Biblically Illiterate America

Time Cover

Time‘s cover story this week suggests that the Bible should be taught in public school. Maybe pulling God and the Bible out of schools wasn’t such a good idea after all?

I guess all the violence, drug and alcohol abuse, teen suicide, and discipline issues in schools has convinced some journalists that a godless education may not produce the best students. Among the reasons suggested by Time for teaching the Bible is that many references in pop culture and the media are based on concepts in Scripture. This is true because the Bible touches on real life issues. It is the story of God and mankind. Many key political and cultural movements have been grounded in Biblical concepts. In the United States much of our moral code and our laws stem from the Torah.  

Time commented, “The Bible so pervades Western culture, it says, that it’s hard to call anyone educated who hasn’t at least given thought to its key passages.”

In the effort to avoid a pro Christian bias in public schools, the pendulum has swung the other way. Today any mention of God or the Bible seems to be taboo outside of some religion classes. This attitude has led to biblically illiterate students.

But God does seem to be on the minds of the masses. According to Google, the word “God” ranks very high on its total searches with 403 million, just behind the word “sex” at 412 million.

The Bible is filled with incredible stories that explore ethics, family relations, war, charity, emotional wounds, governments, human history, responsible living, etc. There is a big difference between teaching religion and teaching about it. The outright exclusion of the Bible has robbed students of a book that could help them become a better person.

According to Religious Literacy, many people believe the Bible contains the answers to life’s basic questions. Time reported that only half of U.S. adults know the title of even one Gospel. For so many people to declare themselves as Christians in this country, it is amazing how biblically illiterate many are.

From history to literature and poetry, the Bible is a book that many would study even if it were not a religious book. So many school districts have decided to avoid the issue altogether by trying to limit the Bible’s exposure in schools. This may be because the decision to teach anything about or involving the Bible could draw criticism from all sides. The evangelical Christians could oppose “misrepresentation” of Scripture by some teachers. Many atheists don’t want to hear about God at all. Some might argue for a number of major holy books to be studied beyond just the Bible.

Scripture has a way of getting to the heart of issues and making people wrestle with deep questions. That seems like it would be a plus for academic institutions. As a Christian, I don’t want to use schools to indoctrinate people beyond their will. Most Christians that I know believe that the call to follow Jesus is a personal decision. Nobody should be forced or pressured into any religous commitment.

Having said that, the exclusion of the Bible is an extreme that has gone too far. It doesn’t make sense from a history, culture, literature or academic perspective. I think that Time is onto something when it suggests that schools consider teaching the Bible.

What do you think?

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2 responses to “Biblically Illiterate America

  1. Pingback: We Don't Need God to be Good « Fitness for the Occasion

  2. Very good post. I recommend 2 things. First, schools teach “Bible in Literature,” not “Bible as Literature”, pointing out how much the Bible has shaped our history, literature, etc… Second, that faith groups & parents step up to the plate and encourage extra-curricular “Bible clubs” in school. These are not only permissable but, when student-intiated, legally imperative. Youth for Christ is doing a great job with this.

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