Thursday, May 17, 2007

ACLU Opposes Bible as Lit in Schools --what's new?

The ACLU is at it again--fighting Bible as Lit courses in Texas. The claim is that the course is being taught as though it were true.

I'm sure a Bible course can be taught as a BOOK without insisting it all be viewed as history. However, I don't want any teacher suggesting that it is NOT historically true either. We don't need the deliberate undermining of faith, anymore than we need the teacher to cultivate Christian faith in those whose parents want them to believe something else or nothing.

Children need to be taught the Bible just to be EDUCATED for understanding western culture, western civ, western lit, western thought, etc.

All students should know what is meant by "the prodigal son" "the golden rule" "adam and eve" "the forbidden fruit" They should know the stories behind Easter and Christmas and Good Friday. They should know the story of Passover --and the Passover lamb theme throughout the Book.

Because they are such popular and great writings, significant in western culture, they should be exposed to the 23rd Psalm, the Love chapter, the Ten Commandments, the Proverbs and the Psalms and the biblical account of creation. They should know the history of Christ's life, some of his teachings, the claims about Him, and the stories and letters of the Early church. They should know the stories of Job, Noah, Jonah, Ruth and Boaz, the Battle of Jericho, David and Goliath, Solomon and Bathsheba, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, David and Jonathan, Samson and Delilah and Esther the Queen. The story of Deborah is a good one to reinforce the idea of women as leaders.

They should know that Christianity teaches equality of persons --as sinners, as recipients of the Holy Spirit, as redeemed people. "In Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek (Gentile), slave nor free."

They should know the meanings of words like sin, redeemed, salvation, baptized, adultery, fornication, annointed, justified, compassion, mercy, grace, eternity, prophecy, the Body of Christ.

So much of western literature alludes to these Biblical stories,characters and themes. Why should our students be ignorant in the name of church and state separation?

"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible


steve said...

I am with you on this one Barb. That is just outrageous and for all purposes censorship. The bible, despite what one may believe about it, is a beautiful work of literature, deserving of study.

Barb said...

I suppose some would teach it with either a skeptical bias or a believers' bias and it would be a challenge to Neither undermine faith --or proselytize.

But I'm sure it could be done. And there should be respect for the good stuff and wisdom therein.

what's not to appreciate about the golden rule?

-Sepp said...

The ACLU always demands "freedom of choice" except when it comes to christianity.

Barb said...

welcome to my blog, Sepp. I just don't have as much to say to people with whom i agree! I don't understand these liberals who want to intimidate their ideological opponents right off their blogs --when exchanging differing ideas is more of a challenge. I think it's because they are impoverished for good arguments and so resort to the ad hominem attack.

steve said...

Well I suppose I'd be considered a "liberal" and an ideological opponent on many issues. But I certaintly don't try to intimadate anyone.. hahaha.

Barb said...

that's right --I forgot your perspective on other things --we still need a bass player -- our music is directed by a wheaton conserv grad, my daughter--she's been easy to get along with! partly due to proficiency --we have a drummer now --guitar, keyboard, piano and vocalists --

That you don't try to intimidate or get nasty is a testimony to your Christian roots! The tolerant liberal is the most intolerant of bloggers when it comes to people of my perspectives.

Don said...

"I'm sure a Bible course can be taught as a BOOK without insisting it all be viewed as history."

Absolutely. In fact, I'd like to see a course in comparative religion become a staple of high school education.

"However, I don't want any teacher suggesting that it is NOT historically true either."

Ah, but there's the rub. Would you be content with high schoolers taking a look at the Bible in history or lit class, but with the caveat that it might be less than totally true? If not, then you're running into an Establishment Clause problem.

I cannot comment about the case you reference, because you offer no links so I can review the issues presented by the parties. But, I will defend the ACLU by pointing out a few of many cases where the ACLU has successfully defended the right of Christians to religious expression:

here, here, and here.

Also, here is a great case where the ACLU sued a school for censoring a student's religious message in a yearbook.

And sometimes, the ACLU fights to protect one Christian from being persecuted and oppressed by OTHER Christians.

I'm sorry if Barb, -Sepp, and others do not understand the constitutional issues at stake, and do not understand the work the ACLU does. The fact of the matter is, the ACLU is a strong advocate for religious freedom, as the above cases clearly demonstrate (and there are many more archived at the ACLU website).

I'm probably wasting my time here, but I feel compelled to defend the organization from propagandistic attacks.

Barb said...

Don, I think the ACLU rightly defended these cases you cite--but so many more of their cases are loony and hostile to Christianity. For every case you can cite where they did the right thing, i bet there are four more where they come off as ridiculously hostile to religious roots of our nation trying to sanitize the public square as though our Christian heritage was bad and/or never existed.

About the bible as lit --NO, a teacher should not undermine the historicity of the book --if he's teaching it as lit. You talk about a story in lit as though the characters are real and their events are real. What did the characters do? When was this in the story? What did they mean? what did the authors mean? What IS the story? who said what? did what?

There is no need to undermine the faith of believers in such a class -or to teach it such that Jews have to believe that Jesus really rose from the dead. The teacher can leave it to the class members to decide --whether they believe or not.

Comparative religions? What does that really mean? We don't want the teacher to compare them do we? leading students to conclude that all are invalid or all are valid --which is impossible.

Don said...

OK, I read up on the case you refer in the original post. For those interested, the case is called Moreno v. Ector County School Board. There is background info on the case here, and you can read a copy of the complaint here.

Of great interest should be the motives of the plaintiffs. Remember, the ACLU is an advocacy group that brings suits on behalf of others. You can read, in their own words, why the plaintiffs wanted to file this lawsuit. Turns out, many of the plaintiffs are Christians, Catholic and Presbyterian. Another plaintiff is Jewish (at least, he says his daughter is). They all seem to share two key complaints about this particular class. First, the class is not taught from a literary or historical perspective, but is primarily devotional. Second, the class favors a narrow Protestant reading of the Bible.

Although the plaintiffs have differing views on the value of a Bible history/lit course, the majority seem to approve of the idea. What they don't care for is that, on their view, one sectarian group is using the class to promote their views at the expense of others.

Finally, what IS the official position of the ACLU on the constitutionality of the Bible taught in public schools as a literary/historical/cultural text? When in doubt, go to the ACLU website see what their official position actually is. Does the ACLU oppose the "Bible as lit in schools", as you have claimed? No, they do not.

Also, a course on comparative religion means a broad survey of the world's major religions. "Comparative" in this context doesn't mean comparing religions to decide which one is best.

Barb said...

I would guess this course publisher and the schools that buy their course are trying to fly under the radar of the ACLU --by not giving them school names so they can go stir up trouble and lawsuits against schools.

I wouldn't give them my customer list either! I'm not nuts --and neither are they apparently.

I wouldn't give the ACLU any of my materials because it takes NOTHING to set them off. All they need to know is that the Bible is being taught --and they will find a reason to threaten suit --such that a district will shy away from the attempt to teach it at all. The only bible course they would approve is one that promotes skepticism --I'm sorry but the ACLU IS as bad as THEY say the religious right is bad --and the RR is the more innocuous of the two.

As for the KJV being the version, that's excellent --it's from the era of Shakespeare, isn't it? why not teach it in that version to enrich the kids' English experience? Nitpickers --that's what they are. Reminds me of Chris Matthews who used to be so good on TV --now I don't bother to watch him much because his job is to be negative. Same with the ACLU. They change america one lawsuit at a time --because no one wants to pay lawyers and court fees --even if we can win. Lawyers are SO egregious in their charges per hour --way beyond the family doc! :)

Don said...

"Nitpickers --that's what they are."

Apparently, Catholics don't consider it "nitpicking" when public school classrooms are used to advance Protestant theology. I don't claim to understand the theological differences between these two sects, but judging from the decades of violence in Ireland, they think it's important.

"I wouldn't give the ACLU any of my materials because it takes NOTHING to set them off."

Say what you will. I invite interested persons to check out the materials I've linked to. Read the court documents, learn about the issues at stake, and reach your own conclusions about the work the ACLU does.

Barb said...

Well, the Catholics have some extra books --the apochrypha? I don't know much about them. It would be more appropriate to teach the books that the two Christian groups have in common-- for lack of time for one thing.

Those stories are about nuns and priests in the garden or something like that, arent' they? kind of out of sync with the historicity and character of the rest --which is why they didn't make the cut in the canon that gives us our current protestant bible? I really am pretty murkey about the Catholic differences in view of the Bible --just know that they think Church tradition and the popes are the means of revelation as much as the Word --and we say the written Word is the final authority --and that the churches shouldn't differ from the Word--though they do have different emphases in different denominations based on their interps. of scriptures.

The doctrinal differences --I don't see what the Catholic gripe would be in a Bible as lit course--no one should need to address the issue of the Mass --and transubstantiaion and other extra-biblical doctrines of the Catholic church. Catholics have actually moved more in our protestant direction, i think, in recent decades.

If a teacher said, "here's why we don't believe Jesus is crucified in the Mass --and the elements transubstantiated into the literal body and blood of Christ...." then the teacher would be wrong in his approach. If however, they read about the Last Supper --I see no reason why a teacher can't teach that the protestants believe the wine and bread were symbolic of what was going to happen ---and we do it now in rememberance as Jesus said.--and the Catholics believe this act in itself is a re-enactment of the crucifixion atoning for our sins everytime they do it --as Jesus said, "this IS my body...this Is my blood."

So it's a difference in interpretation as how literal either statement is --the "rememberance" statement --or the "This IS the body and blood" statement. The kids at least should know the original story and see it in the scriptures to understand what Communion and Mass are based upon. No argument should be raised or entertained --just the information.

Same way with Peter as the rock --the first pope is how some saw it. They should read that scripture. Some say the rock is the statement Peter made "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." And Catholics say Petra, Peter, which means rock, was the rock on which the church would be built. It may be both, since Peter was a powerful first century founder of the new Church, with Paul and others. In either case, the doctrine of the papacy is not in the scripture --but derived from it.

There is no reason to go into why Catholics do acts of penance and gave up fish on Fridays --or paid money for indulgences --or believed in flagellating themselves --or to go into teaching a sequence for salvation

There shouldn't be anything that points out that Catholics are wrong (as they are)

Students should know that Gospel means "good news" and that repentance was Jesus first sermon point--and they should know about the miracles --and the love teachings -this is all great stuff to know about --whether they believe jesus was divine and resurrected or not.

They don't need to point out that Mary was not deified in the New Testament church --and that Paul never referred to Jesus as "born of a virgin" --they should simply know the stories --and the Magnificat --in Luke by Mary, isn't it? The sources of Handel's Messiah --"by man (adam) came death --by man came also the resurrection of the dead."

They should learn the stuff that will apply when they read Milton's Paradise Lost. And all the stories that link to great works of western art and lit.