I love the Bible and strongly agree that more people should be biblically literate, but I don’t believe that literacy should be obtained in a public school setting. Aside from the fact that our constitution separates church and state, and not taking into account my suspicion that our very non-religious president is calling for this class to pander to the religious right , here are five reasons I think Bible literacy classes in schools are a bad idea.
- Biblical Literacy has no agreed-upon definition. Is it just about teaching kids what is in the Bible and asking them to take a Bible content exam much like one of my denomination’s ordination exams? Or is it about applying what’s in the Bible to our lives? Is it about delving into who wrote the Bible and looking at the contradictions and inaccuracies in translations? There’s no description out there of what exactly a Biblical Literacy class would look like.
- There would most likely be discussion about what the content of the Bible means—and that is very subjective. A Bible literacy class taught by me and one taught by Franklin Graham and one taught by your local Catholic bishop would be very different classes indeed. So which one would it be?
- That brings us to the question of just who would teach the class. I was unable to find any university who offers a secondary education degree in Biblical literacy or even religious studies. Would we tap the atheist English teacher for the job? The math teacher who’s been teaching Sunday school at her church for years? Does the school call in a local clergy member or bring in various clergy people throughout the year?
- Many schools have had to drop classes like music, art, journalism and other valuable classes due to budget constraints. Why would we add something that is available for free in any community around our country to further stretch our school districts’ limited finances?
- If we’re going to study religion in school, it would be far more valuable to do a survey of world religions so that our knowledge and understanding of other faiths goes beyond what people share in memes.
Most importantly, let’s not allow this latest stunt to distract us from the really important issues in our country. I’m not suggesting that the Bible is not important. I believe it is extremely important–just not a government issue.
Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) follow Doubting Believer here and on Facebook.