Bible Study Returns to Public Schools
(Remnant News Watch September 15, 2009)

Mark Alessio

(Posted 09/17/09
Under a law passed in 2007 by the Texas State Legislature, all Texas public school districts must offer instruction in the literature and history of the Bible in the Fall 2009 school year, reports Kate Alexander of the Austin American-Statesman (Aug. 8, 1009).

House Bill 1287 added new Texas Education Code section 28.011, which provides that districts may offer students in grades 9 to 12 an elective course on the impact of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The bill also amended Texas Education Code section 28.002 on required curriculum, to state that each district that offers K-12 instruction shall offer an enrichment curriculum that includes “religious literature, including the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and New Testament, and its impact on history and literature.”

The Texas Association of School Boards has declared that, “The inclusion of religion in the study of history, culture, literature, music, drama, and art is essential to a full and fair presentation of the curriculum.” They add:

The District’s approach to teaching about religion shall be academic, not devotional .... Such studies shall not foster any particular religious tenet nor demean any religious beliefs, but shall attempt to develop mutual respect among students and advance their knowledge and appreciation of the role that religious heritage plays in the social, cultural, and historic development of civilization.

Unfortunately, the Texas Education Agency has announced that it will not provide teacher training and materials for the Bible courses because the State Legislature did not budget the $750,000 to do so. Because of this, many school districts are choosing to stick with the “world religions” sections of their current history and geography courses, while others will offer the new course despite the lack of state assistance, if student demand merits the effort.

Drama itself – i.e., theater – which had existed in ancient Greece and Rome, was resurrected in the West in the 9th century when tropes (texts of dialogue) were added to the Mass. One of the earliest of these tropes is a dialogue between the three Marys and the angels at the tomb of Christ. This was the original of liturgical drama, and set the stage for the writing of “Miracle” and “Mystery” plays. In fact, the need and desire to depict Scriptural/sacred scenes and messages has acted as the very soil in which great artistic innovations – such as perspective in painting, polyphony in music, literary drama – have thrived.

Storytelling is as old as language itself, and young people especially have a desire to be amazed, be it through fairy tales, comic books, movies, etc. They will eventually grow into the bleak and mundane world of 401K’s, homeowner’s insurance and political elections, but while they are young, they would rather navigate a world of talking animals, flying carpets and giants.

 Does anyone reading this suppose for one minute that the Harry Potter books are so popular because today’s youth woke up one morning with a burning desire to study witchcraft? No, they are popular because they offer young readers the same sort of imaginative world that past generations sought in The Once and Future King or the Tales of the Arabian Nights.

The Bible is full of epic battles, and stories of betrayal and intrigue. It features angels, demons, heroes and villains. It reiterates, from beginning to end, the primeval battle between Good and Evil. It is the very matrix for stories from Sir Gawain & the Green Knight and Le Morte d'Arthur to The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

It is NATURAL for young people to be drawn to the Bible, and the only way they could ever become averse to those stories is if they are taught to despise them by adults who masquerade their own hatred of religion under the guise of “concern” for young peoples’ “civil rights.”

 For too long, Biblical imagery – particularly New Testament imagery – has been treated as something “dirty,” something that polite society keeps in the background. Do you want your local post-office to display a Nativity Scene for Christmas? You may as well ask them to erect a statue of Charles Manson.

The Texas Association of School Boards has stated:

Interest groups on all sides of this debate are tuned in to the events unfolding in our state. Some hope Texas’ experiment reveals inherent flaws in attempting to teach the Bible as part of a secular course of study. Others hope that Texas school districts will show the nation that such instruction is not only possible but beneficial in public schools.

It is time for the Bible to be taught in public schools, time for young people to reconnect with their literary heritage. Yes, for a Catholic, the idea of treating Sacred Scripture without due reverence is regrettable, but, today, elective “Bible as Literature” classes will provide the only exposure that many children will get to the Bible, unfortunately.

It may be a long shot, but who knows? Perhaps such an introduction to the Bible “as literature” may one day down the line bear spiritual fruit for some. In the meantime, at least, it will be good to see the Sacred Scriptures relieved of the “lower caste” status conferred upon them by ignorant and unimaginative social activists.



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