December 7, 2011

Gideon Bibles

The Bilerico Project had a pretty shocking headline recently: "Anti-Gay Book Placed in Las Vegas Hotel," with a picture of a book titled How to Kill Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Trans Americans. The big reveal was that, of course, the book the author had found was a Gideon Bible, which is in basically every hotel room ever, and that he was no longer willing to stay in rooms that have a book calling for the execution of gay people, so he threw the book away.

I'd never really thought about the fact that hotel rooms usually have Bibles. I figured it was for the same reason airports have chapels - because travel is stressful, and if religion helps people cope with that, then why not make it available?

But of course, that argument might not fly if a hotel decided to allow an organization to put a Koran in every room, or a copy of the Gita. The discussion on the post seems to generally agree that he's overdoing it; whether you like the Bible or not, it's kind of rude to throw it away. A lot of religious people pointed out that the verses he finds offensive are often either ignored or can be interpreted to have nothing to do with modern queer people.

But that sort of reminded me of a book I'm reading right now, about a man who tried to follow the Bible literally for a year, without much guidance from religious communities and existing traditions of interpretation. The Gideon Bibles are placed there for the explicit purpose of conversion, but if you read a Bible without any context in Christian interpretation, it won't look anything like Christianity as it's regularly practiced. It'll look kind of like a lot of contradictions and, in the Hebrew Bible, a lot of commandments to put pretty much everyone to death for something or another. So having a Bible just chillin' in the hotel room, with its message taken for granted as self-evident, maybe is pretty problematic, both for people who have something against the Bible (or the Gideon's choice of translation) and for people looking to interpret the Bible a particular way.

(For the record, I end up agreeing with the commenters who say that it's legitimate to question why Bibles get placed in every hotel room, even if the Bible isn't necessarily just an evil source of anti-gay doom like the author portrays it to be.)


Rose M. Welch said...

Many hotels in CA have a copy of Gita along with the Bible.

Katie Casey said...

Do they really? That's so cool!

libractivist said...

I suspect both are placed with the explicit aim of conversion (the Gitas I've come across in hotels were placed by the Hare Krishna movement, similarly to Gideon's bibles), so I'm not sure how cool it is.

But I do think it would be awesome to have a choice of holy book on offer at a hotel, rather than having any one forced upon you. And it wouldn't be that hard, right? Just have some at the front desk and people can request them just as they might ask for extra blankets or a recommendation for a good nearby eatery.

Unknown said...

Well, cool in that if we're leaving books for conversion, there should at least be a diversity of options. :D I like the idea of just having them available at the front desk instead of in every room.