I was in seventh grade, and we were downstate for the annual Bible Bowl. Our little fundamentalist school fielded a team every year. We were the most conservative of fundamentalists, which mean that we were King James Only (affectionately KJVO). Along with soulwinning and no syncopation, KJVO was proof to the world that we were not dirty liberal Southern Baptists.
That year, our subject was the Gospel of Mark. Our team divided the book up, so that among us we had all 16 chapters memorized, right down to the snake-handling part in the end, which the New International Version (used by the dirty liberal evangelicals) set in italics, to indicate that it wasn’t the Word of God. Questions were fired at us over an ancient p.a. system, and we leapt to our feet to answer, causing a lamp to light and a buzzer to sound.
But our team wasn’t sounding many buzzers, falling into dead-last place by halftime. We broke for lunch, dejected. Mr. Kobernat, our faculty advisor, started cracking jokes, as was his custom, to lighten the mood. One wag among us looked up at him and said, plaintively, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Everybody laughed.
We weren’t Quakers, and that wasn’t our everyday talk. But Elizabethan English was a part of our everyday lives. Our preachers, relatively uneducated when compared with Mainline clergy or even with the Southern Baptists and evangelicals, could speak fluent Elizabethan. Every Wednesday night, at prayer service, they prayed in it. Father, we thank Thee that Thou hast deigned to bless us . . . They could read it at lightning speed, losing momentum only when approaching certain Hebrew names in the Old Testament. One Arkansas evangelist, who preached regularly at our summer camp, read the “old-feyshun King James Bah-bul” at such a pace that we wondered how he could breathe. His face was red, and he sweat, as it were, great drops of blood.
As we speak, that old-fashioned King James Bible is enjoying the 400th anniversary of its publication. And though it will be properly fêted by scholars and panelists in divers academic settings, there is no denying that, apart from its place of honor among my KJVO friends, it has finally started to yield up the ghost. And that is a shame, because the King James Version is, hardly arguably, the single-most influential book in the modern English-speaking world. So much so that, while its liturgical use is all but lost, it still sways the imaginations of those who once heard it.
As most of us well know, the liberal powers that be took the King James Bible out of America’s public schools in the 1960’s. For conservatives, that and the removal of teacher-led prayer were signs of the times. Yet how many today, liberal or conservative, would recognize the fact that those two phrases—the powers that be, signs of the times—come to English directly out of the King James Bible (Romans 13:1, Matthew 16:3)? The phrases feel familiar.
Matthew Norman, a columnist for the London Telegraph, writes not on religion but on “television, poker, and New Labour.” That is reflected in the title of his March 18 column, “Please Let the Blairs’ Coitus Be Interruptus.” (To drink freely from that well, see Derek Turner’s review in this issue.) But Norman followed that up on the 25th with “The Police Have Become a Law Unto Themselves.”
In “Caribbean Junkets, Zeppelin Heads, Goldman Sachs and Mr. Magoo,” Bill Singer of Forbes.com wrote (April 19), “Which of those interrogating Senators didn’t accept campaign contributions or lobbying funding from Wall Street? Which of those paragons of virtue returned all the filthy lucre from these now contemptible lowlifes?”
Featured on March 30 on the ABC News website, former Liberal Party (Australia) press secretary David Barnett opined of New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell, “His transformation from the bland all-things-to-all-men cloak-of-many-colours he has worn for the past four years to the determined, [...]
In an August 18 letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and 21 other Democratic senators, Janet Napolitano acknowledged that removing people from the country simply for being illegal immigrants was no longer an “enforcement priority” of the Obama administration.
Scandalously, Thomas Jefferson once wrote to James Madison, “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and is as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
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