The Museum of the Bible Is a Safe Space for Christian Nationalists

by Katherine Stewart  @kathsstewart

a recent gathering at the museum featuring speakers who intend to “transform nations” by “igniting a holy reformation in every sphere of society,”

.. “We wholeheartedly believe the Museum of the Bible represents an ‘Ark of the Covenant’ for our nation, bearing witness to his goodness,”

.. 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 museum is a safe space for Christian nationalists, and that is the key to understanding its political mission.

.. Its subtler task is to embed a certain set of assumptions in the landscape of the capital.

.. Mr. Drollinger believes that social welfare programs “have no basis in Scripture,” that Christians in government have an obligation to hire only Christians and that women should not be allowed to teach grown men.

.. He lays out his thinking in a 2013 book, “Rebuilding America: The Biblical Blueprint.”

.. The “institution of the state” is “an avenger of wrath,” he explains, and its “God-given responsibility” is “to moralize a fallen world through the use of force.”

.. 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 message that national unity can be achieved only through a religious “awakening” and allegiance to conservative Christianity.

.. to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible.”

.. When Steve Green, the museum’s founder and the president of the Hobby Lobby crafts chain, formed the museum’s parent organization in 2010, he informed the I.R.S.

.. the location of this museum was an act of symbolic and practical genius. If you’re going to build a Christian nation, this is where you start.


The Museum of the Bible reflects the discouraging state of Christianity

In that way, the Museum of the Bible reflects the discouraging state of Christianity — especially evangelicalism — in the United States today. It is lavishly funded and larger than life to the point of performance, often literally. Yet the approach is strangely superficial given the wealth of complexity inherent to its subject. There are dozens of illuminated manuscripts, but it’s unclear whether they’ve been read.

A New Museum of the American Revolution, Warts and All

the 18th-century privy at the back of the lot that was excavated during construction.

“It was dug in 1776 and filled in 1789,” Mr. Stephenson said during a recent tour of the building. “So, basically, it held trash spanning from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution.”

.. “We tend to think there was a script we were all speaking from, but the reality was messy,” Mr. Stephenson said. “I guess we might be considered a little bit critical of originalism in that sense.”

.. The guiding design idea, Mr. Stephenson said, “was creating a movie you can walk through, rather than a book we’re illustrating.”

.. One tableau depicts some of the thousands of enslaved people who fought for the British. “Sometimes,” as a large wall text bluntly puts it, “freedom wore a red coat.”

.. Another gallery uses life-cast figures and a six-minute film to recreate a debate among the Oneida nation about which side to take. The Oneida sided with the Revolution, but wall text makes the quandary of Native Americans plain: “How could they preserve their independence in the midst of this vicious civil war”?

.. similar panels explore the meaning of events for Native Americans, enslaved African-Americans and other marginalized people. “We call these our ‘wait just a damn minute’ panels,”

.. juxtaposes a copy of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” and a defense of British rule called “Plain Truth” attributed to James Chalmers, one of many places where loyalists get their due.

.. Another case holds a German-language Declaration of Independence, printed in Philadelphia a few days after July 4, 1776. It’s a reminder, Mr. Stephenson said, that the American Revolution didn’t happen only in English.