Since the day I was born, the Bible has played a significant role in my life. My parents taught me to love it, to cherish its principles, and to apply them to everything I did.
Years ago, I committed to reading the Bible every day, and I’ve found it to be constantly fresh, constantly relevant and constantly inspiring. This Book has helped me be a better son, father, husband, businessman, and taught me the principles at the heart of how I work and live.
Today, I am thrilled to serve as chairman of Museum of the Bible, a nonprofit organization with the mission to invite all people to engage with the Bible.
So how exactly are we inviting people to engage with the Bible? Through what we call our “Four Pillars”: the museum itself, traveling exhibits, education and research.
In addition to being our nation’s capital, with four of the top five of America’s most attended museums, Washington, D.C., is easily the museum capital of America.
The Bible’s words are chiseled onto many of its monuments and important buildings. That’s why we decided to put all 430,000 square feet of the new museum there. Set to open in November 2017, and only a few blocks from the Capitol, the National Mall and the Smithsonian, we’ll be able to host millions of visitors who, once inside, will be immersed in the history, narrative and impact of the Bible.
COVERAGE: The 2016 Wilberforce Weekend
Recently, we’ve seen a tragic decline in Biblical literacy in our country. The average person on the street in all likelihood has no idea just how much the Bible has impacted their life, including the role it played in inspiring the very liberty they cherish today. And yet, as LIFE magazine once declared, the printing of the Bible by Gutenberg in 1455 was the most important historical event of the last 1,000 years.
Bridging that awareness gap is exactly why the museum will include an Impact Floor that highlights the Bible’s influence on topics such as government, music, education and human rights; a Narrative Floor that will portray the Bible’s iconic stories in unforgettable ways for both young and old; and a History Floor that will showcase the museum’s most prized artifacts, as well as pieces from museums around the world.
It is true that this Book has sometimes been abused, and we won’t be shying away from that fact. Nonetheless, I have always believed that when its principles have been applied, mankind has been the beneficiary.
In all of this, our goal is straightforward: invite all people to engage with the Bible in a scholarly, immersive manner, and let the visitors come to their own conclusions.
Our approach reflects the same religious liberty the Bible has helped to inspire. The museum will be a place where people of all faiths, and those of no faith at all, are welcome. We’ve even negotiated a number of historic partnership agreements, like the one with the Israel Antiquities Authority, allowing visiting museums and libraries to have permanent exhibit space at the museum in Washington.
But engaging people with the Bible won’t just be limited to Washington. We’ve taken our extensive collection global through our Traveling Exhibits program, and will continue to do so. Whether it be the Vatican, Cuba, Israel or other countries around the world (including six different cities right here at home), we’ve already attracted over half a million visitors worldwide.
We’re also engaged in Bible education efforts. As part of our student Bible curriculum, and in collaboration with Israeli colleagues, we’ve developed “Augmented Reality” technology to create a totally new form of interactive textbook that quite literally brings the Bible to life on devices, such as iPads and other tablets.
The first part of our academically rigorous, tech-savvy curriculum has been introduced in various schools in Israel as a supplemental course. According to surveys, their students consistently say it is one of their favorite courses. We’ve also introduced a similar curriculum to the American homeschool market just last month.
Finally, through our Scholars Initiative, we are sponsoring numerous Biblical research and scholarship projects, which not only include some of the most renowned scholars of our time, but also enables qualified and promising young scholars to be mentored as well. In doing so, we hope to encourage a whole new generation of Biblical scholars.
Through our four pillars, the Museum of the Bible is quite literally sponsoring a worldwide collaborative effort to engage people with the history, narrative and impact of the Bible.
Founding this institution has been the most fulfilling work of my life precisely because it is so much bigger than me. It is an organization that invites people to engage with a Book whose influence is seen in our art, heard in our music, chiseled on our buildings, and which inspired our greatest heroes, and gave us our highest values — a Book that is bigger than all of us: the Bible.
Just as the disciples some 2,000 years ago said to the curious of their own day, so we say today: “Come and see.”
• Steve Green is chairman of the Museum of the Bible (www.museumofthebible.org). He also serves as president of Hobby Lobby, the world’s largest privately owned arts and crafts retailer.