An official Bible museum filled with authentic treasures which support the validity of Holy scripture is an exciting prospect for the Christian community. But what began with good intentions, over 1,000 biblical artifacts, and a 430,000-square-foot structure, has morphed into a race for conspiracy theorists.
The Museum of the Bible (MOTB) sits in the shadow of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. It officially opened to the public in November 2017, amidst controversy surrounding a $3 million settlement paid by MOTB chairman Steve Green — who also works as Hobby Lobby’s president. The fine was levied against Hobby Lobby president Steve Green – the charge was purchasing thousands of illegal artifacts smuggled out of Iraq.
The Hobby Lobby Controversy
The museum’s planning and direction from inception is an attempt to create an all-inclusive experience – for Christians, Jews, and atheists. From the beginning, its main focus was to engage people with the Bible with a non-sectarian approach, avoiding any specific religion or political viewpoints. With Hobby Lobby’s Green at the helm, however, many don’t see it that way.
Hobby Lobby sits as #94 on Forbes list of America’s largest company’s, with over 600 stores nationwide. In 2014, a Supreme Court case of Burwell vs Hobby Lobby ruled in favor of the arts and craft superstore. Via this ruling, family-owned and controlled corporations led by religious families cannot be required to pay for contraception coverage for their female workers. This allowed the corporate giant to refuse insurance coverage for contraception citing a violation of federal religious freedom laws and opened the door for companies to opt out of the Affordable Care Act mandates, for this reason.
This was a major victory for Christian business-owners who often have a conflict of conscience, knowing they are paying into a system that allows for the murder and destruction of human fetuses. But, that victory for Hobby Lobby would be overshadowed by dark and mysterious business dealings that began in 2010 — between Iraq, The United Arab Emirates, Israel — and Hobby Lobby. The company had purchased ancient artifacts that totaled in the thousands, that was later found to be illegally smuggled. Pillaging in Iraq has gotten out of control, and that is where these artifacts originated from. The United States seized the artifacts, some of which may have found their way into the new Museum of The Bible.
Another conflict of ethics has surfaced since the museum’s opening, as some say it promotes a very evangelical view in its balancing of historical facts and religious message. Left-wing critics are actually calling it left-wing propaganda. But, the controversy also extends to other prominent displays within the museum, such as the Confederate flag and pro-slavery displays and texts in an effort to bring to life the relationship between the Civil War and the Bible. The planners of MOTB’s attempts to be all-inclusive and far-reaching endeavor may have backfired, as some consider the museum to be an extension of the evangelical ministry of the Green family.
The MOTB was conceived as an interactive experience to ‘engage visitors with the Bible’. The focus of the museum is present the Bible’s impact on the world, expound on its ancient history and illuminate the famous stories contained in the world’s most widely read book. Visitors have an opportunity for in-depth exploration of the Bible’s message, floor-by-floor. The second floor focuses on the impact of the Bible, while the third floor displays a Nazareth village along with narratives of the Bible.
The fourth floor delves into the history of the Bible, and the fifth floor houses the museum’s permanent exhibition collection. The sixth floor of the museum showcases a biblical garden, gathering room, and a restaurant. The first floor of the museum contains a children’s area, a gift shop, and an introduction presentation kiosk.
Highlights of the museum construction and collections include:
Aside from the controversies of the origin of the museum’s artifacts or the religious connations of the museum’s benefactors, the Museum of the Bible is still a worthy project and one that every Christian should make every effort to visit.
~ 1776 Christian