Why Travelodge got it right in removing Gideon Bibles

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.

 

Comments

  1. Matthew Pemble says:

    I once stayed in a chain hotel somewhere in the States that had a Book of Mormon in the room. That was an interesting read in an otherwise utterly dull stop-over.

    • Yes, Marriott is LDS-owned.

      • Bro David says:

        Marriott was originally founded by an LDS family. It is now a publicly held corporation.

    • Magnus Ramage says:

      The one time I read (parts of) the Book of Mormon was in a Marriott hotel in the States, several years ago. I found it interesting but I was left entirely unimpressed by the book’s literary style and theology, and I think it made me less favourable towards the LDS than previously. There can be risks as well as benefits in such a strategy!

  2. “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.”

    I came to faith by reading a Gideon New Testament. I still have it.

  3. Marion says:

    I was working in the Religion and Belief Centre in the athletes village during the Commonwealth Games. We gave away 300 Gideon Bibles, and, nearly as many of the slimline New Testaments.

  4. A Gideon tried to give me one down by the river during the Games, but I managed to get away.

  5. Bro David says:

    I think that here in North America you will find a fair share of folks in 12 Step programs who will point to Gideon Bibles in dreary hotel rooms as their link to coming back from the brink.

    I was also going to mention that it isn’t uncommon in the US to find a Book of Mormon along with the Gideon Bible. This “other witness for Jesus Christ” is a cure for insomnia! :)

  6. In my recent travels to England last month, there were Gideon Bibles in each night stand in both hotels. They were both directly across the street from a Cathedral.
    Frankly, I would rather they not be there, as they take up room in the tiny drawer that could be used to store my necessities.

  7. Incredibly well-written Kelvin. Indeed, Christianity has nothing to fear from secularism – it is only the champions of historical, unmerited church privilege who should fear a secular society. In any case, faith is surely the opposite of fear, and I see nothing in Travelodge’s decision but commonsense.

    I did not realise that Gideons were male-exclusive and anti-Catholic, and although it shouldn’t surprise me the lack of inclusivism says a great deal about that particular organisation.

    No doubt Christian Concern and similar groups will see this as evidence of “moral decay”. However, no reasonable person could genuinely object to Travelodge’s action – and personally I’d rather take my own bible than use an NIV (not my preferred version) with pages ripped out of it or doodling and other scribbles adorning its pages.

  8. John Duncan says:

    Well, I’m male and not a RC, but I also note I would have to be ‘of good standing in my (Protestant, evangelical) church’ and recommended by my pastor. That’s my chances gone, then.

  9. Rosemary Hannah says:

    I must say though – I would really love to find the Vedas or Buddhist writings in a hotel room – so much better than dreary TV. But I have a theological background and an aversion to soap operas.

  10. Barbara says:

    I know somebody who became a Christian after reading a Gideon Bible in a hotel room. She’s an Episcopal priest now, in fact.

  11. Suzanne says:

    I don’t know anything about the Gideons other than they give away bibles. However in every hotel room I stay I look for two things: a minibar and a bible. I am always disappointed if I don ‘t find either, whether I open them or not.

  12. VivienneU says:

    I’m another who came to faith via a Gideon Bible (specifically the New Testament and Psalms given out at school). It was a comment in a newspaper that the four Gospels couldn’t even agree on the events of the Crucifixion that led to me picking up the handiest Bible and reading all four accounts in one sitting – by the end of which I no longer cared whether all the details corresponded, I believed that this had happened for me.

    On the other hand, the kind of Christian I eventually became was at least as much influenced by novels (specifically Helen Waddell’s ‘Peter Abelard’ and Rumer Godden’s ‘In this house of Brede’), and in those pre-internet days I began acquiring as many translations as I could find, the nucleus of what has now become our Bible Shelf (rapidly heading for Bible Bookcase status). These days I collect shorter versions of the Daily Office for the busy and distracted instead, along with practically anything with the word “Benedictine” in the title.

  13. Kate says:

    I agree with you. But it might’ve been a more half hearted agreement if it was a slightly more poetic translation. I have also in my youth had a fairly good time crossing out bits of Leviticus and inserting the phone number of Gay Switchboard – I gather Sir Ian McKellen by contrast simply tears out that page, and I imagine lots of other people follow his lead in this. So I think they’ve been part of a sort of micro cultural war too.

  14. Raphael says:

    I (personally) wouldn’t to be a member of an Evangelical faith that preaches from a Bible with dated opinions on women; as it happens I couldn’t anyway as I’m a Roman Catholic. Why shouldn’t a cheaply printed copy of the King James Bible be the natural tome of choice for leaving in Hotel rooms?

    Many people consider it both the first authorised & modern translation and, originally published in 1611 it celebrated it’s 500th anniversary 3 years ago which was (largely) ignored by tv, radio and non-religious papers/websites.

    As for those who object to Bibles being left in hotels – you read it or you don’t. It’s entirely up to the occupant. Funnily enough my dad (converted RC) used to often stay in Travelodge some years back. Knowing the sort of person he is, he’d probably have walked into his room without noticing anything at all, get into the bed and fall asleep…

    • Interesting, I’ve never seen a Gideon Bible in the Authorized Version (that may have elevated my opinion of them!) It’s always the NASB, which is a translation I’ve never encountered in common prayer.

      • I believe they use both NASB and KJV in the USA. Generally NIV in the UK.

        • Oh dear! (I don’t actually know anything about the comparative linguistic merits of the NIV but it does tend to indicate a certain “type”)

      • Richard says:

        In North America the Gideons use the NASB (almost?) exclusively. NIV in the UK.

      • Barry (LLM) says:

        Actually I am sure I did find (and read from) a Gideon AV (KJV that is) in a hotel room once, but that was way back in the early 1960’s before even the NEB saw the light of day and certainly long before the appalling NIV was even thought of. On the subject of translations I rather like the faxsimile Tyndale NT I have, but it is rather hard to read until you get used to the black letter typeface!

  15. Kate says:

    I’ve also been thinking that just conceptually, a hotel room is a bit like a retreat – typically you’re miles away from all the other people who define who you are and how you present yourself, and it gives an opportunity for nascent hopes and despairs to come creeping out. Typically one of the things hotels used to provide in response to that (at least for men) is pornography – and I gather that’s going out of fashion just as much as Bibles (admittedly because people no longer need hotel telly as the mediator). It would be fascinating and probably positive to build an app called something like ‘Argh – My Life Is Stuck’ which offered a series of proliferating paths and ideas, of which Christianity would certainly be one, and which had an initial go at addressing everything from boredom to addiction. I bet the School of Life people could do quite an interesting one.

  16. I’m compelled to note that despite the moniker “Gideon Bible”, I’ve never actually seen an entire Bible in a hotel room, only “NT with Psalms and Proverbs,” which strikes me as suspiciously Marcionist. My family have teased me when I pack a Bible and prayer book on holiday for the Office for bringing coals to Newcastle, but of course it isn’t assuming you need a first lesson!

  17. Bro David says:

    And on a related note;
    http://www.religionnews.com/2014/08/15/bibles-navy-atheists/

    The squeaky wheel gets the grease and these organizations perpetually squeak!

  18. LetgoletGod says:

    Speaking as a former Gideon, you cannot make a statement referring to the work done by the Gideon’s is out dated and never really lead anyone to God. Even worse is the fact that you are in a position of leadership within the Church. However, I will stick to cleaning my side of the street. Removing God from the free world in happening slowly. Much like sand in an hour glass, man is leveraging the diversity which promotes the one world faith.

    Don’t even know why your comments upset me, the Bible already tells us how the story ends. You are just helping to progress the agenda. I will pray for you.

    Sturgil

  19. Lynden says:

    I recently stayed in a Premier Inn and was pleasantly surprised to find a Gideon’s Bible. This was on the same day that the story ran about Travelodge ditching theirs!
    I can’t see why they chose to do this, unless there had been many complaints.
    There’s plenty of items in hotel rooms that you can use or ignore – hair dryer (I’m bald), trouser press etc., yet there was no socket for my electric razor!

  20. Duncan says:

    A Gideon NT given to me at school was pretty instrumental in my coming to a faith of my own. I’m more concerned for the reputation of the Bible if it’s found in a Travelodge – if I was a Bible I’d insist on a Hilton at the very least.

  21. Aleks says:

    I’ve heard of at least a handful of stories from friends/people that I know about how the Gideons/a Gideon Bible was instrumental in their coming to faith. Perhaps they have a bigger impact in the US than the UK?

    I can remember even before I was a Christian reading Gideon Bibles in various hotel rooms. I found them to be comforting/helping (especially during the situations I was going through). I didn’t really get the ‘big picture’ at that point, but it was still reassuring (if that makes sense).

  22. Lawrence Rosenfeld says:

    I think my wife and I *will* start carrying a bible with us when we travel, if we’re not going to find one already in the room. But something we’ll miss (my wife being a linguist by training) is being able to peruse John 3:16 in the numerous languages the Gideons provide.

  23. Daniel says:

    All very intelligent and enlightened. But your arguments are really quite superficial.

    First, you don’t like the NIV. In the context of this discussion that is really splitting hairs.
    Next, you’re ignorant about all the people who have benefited. At least now you’ve been enlightened by some of them in the comments.
    Third, you say there’s no point moaning. Agreed, but you don’t have to celebrate the Travelodge decision. Secularism is not progress.
    Next you say people don’t know how to read books. Come on, even if people don’t usually carry books, it’s not really that different from reading a blog.
    Then you argue that we’ll have to accept other literature if we want to keep the Bibles. Well, apart from the fact that the evidence of the real world contradicts you (there aren’t any Korans in the hotel rooms yet), I don’t really mind that anyway.
    Finally you argue on behalf of hotel chains wanting ‘neutral’ rooms. But the point here is that Travelodge have had no complaints from people of other religions about neutrality. Why are you so keen to stand up for Travelodge here?

    In the end it seems you just don’t like Gideons. Please take a look in the mirror. And stop celebrating the demise of Bibles from thousands of hotel rooms in our country. Yes, God is bigger than this. But it simply isn’t a good thing.

    • Thanks for your comments, Daniel.

      Not liking the NIV is rather more significant I think than you seem to think. It may be worth another post about why I don’t particularly like it but the Gideons sticking with it and with that particular version of it does seem to me to be significant.

      You are quite right that I’ve been educated from the comments of those who have found benefit from reading the bibles. But then that’s part of why I write this blog – I like learning from people and I’m glad they posted their experiences here.

      I happen to think that secularism is progress. Some Christians do. Why shouldn’t steps towards a more secular society be celebrated?

      Just about a year ago, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church wrote in a Sunday Times article:

      But I believe that secularisation also presents a positive challenge for churches. It encourages us to develop church communities of new quality – disciples who are deeply engaged with their faith and not just of members who belong. It will be good for churches and good for faith.

      Let me surprise you first by saying that I am a supporter of secular society.

      I happen to agree with him. There is much to celebrate about the new opportunities that lie ahead.

      As for evidence of other literature, we only have to look at the Books of Mormon provided in at least some Marriott hotels to see that the real world doesn’t contradict me.

      I know the Gideons rather well through family connections and stand by what I wrote about them above. I understand that many don’t agree with me but there are quite a few who clearly do. It isn’t a simple thing – in that I would agree with you. But it may be part of a wider and greater good thing.

  24. Revb Reginald Campbell says:

    It is no wonder the church is declining when its priests/ministers think that the bible is an anachronism (it doesn’t matter which version). The Bible changes lives. I wonder how many people come to Christ each week at St Mary’s? Read the Gideon News and be inspired!

    • Most of our problems at St Mary’s are of fitting people in.

      Can I ask, Mr Campbell that you look again at my post and tell me where it says that the bible is an anachronism? I’ve clearly said that I think having the bible in a Travelodge room felt like an anachronism but I don’t see anywhere at all where what I’ve said could be construed to be saying that I think the bible is an anachronism unless by someone who was trying to maliciously misrepresent me.

      Indeed, I specifically say above that I’m trying to find new ways to encourage people to read the bible.

      All the bibles I’ve ever read indicate that it is a sin to bear false witness.

  25. paul woods says:

    It seems incredibly strange that as a Christian (and an ordained minister with a leadership role in the Church) you should welcome the demise of the bible in Travelodge bedrooms. Jesus warned about wolves in sheep’s clothing. (Incidentally, if you go to Saudi Arabia you will find a Koran in the room in most half-way decent hotels.) Given Britain’s Christian heritage and the fact that the majority religion is still Christianity , the diversity argument isn’t very convincing. And yes, you can access whichever version of the Bible you prefer via your laptop or ipad – but Travelodges will charge you £10 for the privilege.

    • I welcome a more secular society. I think that a more secular society is one in which more people will be able to thrive. Is that odd in itself? (Remember I belong to a congregation which knew real persecution for some of its history).

      The bible decision is just one of the consequences of living in a more secular society. I’m untroubled by it and am puzzled by those who want to hang onto the presumptions of the past.

    • Kate says:

      I’m not sure I’d want to use what Saudi Arabia does as an argument for something being good practice!

    • Marion says:

      Have to agree with previous comment – how can any Christian, ordained or not, think it’s good news that the Bible has been removed from Travelodge hotels? It’s ridiculous!
      May I suggest anyone who feels like this should examine their faith……………

      • Thank you for your concern about my faith, Marion. It is alive and kicking.

        Once again, I find the idea of a more secular society a positive thing. Some Christians think that secularism has some merit (including, as I noted elsewhere on this thread the leader of my church, the Primus, David Chillingworth).

        This seems unremarkable to me. Having hotel rooms without scriptures in them seems to me to be a consequence of secularism and not something to be afraid of.

        And as I said in the post, I work hard to get people to read the bible.

        And these views make you doubt my faith?

  26. paul woods says:

    I have to confess to a degree of bias here, having been an active member of the Gideons when I worked for the Ministry of Education in Brunei from1973 to1976. As you might know, Brunei has recently taken a distinct turn for the worse and imposed Sharia law, but in those days it was still possible to import bibles by the containerful provided they were in Chinese or English and were not distributed knowingly to Muslims. I would very much doubt if that is still the case! Also, Iwould have thought any Christian worthy of the name would take the line “carpe diem”, because you never know what the future may hold. So whilst the freedom todistribute the wordof God and propagate the gospel freely still exists inthe UK, all who call themselves Christians should be making the most of the opportunity….. it may not be there for much longer if aggressive secularists/atheists like Richard Dawkins get their way.

    • I’m a secularist. Mr Dawkins doesn’t represent me.

      There does seem to be an astonishing number of people who on seeing this story which is essentially about being a more secular place either implicitly or explicitly blame the Muslims.

      It seems to me that Christians don’t always have ethics worth shouting about.

    • Bro David says:

      “I would have thought any Christian worthy of the name…”
      “all who call themselves Christians”

      I HATE these type of phrases in posts. They entirely smack of the crap concept that you are the final say, the extreme arbiter, of who is and who is not a Christian! How dare anyone set themselves up as that judge. :(

  27. paul woods says:

    Might the parable of the sheep and thegoats be relevant here? The bible is quite clear on who is the supreme arbiter.
    There’s quite agood though potentially controversial exposition at
    https://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20130426210243AA8rNOL

    • Bro David says:

      Exactly, so where do the mentioned parables say anything about those who assume that they themselves are the wise virgins, the sheep, or the faithful stewards going around pointing out those whom they have decided are not among their lot? Nowhere, it doesn’t do anything of the sort. However, there are plenty of proof texts that one could point out that boil down to, “worry about yourself and not others.”

  28. paul woods says:
    • Kate says:

      I laughed at the bit about the coming of Cthulu. But it’s hard to argue that something is a beloved cultural tradition if it takes seven years for us to notice that change has occurred…

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