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Under pressure, Museum of the Bible moves charismatic Christian conference off-site

The original poster for the Revolution 2018 Commissioned By Fire event that was to be held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington. Screenshot

(RNS) — After encountering a barrage of criticism for agreeing to rent space to a charismatic Christian group that claims the Trump presidency is part of God’s plan, the Museum of the Bible abandoned plans to host the group and moved its meeting to the Trump International Hotel.

The Revolution 2018 event, a three-day conference run by Jon and Jolene Hamill of Lamplighter Ministries, begins in the nation’s capital Thursday (Dec. 6). It is intended, its website said, to “focus on real-time prophetic revelation with governmental authority.”

The group, which held a similar conference at the Museum of the Bible last year, boasted in promotional material for the event that the museum “represents an ‘Ark of the Covenant’ for our nation.”

It also emblazoned the word “Hanukkah” on its poster and alluded to the Jewish holiday as being providential.

“Something is about to change,” wrote the Hamills on the website. “I feel a visitation is at hand. And He is summoning us together for a very important moment which will redefine our future. Not a coincidence we are gathering over Hanukkah.”

But a group of biblical scholars, including some members of the museum’s own advisory board, objected strongly to the gathering, saying it betrayed the values the museum says it wants to uphold, including being open to people of all religious faiths.

After deciding Wednesday to deny the Lamplighter group, the museum worked feverishly to find the conference an alternative venue and was able to secure a spot at the Trump International, said Museum of the Bible CEO Ken McKenzie. The museum is paying for the change of venue and also arranged to bus participants to the Trump International Hotel, about a mile away.

“As a not-for-profit in Washington, there’s some clear restrictions on what we can, and can’t, support,” said McKenzie. “One of them is religious services. As we look through this, the intent and aim of the organization didn’t fit within those parameters.”

The Museum of the Bible entrance in Washington. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

The change of venue is only the latest skirmish with scholars who claim the museum privileges the Protestant Bible above other versions and is intended to advance a broader evangelical agenda.

“They claim to be an unbiased institution of public scholarship interested in a fair and nonpartisan exploration of the Bible, and they’re not,” said Mark Leuchter, professor of religion and director of Jewish studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. “They’re an evangelical institution with a fundamentalist evangelical agenda.”

The museum has long fought suspicions of being a center for proselytism and political influence. Its founder, Oklahoma billionaire Steve Green, announced plans to open the museum blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington in 2012, shortly after his family’s arts-and-crafts chain, Hobby Lobby, sued the Obama administration over the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The company won that case at the Supreme Court two years later.

The museum, where Green is chairman of the board, has also faced questions about the problematic origins of some of its antiquities. In October, it acknowledged that five Dead Sea Scroll fragments it had on display were forgeries and pulled them from a display case.

Earlier this year, the museum returned a medieval New Testament manuscript to the University of Athens after learning the document had been stolen. And last year, Hobby Lobby agreed to return nearly 4,000 artifacts to Iraq after they were found to have been looted from Iraqi archaeological sites.

The latest conference appeared to suggest that the museum was particularly welcoming to charismatic Christians. Lamplighter Ministries is part of a larger movement of independent charismatic groups that see President Trump as fulfilling God’s plan to “bring heaven to Earth” by placing Christian believers in top government posts.

McKenzie, the museum’s new CEO who came on board in August, said the museum wanted to work toward being open to all: “We have a wide constituent base of folks that support us and we want to be open as the mission states to all people to engage with the Bible,” he said.

Scholars, including Marc Brettler of Duke, said the change of venue was welcome.

“I see this as an important first step among many steps,” said Brettler, a professor of Judaic studies and an expert on the Hebrew Bible. “It will be crucial to see what further changes are taken in the future in the exhibits, the bookstore and the publicity, to see that the museum is really listening to the scholarly community, to the Jewish community, and to others who have offered strong objections to the museum’s current direction.”

About the author

Yonat Shimron

Yonat Shimron is an RNS National Reporter and Senior Editor.

33 Comments

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  • A museum that steals artifacts for the glory of God. What could be more providential than that? Very appropriate that the charismatics are being relocated to the Trump Hotel, all part of God’s plan to Make America White Again.

  • Amazing that people still fall for the bunk being peddled by the Hamills.

    Any bets on how much cash will be lifted from wallets during the visitation?

  • That is is “God’s plan ‘to bring heaven to earth’ by placing believers in top government posts” is delusional, and not a part of traditional Christian belief.

  • To be fair, they bought artifacts that were later found to be stolen -at which point they returned them to their rightful owners. There is no indication that the Museum themselves stole them.

    Stolen antiquities are a common problem for both museums and private collectors.

  • You are right. They themselves did not steal any artifacts. But, if I remember right, they had an antiquities lawyer who flagged the items but they ignored the flags. And the artifacts were shipped using false manifests. I think there was also a fine involved.

  • You won’t be able to weasel your way out of your racist remark, even thou you weasels change color in the winter.

  • Good, now tell that to your fellow Christians instead of making excuses to everyone else for such beliefs.

  • It’s being victimized by crooks. Both the buyer and the original owner are victims. The buyer is a double victim – they’re loose both their money and the antiquity.

  • They are NOT my fellow Christians. I am not in fellowship or communion with those crazy heretics.

    And I do not “make excuses” for them – what an idea! – I denounce them as delusional (see my previous post).

  • Hardly. There was also the issue of smuggling turn into the country under false labels. They knew exactly what they were doing. They got caught and got fined.

  • “They’re an evangelical institution with a fundamentalist evangelical agenda.” Oh Heavens! Someone might get saved?

  • “But a group of biblical scholars, including some members of the museum’s own advisory board, objected strongly to the gathering, saying it betrayed the values the museum says it wants to uphold, including being open to people of all religious faiths.”

    So they kicked out a group of religious people.

  • Right with you. These “evangelical”, “Charismatic”, or what ever current label they use to camouflage themselves can be easily penetrated with truth. They are in fact nothing more than calvinists by another name who want to destroy American Democracy and replace it with theocracy. Dominion Theology is another name for these heretics. The more light that is cast upon them the more they are revealed as heretics, blasphemers and those who practice sacrilege. I’ve had to confront them and their hate mongering first hand as my Southern Baptist Cult “preacher” brother is among their membership. BTW “They claim to be an unbiased institution of public scholarship interested in a fair and nonpartisan exploration of the Bible, and they’re not,” said Mark Leuchter, professor of religion and director of Jewish studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. “They’re an evangelical institution with a fundamentalist evangelical agenda.” sums it up as perfectly as possible.

  • Not saved, but turned into more bobbled headed ignorant fundies who don’t have a clue as to the teachings of The Christ.

  • The Bible is a compendium of fire side tales and fables,
    recounted orally for generations by goat herders and primitive tribes from the stone age,
    until writing was invented,
    and then again many different sources, transliterations, and versions were copied and written down.
    There were no grand central universities to organise the many various versions of these origin/creation stories, stories common to most primitive cultures.
    They were for entertainment (as in all migratory camp tribes),
    and to answer the questions of the many fears and mysteries of our universe, like ‘thunder’ and earthquakes, since there was no science yet.

    This is the old Testament.

    The ‘new’ Testes is also hearsay since these letters, ‘gospels’ and stories were written by the loyal faithful, the camp followers,
    not by objective historians at that particular time,
    or by any contemporary writers,
    and these tales were written many years after the supposed events of this mythical Jesus.

    Thus, there is no verifiable evidence of a Jesus in real documented history.

    Then, many of these stories, but not all, were compiled for one self-absorbed converted Roman Emperor in his Nicean Council, for his expressed purpose of conquest and control of the people of Europe for his Holy Roman Empire.
    He recognised that this was the perfect religion/mythology for the future domination of the populaces.
    Half of the stories were ignored by the Nicean Bishops and none have been proven to be based on fact.

    This ‘Bable’ book is backed up by absolutely no facts and no evidence.
    It is not proof for any gods….(or of any jesus…)

    It is a historical novel…

  • I think you should read a true depiction of the case. Here is a quote from it you can find at:
    https://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre2017111000

    “The court filings in the case present a rare snapshot of one route by which illicit archaeological artifacts may be reaching collectors in the United States. According to federal prosecutors, Hobby Lobby agreed to purchase the artifacts for $1.6 million in December 2010 after company president Steve Green traveled to the United Arab Emirates to inspect them. However, prosecutors say the company ignored several warnings and ‘red flags’ signaling illegal activity.

    A cultural property law expert had warned the company that U.S. Customs officials would likely seize any package from Iraq because of a 1990 U.S. ban on antiquities imports from Iraqi. The packages had falsely listed Turkey or Israel as the country of origin, and one of the dealers involved in the sale instructed Green to wire the money to seven different personal bank accounts.”

    The Greens, great Christians that they are, knew exactly what they were doing.

  • You are so right, but you don’t go far enough. And, yes, I think you could accurately say that they, themselves, did steal the artifacts. Read my source above.

  • Nothing you wrote contradicts what I said. Crooks prey on imprudent and over-eager collectors. Nothing new there.

  • “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    Mahatma Gandhi

    I don’t pretend to be perfect like my Southern Baptist Cult preacher brother. His MDiv is from a calvinist madrassa and his “doctorate” is from a diploma mill. To sum him up, he’s nothing but a fraud like Jim & Tammy Faye.

    On the other hand I’m a Vestry member of the local Episcopal Church and hold an earned doctorate from Oklahoma State University.

  • The silliness of our conversation derives from the fact you consider yourself Episcopalian – which left Christ years ago. The Baptist preacher would not be your “brother” as light has no fellowship with darkness. Blessings.

  • Only a troll of less than average intelligence would suggest that.

    My post referred to imprudent and over-eager collectors regardless of their religious affiliation – or lack of one.

  • Only an astute person of above average intelligence (me), read and understood the history and implications of the article and your comment. 2+2 does equal 4. Believe it or not, the Green’s think they have christian exceptionalism & therefore it’s god’s ordination for them to have what they want. They got caught breaking the law, now they cry christian persecution.
    Really, you don’t see that??

  • Ok, “astute” person, quote the passage in this article where anyone is crying “Christian persecution”.

  • Geez, you really are obtuse. It was my conclusion after reading the article, knowing the history that that is how it will be played. That is what christians do when they can’t have their way…wah, wah, why are you persecuting me??

  • Ok then, you have NO passages ANYWHERE in the article where ANYONE is crying “Christian persecution”. It is simply your “conclusion” based on your own bigotry against Christians. Got it.

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