they are questions that the museum creators don’t want to be asked in the first place.