“Why We Should Teach the Bible in Public School”

Surprise, surprise.  I was shocked to see the cover of Time magazine this week.  The headline for the cover story reads: “Why We Should Teach the Bible in Public School.”  You can read the full article here.

The gist of it is this: Several public school districts around the country are starting to offer elective courses for high school students–courses which teach the Bible as a work of literature.  Amazingly controversial, and I was quite surprised to see Time endorsing it on its cover!  The idea is that the Bible is foundational to Western culture, and it would be beneficial if we could stem the tide of biblical illiteracy.

I’ve only had a couple experiences with this kind of religion-taught-objectively venture, both of them on the college level (well, that is, if you can count the community college I went to as “college level”!).  The community college course was actually on World Religions, and the professor decided to omit Christianity from the syllabus because she said everyone knew all about Christianity.  If only she had covered it, because I thought I knew all about it but actually didn’t have a clue!

My second experience was much more adventurous.  When I was a student in the University of Maryland system (UMBC, to be precise), I took a class called “The Bible As Literature.”  It was taught by an atheist professor.  I loved having him for my English Lit classes, but the Bible class was a disaster.

Maybe high school students and teachers can handle it better, but my Bible Lit class in college resembled a Middle East peace talks conference.  On one side you had conservative Christians who hold Scripture as God’s Word; on the other side you had liberal agnostics who were there for the entertainment of ridiculing the Christians and their Bible; and in the middle of it all you had this atheist professor.  Exciting times.  I talked with him once in his office about halfway through the semester, and he vowed he would never try to teach that course again.  Poor guy had no idea what he was getting himself into!

Trying to teach the Bible as mere literature will always be complicated, though perhaps highly skilled people might be able to do it successfully.  My take on the whole thing is pretty straightforward: Go ahead and teach it, by all means!  As long as it gives students exposure to the Bible, I don’t care if it’s not preached as long as it’s also not distorted.  If people begin exploring the Bible for themselves, God will do what only God can do.  Cramming it down people’s throats never increased anyone’s love for God.

Some interesting tidbits referenced in the article:

  • almost 2/3 of Americans believe that the Bible has answers to “all or most of life’s basic questions”
  • only half of American adults can name the title of even one of the four Gospels
  • the American adult who can tell you the name of the first book of the Bible is in the minority
  • you probably knew that the Bible is the all-time best-selling book–but it’s also the best-selling book every single year!
  • it’s estimated that Shakespeare alluded to Scripture in his works about 1,300 times

David Van Biema, who wrote the article, closes it with some pat and silly conclusions, but as a whole it’s still worth checking out.

Published in: on March 28, 2007 at 8:13 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I would have taken it if they had offered it in High School. If they do offer a class like that, they should start off with the Jewish Torah since that is the original Old Testament.

  2. Good point, Ty. In fact, much of the New Testament loses its meaning when it’s separated from the Jewish Torah. That really would’ve made an interesting elective in high school, huh? Too bad they didn’t offer it at Glenallan…heheh…

  3. we read a book of the bible in 8th grade in liberal montgomery county. It was from the king james version and I think it was the first book of kings. In high school our ancient history teacher used the bible as a historical reference when he was explaning events and people before the birth of Christ. That was also in liberal montgomery county. I only think people make such a fuss about it just to get their name in the news. Agnostic, Diagnostic interesting

  4. Wow, in Montgomery County–I wouldn’t have expected it!

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