Like 'shaving with a banana'

In case you haven't heard, this year marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. The Tennessean has a little quiz to test your biblical knowledge (though it's not King James-focused per se).

The Chicago Tribune recently visited a local church that uses the translation exclusively. The pastor's following quote is fantastically colorful and the angle had potential, but the result fell a bit flat.

"Using anything but the King James Version," said Chris Huff, the church's pastor, "is like shaving with a banana."

The northwest suburban church belongs to a loosely defined denomination known as the "King James Only" movement. Members believe the King James Version is not just another translation but the indispensible underpinning of a Christian's faith.

Perhaps the reporter used the wrong word, but is the "King James Only" movement really a denomination that has several churches connected to a larger body? How big is the "denomination"?

Also, aren't there denominations that use the King James that wouldn't necessarily be a part of this particular movement? For instance, Bobby reports that many black churches in Churches of Christ use the KJV.

At seminars and lectures, it will be noted that the King James' cadences and phrasings echo in Abraham Lincoln's speeches and Paul Simon's lyrics.

Yet on a daily basis, most churches use an updated version or more contemporary translation, reserving the King James' richly poetic language for weddings and funerals.

The idea that most Christians do not use the KJV might be true, but the reporter doesn't use much proof. He could use numbers of sales at major Christian publishers to gauge the KJV's popularity next to other contemporary translations.

Even though the reporter tries to set the debate in historical context, he makes it seem like religious traditions flip flopped on a whim.

Under James' royal predecessors, England had bounced between Catholicism and the Protestant wings of the Reformation Era. With each reign, new articles of faith were adopted, others discarded. Believers whose convictions were momentarily out of date were sent to the gallows or burned at the stake.

That final sentence about Christians being "momentarily out of date" seems somewhat flippant, considering people died over theological debates. This kind of flippancy carries through towards the end of the piece.

Yet those developments make members of the "King James Only" movement suspicious of modern translations. Updated language can carry the contaminant of updated theology--which raises the hackles of Huff's parishioners.

He preaches a fire-and-brimstone Christianity; after Bible study, his flock divides into small prayer groups. Members get down on their knees and join hands to acknowledge that the path from sinfulness to redemption is lifelong.

The logic in that last paragraph is confusing. How is acknowledging "the path from sinfulness to redemption is lifelong" fire-and-brimstone Christianity? Perhaps the pastor does preach certain kinds of sermons, but the following example doesn't really prove his point.

Sure, looking at a church that uses the KJV exclusively might be a nice hook, but the reporter risks getting too cutesy in this particular story. Future coverage could look at what publishers are doing to market the KJV, where it stands among its "competition," or whether there's an increase or decrease in churches adopting one particular translation. After all, the 400th anniversary just started.

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