For years, the Gideon organization gave Bibles away to Public School students. Now, that is no longer permitted. Giving a book to our kids that is filled with “Thou shalt nots …” stymies free expression. Separation of Church and State, we are assured by our always reasonable and sound-minded judges forbids it. Now the Gideon’s 100 year old practice of placing Bibles in hotel rooms is meeting resistance.
The Gideon organization notes that each Bible placed in a hotel room has the potential to reach more than 2,000 people. A Bible typically stays in a room for some six-years. About 25 percent of travelers read the Bibles in their hotel rooms.
The group receives regular testimonies almost daily of lives changed because of the presence of the Bibles they’ve placed. These are often poignant stories, like that of the man who had planned to commit suicide on Christmas Eve. He threw the Bible onto the hotel room floor and it fell open to John 14, a passage in which Jesus declares that He gives peace. Peace came and so did the Peace-maker. Not only did the Bible prevent the man from taking his own life, it moved him to give his life away. He is now a pastor and his family has been restored. Such stories no longer move some hotel chains, according to an article in Newsweek magazine. “In the rooms of Manhattan’s trendy Soho Grand Hotel guests can enjoy an eclectic selection of underground music, iPod docking stations, flat-screen TVs and even the living company of a complimentary goldfish. But, alas, the word of God is nowhere to be found,” the article begins. The management of these hotels have come to the conclusion that society is evolving and the younger, hipper generation has no interest in reading a Bible. Even more telling is their commitment to cultural pluralism. Having a Bible in a room is too much of an alignment with one faith. It would force them to have to cater to a variety of belief systems. So, they have chosen neutrality.
The Bible has been the last speed bump before some men and women in a lonely hotel room have plunged over the edge. Removing it may be more like an invitation to take that plunge. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, observed that the Bible often provides a chance for troubled people to encounter God’s and find themselves. “Are they now to look for salvation and solace from an iPod docking station or a goldfish?” Mohler wrote on his blog at albertmohler.com. “… This development is another reminder that we are living in a time of tremendous cultural and moral change. The absence of Gideon Bibles from an increasing number of hotel rooms tells us something about the secularization, sexualization and extreme sensitivities of our age,” Mohler said.
Next time you are in a hotel and find a Bible in the nightstand draw, tell the management that you are grateful.
Adapted from an article by Erin Roach, a staff writer for Baptist Press (Dec 7, 2007).