February 18, 2016
Another year, another attempt to make the Bible Mississippi’s state book
by Liam O’Brien
In the words of the great poet William Joel, “Everybody has a dream.” Unlike those of most people, the dreams of a lawmaker are written into the public record; which is to say when a failed bill gets reintroduced, you know there’s some hope and faith going on behind the scenes.
Especially faith, in the case of Tom Miles and Michael Evans, two Democratic members of Mississippi’s state legislature. Cassie Fambro at AL.com recently reported that both are re-mounting their effort to name a certain well-known volume as the Magnolia State’s official state book.
A couple of Mississippi lawmakers are hoping to make the Bible the official book of the state.
Rep. Tom Miles of Forest and fellow Democratic Rep. Michael Evans of Preston are spearheading the bill which was proposed last week, according to Evans.
Evans told AL.com that the idea came about while he was speaking with constituents.
“Me and my constituents, we were talking about it and one of them made a comment that people ought to start reading the Bible,” said Evans.
He said that they discussed “all the things going wrong in the world” and someone suggested making the Bible the state book.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s also happened in Louisiana. We also reported on a similar effort in Tennessee, where it was proposed, considered, and denied. But as previously mentioned, this isn’t Miles and Evans’ first holy-book-as-state-book rodeo. They pushed the same bill early last year—one of two similar bills—though their bill was mercifully killed in committee.
So why try again? Neither Evans nor Miles claim to act out of evangelical zeal, which is politically savvy if they hope to claim an abiding secular interest in having the Good Book become the State Book. And that seems to be their play. Fambro writes:
Evans, in his fourth year as a representative, is Baptist. “I believe in the Bible,” he said.
As for those who would criticize the bill, he said “the bill doesn’t force anyone to read it,” but that he hopes it encourages people to pick it up.
Miles told the Associated Press that he is also “not trying to force religion” but sees the Bible as promoting kindness and compassion.
Promoting kindness and compassion is great. MobyLives loves kindness and compassion. But barring the Bible’s many non-kindness-and-compassion parts, of which there are many, doesn’t it seem like an unambitious pick? Mississippi, after all, boasts an incredibly rich and varied literary culture, along with its status as frontrunner for most conservative state in the union. Picking the one book that’s already in every hotel drawer doesn’t say “kindness and compassion,” it says “overkill.”
Considering that Mississippi’s other official state symbols were clearly the result of long and thoughtful consideration, let’s hope that Evans and Miles have a change of heart and pick a nominee that’s a little more exciting, one with plenty of kindness and compassion but not as much overexposure. And if they like Bibles, we may have a suggestion…
Liam O’Brien is the Senior Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.