Friday, March 12, 2010

The Princess Bible

Princess Bible Cover No. Just no. I mean, come on...no.

I get the whole princess thing. I was a little girl once and although I preferred yellow and sunflowers to pink and sparkles, I was as taken with Cinderella as the next girl. And my father fed that, even referring to our family in royal terms--not relative to others, but he was the king of our castle, my mother was queen, and my brother and I were the prince and princess. I get that.

But the Princess Bible? There is actually one Cinderella-like story in the Bible. It's the book of Esther. There's a beauty contest to become the bride of the King and Esther, an orphan living with her uncle, wins it. However, rather than simply riding off into the sunset to live happily ever after, she finds herself in the middle of palace intrigue and a plot to massacre her own people. She risks her life to save them. If you want your little girl to become a real biblical princess, maybe the pink, sparkly cover should have a streak of blood smeared across the front.

If a Princess Bible really helped girls see past the pink, sparkly lens sometimes put on the Bible and emphasized the grit and determination of biblical women; If a Princess Bible emphasized the sacrifices necessary for the Bride of Christ; If a Princess Bible encouraged girls to take off that princess crown and sell it to feed the hungry--then maybe I wouldn't be ranting. I think I wouldn't even be ranting if they were selling a Bible cover that was pink and sparkly. It's the title that bugs me and the pink sparkles and crown, which show they aren't about to turn the notion on its head. It's the implications of that title. It's the fact that the title embraces the sort of self-aggrandizement and material entitlement that Jesus and the prophets rail against.

I was a very religious little girl. I read the Bible the church gave me in third grade. I read for myself the stories of rape and incest and could see that women had it rough before they dared to tell me that in Sunday School. In fact, they never did dare to tell me that in Sunday School. I still have that Bible. It is red and a boring RSV translation with no notes for kids and no pictures. I would have liked notes and pictures. I think those additions to today's Bibles are great. But that's not the point.

The point is that I read and loved my Bible not because the physical book was appealing but because I had learned to love God and therefore wanted to know more about what God wanted both for me and from me. I learned in my boring red Bible that God could use a princess for good, but also that God could use a prostitute like Rahab, or a poor but faithful woman like Mary, or a widow like Ruth, or someone who used to have seven demons like Mary Magdalene. I learned that I didn't need to be a princess to be loved by God and that if I should ever rise to such heights, God would be expecting an equal measure of responsibility from me. I learned that it was about service not privilege.

Certainly God's word is God's word and God can get around the ridiculous trappings we often use to try to conceal the power in those pages. But when the cover of a book that trumpets a servant of God who is "despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," is covered with pink and sparkles and ties the word Bible to Princess--well, it's a disconnect that I find it hard to get past.

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