Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Motel Religion

The other week, I had an earnest young chap that returned to our reception after checking-in, handed me a Bible and told me that it must have been left in the room by the previous tenant. I explained to him that the Bible in fact belonged to the room and they can be found in most motel and hotel rooms throughout the world. He then asked, "Why."

It was a good question.

The Bibles are supplied by Gideons International that is an evangelical Protestant organisation dedicated to distributing free copies throughout the world. 

It could be said that most people identify the Gideon name from the Bibles in motel and hotel rooms.

Gideons International was founded in 1899 in Wisconsin dedicated to Christian evangelism. The free Bible distribution began in hotels in 1908. In 2007, Gideons International gave away 76.9 million Bibles.

Historically, motels were looked upon with suspicion. The rented room was where criminals, prostitutes and unwed couples lurked away from the public eye. The roadside motel was a place for the desperate, lonely and lost souls. It is part of romantic folklore that many suicides have been prevented from the hope that the pages of the Gideon Bible inspired.

Today, in spite of the motel trade being somewhat more mainstream, the Gideon Bible continues to endure in very different times. Every few years our motels are visited by Gideons, spare complimentary copies of the Bible are offered to us and we always accept a few to top up supplies.

We regard placing Gideon Bibles in our rooms as a quaint, somewhat amusing custom that is part of motel/hotel culture.

We personally have no desire to spread religious rhetoric, so are we hypocritical for placing Bibles in our motel rooms? Should we be replacing these with copies of Atlas Struggled by Ayn Rand? Now this book contains a philosophy that I wouldn't mind sharing. 

Maybe we should be more politically correct and cover other religious views? Would an accompanying copy of the Koran, the Book of Morman or even The Way to Happiness from the Church of Scientology be appreciated? More recently, environmentalism has become the new religion - should we also be supplying copies of  Al Gore's latest tome? (This may also enhance our Qualmark Enviro-Green credentials).

I must say that I am surprised how often our Bibles are read, as it is common for guests to leave them out from their 'hiding place" in their room. So I guess giving people the choice of reading the Bible if they choose to is not a bad thing.

It has been said that "Bibles in hotel rooms are a bit like hairdryers: unless you're searching for one, it's unlikely you'll even notice them." Not surprisingly, copies are rarely removed from our rooms.

We were amused to read that openly gay Lord of the Rings actor Sir Ian McKellen makes a point of  making a beeline for the Gideon Bible as soon as he checks into a hotel room and rips out pages that that condemn homosexuality. For the record the passages are from Leviticus 18:22.

Apparently McKellen has inspired a small movement of copycat Bible page-ripping occurring in motel and hotel rooms throughout the world by gay sympathisers. 

There are also a small movement of atheists out there that are affronted by sleeping in the same space as the Gideon Bible and either remove the copy or place warning messages on it. Whoa - radical!

So accommodation providers be warned - it may pay to order a few more copies when the Gideon rep next calls.

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