The Bible: A Must-Read for Educated Citizens
Most conservative Christians are grieved by the absence of the Bible from public schools. But today, the Bible is making a comeback. And it’s one that believers and non-believers should applaud.
Whether you believe the Bible’s theology or not, you’d better know a bit about its themes and characters. It’s a book that has spawned wars and conquests, produced saints and martyrs, and provides the reference point by which the world numbers the years. To be wholly ignorant of this most-read book in the world is, well, to be ignorant.
The Bible’s Place in School
The GOP was right to acknowledge this in its official 2016 platform. The platform links knowledge of the Bible to “an educated citizenry,” and encourages states to offer the Bible “in a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high schools.”
The Supreme Court has given us every reason to believe such an approach would survive legal challenges. In the very Court opinion that struck down Bible-reading as a morning religious exercise, it recognized the Bible’s proper place in other school contexts.
“[I]t might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”
In 2017, Kentucky enacted standards for an elective course on the Bible in public schools. Other states are following suit, including Georgia and Arkansas. To no one’s surprise, the trend has some special interest groups up in arms.
But do they have a leg to stand on?
It is surely hard to deny the rich educational value of the Bible. In this single book, we find a model of various types of writing: history, prose, parables, personal letters, and some of the most beautiful and moving poetry known to man.
The Bible’s political influence on the United States, alone, is profound. It was, by far, the most frequently cited book in political discussions of the founders’ era. In fact, one researcher reports Deuteronomy was cited nearly twice as often as the writings of John Locke. The Apostle Paul was mentioned just as frequently as Montesquieu and Blackstone.
The Bible’s influence on ethics and morality is obvious. Faithful Bible-readers have changed the world with their efforts to secure civil rights for all people, alleviate suffering and defend the defenseless. Its students’ legacies are seen in the form of schools, hospitals, orphanages, food banks and homeless shelters.
The book of Proverbs gives us wise principles for living. The Psalms are a balm for the hurting soul and a songbook for the rejoicing.
The Apostle Paul’s words offer studies in logic and rhetoric. Jesus Christ’s compassion for the outcasts, his rebuke of religious leaders, and his liberal treatment of women are priceless lessons in challenging a culture’s status quo.
And let’s not forget that the Bible is chock-full of stories that are just plain inspiring. Who can dismiss the courage of David, the boy who refused to cower before a giant? Who isn’t moved by Moses — adopted by his people’s oppressors, and raised in royalty — only to become the reluctant leader of a revolution? And finally we have the story of Jesus; God become man to save mankind. Not through war and conquest, but by a breathtaking act of sacrificial love.
It’s no wonder that we can’t read the classics or walk through an art museum without bumping into Bible references. Consider Milton’s Paradise Lost, the Sistine Chapel, Dostoyevsky’s Idiot, da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” and Melville’s Moby Dick.
The Question for Challengers
Given the Bible’s overwhelming educational import, we should look askance at those hell-bent on banning it from public schools. It’s curious that those who claim to disbelieve the Bible’s theology would find such reason for offense. One wonders why they would treat it any differently than Greek mythology. Yet we don’t see people working to remove that from every classroom.
Most who want to ban the Bible claim to be non-believers. But their fear of this book betrays a “faith” which exceeds that of many professing Christians. What is it, we should ask, that they are so afraid of?
Rita Dunaway is a constitutional attorney, the author of Restoring America’s Soul: Advancing Timeless Conservative Principles in a Wayward Culture, and co-host of the weekly radio program, “Crossroads: Where Faith and Culture Meet.”