It has been a long time in the making. At times it was controversial, but more often it brought a sense of wonder and curiosity. Then finally, on November 17th, The Museum of the Bible opened its doors to the public for the very first time. Even before it opened, there have been two general responses that give a typical, yet fascinating, illustration of our culture.
The Museum of the Bible is not merely a museum about religion as some would suggest, but about a sacred text: the Bible. That is an important distinction to make. Started and heavily funded by the Green Family from Hobby Lobby with the original purpose “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.” However, more recently their goal is more about inviting people to interact with the Bible and see its impact through history. Regardless, the idea of having a museum about the Bible that can hopefully demonstrate its reliability is compelling and has the potential to cause many to think.
As one observing from the outside and not yet having the privilege to visit the Museum of the Bible, my ability to articulate much is fairly limited. Supposedly the museum is a technological marvel bringing forth a number of innovations that people are watching intently in hopes that they can utilize those in other constructions (especially other museums). This, combined with intrigue about how one can design a whole museum around one book should generate an interest from a wide array of people.
Despite that interest, it was interesting to see how people responded to the museum both before and after it opened, there have been two general consensuses. Notably, I read two article the day before the museum opened, one from the Smithsonian and the other from World Magazine. Both of these magazines represent two opposite sides of the Christianity spectrum with one being very well defined as a Christian-oriented institution while the other has made its stance against Christian reasoning clear.
So what is so intriguing about the articles of these two institutions? It comes in response to The Museum’s stated goals, which is to reach as many people as possible without secluding anyone. The Smithsonian’s article suggests that the museum has missed the mark and laments that it is too evangelical in its presentation of the Bible. However, on the opposite side is the group at World Magazine who contend that the museum does not go far enough in presenting a solid evangelical position on the Bible.
How can two organizations look at the same information and come to such opposite conclusions? It’s a clear case in which worldview matters and the response is thus dependent upon one’s perspective. This is an unsurprising case that exemplifies that it is impossible to please everyone. In fact, in something as contentious as the Bible, it seems The Museum of the Bible cannot please either group that it was seeking to not disenfranchise.
However, there is a more important aspect that seems to be missing from everyone. Our concern should not be merely about whether or not the museum pleases people. Certainly, there is a valid concern in making sure it is presentable and inviting to people, because if no person comes then the whole construction is pointless (and a waste of $500 million). However, the greatest priority must be, not does this please people, but does it please God? With the investment of so much money and resources into an entity that talks about God, it seems a bit frustrating that so few have mentioned what such an investment means in terms of God’s glory, God’s commands, and God’s message.
Photo “Washignton D.C.” courtesy of user Daniel Mennerich and Flickr.