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The Case for Teaching the Bible

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TIME has a new article this week discussing the Bible being integrated back into schools. Here's a clip of it:

A BASIC QUESTION: WHY TEACH THE BIBLE and not comparative religion? It may not be necessary to provide Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism with equal time, but it seems misguided to ignore faiths that millions of Americans practice each day; and a glance at the headlines further argues for an omnibus course. Yet could a school demand that its already overloaded kids take one elective if they take the other? Concerns about whether a Bible Belt Christian teacher could in good conscience teach a religiously neutral Bible course also plagued me. Was high school Bible study one of those great ideas that vaporizes when exposed to air?

I visited New Braunfels high in early February. Jennifer Kendrick is committed to The Bible and Its Influence, but as a starting point rather than a blueprint. "It gives me ways to approach the topic, and then I put together something else," she says. She's unconvinced of its impartiality. "It will bring up Catholicism and mention Gandhi, but you can tell it's written as if I am a Protestant Christian teaching Protestant Christians."

Actually, she is a conservative Protestant. But her students don't know that, and nothing in the class I saw suggested it. Kendrick aces the compulsories--notes John Locke's use of the Beatitudes and Frank Zappa's riffs on "the meek shall inherit the earth," and ponders why various politicians have found it more convenient to attribute the "city on a hill" to Winthrop rather than to Matthew. When a student asks how Jesus could say the meek shall inherit the earth, when Christianity inherited it only after attaining tremendous strength, she suggests, "When he was giving the sermon, people took it not just as a physical award but an emotional or spiritual kind of award. Later on, when they became more powerful, say, in the Crusades or something, they weren't trying to inherit the earth. They were trying to take it over." Explaining why Jesus' famous sermon took place on a mount, she reminds the students that Matthew was writing for Jews, and a mount is where Moses received the Ten Commandments. "So, supposedly," she says, "Jesus is the new covenant, the new law, for the Jewish people."


posted by Joshua Griffin @ 9:59 AM |

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