I gather that the Travelodge hotel chain has decided to remove Gideon bibles from their hotel rooms.
I remember the last time I stayed in a Travelodge room being surprised that there was still a bible provided. It seemed something of an anachronism.
It is hard not to admire the tenacity and the determination by which the Gideons exercise their ministry. They give a lot of money and time into providing bibles in hotel rooms, schools and to other people and other places. However, as a Christian charity they’ve not really kept up with the times.
Here are the reasons that I think that Christians have nothing to fear in Travelodge removing the bibles.
- The Gideons have remained fixed in their view that the New International Version is the most appropriate book to leave around for people. It is a determinedly Evangelical translation of the bible. (See this recent post for reasons I might have reservations about that: 10 Things Evangelicals Don’t Tell You at First). But not only that, the Gideons seem, so far as I can tell to remain wedded to an old version of the NIV which has the distinction of using language which makes the least attempt to treat men and women equally.
- I wonder just how successful their ministry is. In all my years working in the church, I’ve never ever met anyone who talked about coming to faith as a result of reading a Gideon bible. Indeed, I’ve never encountered anyone who talked about ever reading a Gideon bible. Maybe I’m wrong but perhaps there might be strategies to get people reading the bible that might be more successful than simply leaving old fashioned bibles around.
- It seems to me that the world is becoming a more secular place and less something that we can recognise as Christendom. That means that it can’t be assumed that Christianity is going to be privileged in particular ways in the future in ways that it has been in the past. I don’t think this is a bad thing. I also think that Christianity might stand more of a chance of thriving if it got on with telling people that God loves them rather than always seeming to be defending those privileges of old. Moaning about Gideon bibles being removed is not a strategy that is going to be successful or worthwhile and nor does it spread any kind of message that is going to leave anyone feeling better disposed towards Christianity.
- Increasingly people who stay in hotel rooms are going to be unfamiliar with the idea of reading anything in a book.
- If you do accept bibles as a hotel chain then you are really going to have to accept anything else offered. Does it really do the Christian message any use to have a New International Version of the Bible sitting there with Buddhist scriptures, Hindu Vedas and whatever the atheists are going to want to slip into the mix?
- I think part of the point of most modern hotel chains is that the rooms are functional, comfortable and neutral. It is easy to see how having a bible changes that.
Whilst we are on the topic of the Gideons, did you know that you can’t become a Gideon if you are a woman? Or that you can’t become a Gideon if you are a Roman Catholic? See here for details – http://www.gideons.org/FAQ/FAQ.aspx
I like to encourage people to read the bible. That’s why I published my Where to Get Started with the Bible post recently which a lot of people have seemed to find helpful.
However, I don’t feel inclined to lament Travelodge’s decision. Indeed, I’m surprised it has taken them so long. I think they’ve probably made a choice that was inevitable.
I’d rather stay in a hotel room unadorned by the beliefs of the hotel’s owners.
Travelodge have indicated that they’d be happy to supply bibles from their front desk. And anyway, anyone with a smartphone can access the bible.
Christians should be encouraging new ways of engaging with the text.
Christianity doesn’t depend on having bibles in hotel rooms. Bibles in hotel rooms depended on Christendom, but that is now gone.
I don’t think faith has much to fear.