The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society

The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society

The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society

The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society

Synopsis

Founded in 1816 with the goal of distributing copies of the Bible throughout the world, the American Bible Society (ABS) is a seminal institution for American Christians. Endorsed in its time by Francis Scott Key, John Jay, Theodore Roosevelt, Billy Graham, Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, today the ABS is a ministry based in Philadelphia with a $300 million endowment and a mission to engage 100 million Americans with the Bible by 2025. In The Bible Cause, the first complete history of the ABS in nearly thirty years, noted American historian John Fea demonstrates how the history of the ABS has intersected at nearly every point with the history of the United States. For the last two hundred years, the ABS has steadily increased its influence both at home and abroad, working with all Christian denominations in the US and internationally and aligning itself whenever possible with the gatekeepers of American religious culture. Over the years ABS Bibles could be found in hotel rooms, bookstores, and airports; on steamboats, college and university campuses; the Internet; and even behind the Iron Curtain. Its agents, Bibles in hand, could be found on the front lines of every American military conflict from the Mexican-American War to the war in Iraq. However, and wherever the United States developed, the ABS was there. Throughout the last two centuries ABS has never wavered in its mission to place the Bible in the hands of as many people as possible, and its commitment to be the guardian of a Christian civilization has been proven many times over.

Excerpt

John Erickson sits at a table in his home in Crawford, Nebraska, on a chilly March 2015 morning. He is sipping bottled water and talking about the thirty-six years he spent working for the American Bible Society (ABS). Erickson is a living legend in abs circles. He arrived in 1965 and has served the Society as Secretary of Asia, as an innovative fundraiser, and as a general officer responsible for the international work of the abs. He finished his career as general secretary of the United Bible Societies, a fellowship of some 135 national Bible societies from across the globe. Erickson has been retired from Bible work for about two decades now, but there is little that he does not remember. His photographic memory seems to be both a blessing and a curse. Erickson talks as if it all happened yesterday—the trips around the world, the programs he was responsible for creating and implementing, and the relationships he cultivated with coworkers and mentors. “The Bible Cause is about people,” he likes to say. He says it over and over again. and then he says it one more time—leaning forward in his chair for added effect. He has strong opinions, but they are always seasoned with a healthy dose of Lutheran humility. When John Erickson says that the Bible Cause is about people he speaks with the authority of a man who practices what he preaches. Whether it is the president of the Bible Society of India or an entry-lever staffer, Erickson has served them all with uncommon grace.

One week later, Roy Peterson, the current president of the American Bible Society, is seated in his corner office on the fifth floor of “Bible House”—the unofficial name given to the abs headquarters at 1865 Broadway in New York City. He is dressed casually for a ceo of a major nonprofit organization—a navy blue V-neck sweater and blue khakis. On this particular day he is excited about spending the evening at Lincoln Center where he will be viewing an early screening of television commentator Bill O’Reilly’s new movie, Killing Jesus. Peterson is a busy man these days. a few months earlier he announced that the abs would be leaving Manhattan, the place where it has been located for almost two centuries, and relocating to Philadelphia. the decision to move . . .

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