Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Biblical Literacy

This story from USA Today on biblical literacy was sent to me by my friend Andrew. The basic point of the story is that biblical literacy is important, but schools are afraid to teach the Bible because we crazy Christians will use the book to proseltyze. Here is an excerpt:

Indeed, Newman says that trying to appreciate biblical allusions in literature without an underlying knowledge of Scripture is like trying to appreciate a good joke when someone has to explain the punch line. You might eventually "get" the joke, she says, but by the time you do, "it's not funny anymore."

Interestingly, a 2008 study published in Sociological Quarterly found that regular church attendance positively affected students' grade point averages. And while lead researcher Jennifer Glanville of the University of Iowa attributed much of this effect to the social and psychological benefits of being enmeshed in a wider community of like-minded peers and adults, some of this effect might also be explained by the greater biblical literacy young people typically acquire by attending church.

To stem the decline of biblical literacy, three states — Georgia, Texas and Tennessee — have passed laws in recent years calling for public high schools to offer elective courses that teach the Bible "in an objective and non-devotional manner with no attempt to indoctrinate students" (as
Georgia's law puts it).

A few thoughts...

1. It is always astounding to me to realize what an impact the Bible has had upon our culture...and how quickly our culture is changing. A significantly smaller fraction of our cultural output requires Biblical literacy in order to interpret.

2. Yeah, I have to admit if I were a teacher I would do use the Bible to teach about Christianity. Guilty.

3. It is always sad to see how fearful secularists are of proselytizing, or even the acknowledgement of religious belief in the public sphere. The objective is not protection of all beliefs (or lack thereof) but rather the removal of the acceptability of belief.

4. Would a teacher who doesn't believe the Bible to be true be held to the same standard of "objectivity?" Would he be required to NOT communicate his lack of belief? In other words, if a teacher taught about the life of Christ from the Gospels and considered those accounts to be mythical, would we be concerned about her communicating that to her class? If she mentioned that they were fanciful accounts, would we accuse her of proselytizing? I think the whole idea of objectivity is rather absurd.