>My neighborhood of Georgetown is a marvelous place to live throughout the year, but particularly during the autumn. The variety of buildings dating from the 18th to the 21st centuries give it architectural diversity, with interesting variations on every block, all superimposed upon a largely Georgian-era, English country town grid. When taken in combination with the large number of mature trees and gardens throughout the village, this time of year is a photographer or flâneur’s delight as front steps are decorated with pumpkins and piles of multi-colored leaves begin to accumulate along the brick and cobblestone paths. And most residents of D.C. know that Halloween on M Street is Georgetown’s slightly tamer and chillier version of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
However for a truly chilling Halloween, the place to be this October 31st is Canton, North Carolina, where the Amazing Grace Baptist Church will be setting a bonfire to burn non-King James translations of the Bible, as well as books on spirituality by authors such as Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Pope Benedict XVI, and The Rev. Billy Graham. According to Marc Gizzard, pastor of the church, the King James translation is the only true translation of the Bible, and all other translations are “satanic”. “I believe the King James version is God’s preserved, inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God… for English-speaking people,” he declares. So he and his congregation intend to, for lack of a better description and apparently without considering the ironic implications of such an event, give Satan a burnt offering on Halloween during their church barbecue.
A movement to say that a 17th century translation of the Bible is the “infallible” Word of God, rather than the text written by the prophets and evangelists, is illogical. On an experiential level, the King James version has had to be corrected at least 20 times since its original printing due to some whopping errors, such as the case of the infamous “Wicked Bible”, where the word “not” was omitted from “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, or the “Camel Bible” where Rebecca and her “damsels” was translated as Rebecca and her “camels”. From a purely semantic standpoint however, I was pleased to see that Karl Keating agreed with my initial head-scratching: I am not sure than an inanimate object can be “infallible”, since a book does not ACT – to be fallible or infallible requires some degree of decision-making capability.
However aside from this type of discussion – and a discussion about the inerrancy of the Bible should be a discussion rather than a publicity stunt – the key point is something I have been considering since yesterday, when The American Papist wrote a piece critical of comedienne Sarah Silverman’s nonsense about selling off the Vatican to feed the poor, a matter which in fact we discussed briefly last evening at an enjoyable local venue. Does a YouTube video or a book burning, both of which are essentially blasphemy, require extensive public refutation? I have always found blasphemy to be rather a pathetic sin, since we tiny bags of bones and fluids can’t exactly injure God in any way. The real sin of blasphemy is that of causing scandal to others, and perhaps for that reason a detailed refutation is indeed necessary at times; the problem with this, I fear, is one of invincible ignorance.
In any case, since more skilled writers and commentators than I, dear reader, will weigh in on these subjects, I leave it to them to make the reasoned arguments in refutation of book burning or auctioning off the Sistine Chapel. I would suggest that those particularly disturbed by either Mr. Grizzard or Ms. Silverman take advantage of the resources available to understand why their arguments are incorrect. For my part, I am looking forward to candy corn, coming up with a costume, and enjoying the fact that Halloween falls on a Saturday this year.