Archive - Oct 8, 2009

Stubris

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Memo to the Conservapedia idiots: YOU HAVE STUBRIS.

One of the few joys of living during a time so completely and utterly insane is that I have to keep coining new words to describe the various ways people are, well, completely and utterly insane. And so today, we have "stubris", the tendency for ideologically-motivated incompetents to develop a delusion that they have very important work to do that only they can undertake, when in reality, it's completely ridiculous work, and there's no way in ever-lovin' hell they'll be able to pull it off anyway.

I am, of course, referring to Conservapedia's "Conservative Bible Project", which is exactly what it sounds like, unless you rightly think it sounds like an Onion article, in which case it is the exact opposite of what it sounds like. Apparently, failing to build a successful, rich, and vibrant conservative alternative to Wikipedia isn't enough for Phyllis Schlafly's ne'er-do-well son Andy, and so he's attempting to crowdsource* a conservative translation of the King James Bible. No, seriously. Stop looking at me like that.

The flaws in this plan fall into two distinct categories. "Should" flaws and "Can" flaws. Which I will tackle in reverse order. So can they do it? No. Because first of all, what they're calling "translation" isn't actually translation. Translation involves looking at the original language, determining what it means, and writing it down in English. What they're doing is simply rewriting an existing English translation to suit their psychotic preferences. So objectively, they can't do it.

They also can't do it practically. Conservapedia's been around for a while now, and they still have a functioning, usable "all pages" index. The King James Bible has over 800,000 words in it, and even if they don't decide that "begat" is a sex-positive liberal term, that still leaves over 700,000 words for them to parse, analyze for liberal leanings, and reformulate for a modern conservative vision. That's a lot of work for a site that has to pad out its front page with a conservative RSS news feed. More work than they can possibly handle.

Just as a point of comparison, the game Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic 2 came out five years ago. The game was rushed to meet a release date, and about 1/5 of the content was unfinished. Large chunks of the unfinished content remained in the code. A team of highly dedicated nerds decided to finish the game themselves, a task I feel is highly analogous to what Conservapedia is trying to do. You know when they finished it? Last month. Conservapedia doesn't stand a fucking chance.

So now the question is, should they be doing it? Well, even that needs to be broken down into a couple of subsections.

Theologically, it seems to undermine the Bible being the literal and infallible Word of God if a bunch of douchebags on a website feel they can rewrite it to their whim. Why, it's almost as if the Bible means whatever who's holding it says it means at any given time! I mean, look at one of their main complaints about the "liberal" translation in the KJV. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Socialistic terminology permeates English translations of the Bible, without justification. This improperly encourages the "social justice" movement among Christians. For example, the conservative word "volunteer" is mentioned only once in the ESV, yet the socialistic word "comrade" is used three times, "laborer(s)" is used 13 times, "labored" 15 times, and "fellow" (as in "fellow worker") is used 55 times."

I know it's difficult, but please try to ignore Conservapedia's deeply fucked-up semantics. Let's take it as red that all three instances of "comrade", plus "laborer", "laborers", "Labored", and "fellow" are all as Marxist as Andy Schlafly's brain is tiny. Those words weren't socialist when the Bible was written, by the time the KJV got its name in 1884, modern socialism was still barely walking on its own. And if you think you're going to cut the feet out from liberal Christians wanting to help the poor by taking the word "fellow" out of the KJV and posting it on the Intranet, you're... well, the guy that runs Conservapedia.

And politically? I'm sure that Andy and company think that enough attention to repeatedly bring their site down while I'm trying to fucking pull quotes from it goddammit is a good sign, all of that attention is negative. I mean, conservatives taking a whack at liberal bias in the Bible? That's a punchline. Nobody listens to liberal Christians anyway. The Bible is, lock stock and Herod, the sole purview of conservatives. They don't define the "bible belt" based on the geographical concentration of Unitarians. Conservatives aren't trying to keep the liberal Bible out of our schools. Who builds science museums based on Scripture? Not the fucking Smithsonian.

About the only good thing you can say about the Conservative Bible Project is that it'll keep a couple of wingnuts off the streets for a few months. But once they eliminate "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" on the grounds that it's a verse for pussies without the stomach for revenge**, they're sure to get bored and go back to waving misspelled signs at tea parties. Coming up with fake historical justification for your worldview is hard work, even for the kings of stubris.

*As in "two's company, three's a crowdsource, so I hope I find two more guys soon."

**This is essentially their point, although the ACTUAL QUOTE is a bit more subtle: "Is this a liberal corruption of the original? This does not appear in any other Gospel, and the simple fact is that some of the persecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing. This quotation is a favorite of liberals but should not appear in a conservative Bible." So, basically, their official scholarly approach is to find excuses to eliminate anything liberals quote Jesus as saying. Camels will be soaring through needles, moneychangers won't have to go to Ikea to buy new tables, and the lepers can fucking well buy a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan if they want treatment.