REVEREND Gene Hood (pictured) was an Indianapolis preacher and missionary for many years, overseeing the handing out of bibles in Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, Korea, South Africa and even Russia, where he said he had given away more than a million.
But his work never before received such a triumphal – nor controversial – response as the handover of a calf-skin-bound King James first edition claimed to have been published in 1611.
But there was a startling sequel to the ceremonial handover of the bible. A few days later Hood, 77, died suddenly of a heart attack.
The politically conservative Hood was pastor of the Nazarene church in New Palestine, Indiana, but his business interests were wide.
He was in real estate and insurance and owned and operated six radio stations in Indiana and Colorado which pursue a strong right-wing agenda.
He told The Indianapolis Star in 2008 that he got into radio because "cussing the liberal media" wasn't enough for him. "It's one thing to curse the darkness, and it's another to light a light," he said.
Where Hood obtained the 1611 King James first edition bible is unknown.
As the story took flight globally, The Australian newspaper recalled that PNG Speaker Theo Zurenuoc was accused of “Taliban-style cultural terrorism, when 18 months ago he launched a cleansing exercise to destroy the parliament’s traditional carvings and totem poles which took three years by specially commissioned artists to produce.”
The newspaper also reported PNG Trade Union Congress general secretary John Paska as saying he parted company “from those who advocate religiosity as a panacea”.
PNG’s core issues, Paska said, “are about good governance, abuse of power, and the fundamental constitutional tenet of freedom of religion and individual rights to worship in whatever religion or denomination”.
Meanwhile commentator Fr Giorgio Licini, writing in a private capacity from Rome, said in PNG Attitude that “the problem with the PNG Speaker is that he is not adding, but replacing. And he is doing so in a very primitive manner, by chopping and chain-sawing.
“I really feel for those who carved those works in the past and all PNG citizens who have so great respect for their cultural heritage regardless of its godly or ungodly nature….
“Churches and religions (when they turn into ideologies) are already responsible for a significant amount of destruction of cultural heritage and iconoclasm.
“When [former prime minister Rabbie] Namaliu added the orchids to the parliament gardens he didn't destroy the lilies. Zuruenuoc would be loved by everybody today had he done the same.”
Sources: How a Hoosier's Bible caused a stir 8,600 miles away, Will Higgins, Indianapolis Star (USA); Trip to retrieve PNG bible from US cost more than king’s ransom, The Australian; PNG Attitude Comments