Friday, March 2, 2007
Bible Textbook for Public Schools?
I recently encountered an ad that read: "Bring this academic Bible elective to your public high school - Widely acclaimed textbook: The Bible and Its Influence." The textbook (written by Cullen Schippe and Chuck Stetson), it is claimed, meets the legal standard set by National School Board Association, is acclaimed by the national media, and was used in 29 states in its first year. Naturally I went to Amazon.com to read any reviews the book received. I was sure there would be one nasty one in the bunch. However, the only slightly negative review had to do with its cost, which admittedly is high: over $50. Now, I didn't do a thorough search, so I'm sure there are those out there who feel that this book is a concerted effort to force religion into the public sector (Oh, excuse me, I did find one place that felt this way. The site was called "Woman Thou Art God." I actually looked it up. Definitely a very angry feminist. It was hard to take her too seriously.)
In all honesty I'm not quite sure what to think of this book. Part of me is suspicious when the media and religious leaders are all praising the same thing. Makes we wonder what they left out rather than what they put in. As the publisher claims: "it respects the views of major faith groups, while endorsing none." Furthermore, the publisher also notes that "It presents a straightforward explanation of the narratives, themes, and characters of the Bible, written to respect, but not promote various faith perspectives."
The point of the text, it would seem, is to present the scriptures as literature, and to examine their influence on our culture. However, for the believer the scriptures are never simply a neutral collection of stories and narratives. In fact, to attempt to understand the Bible apart from Christ is not only to miss the whole point of what it is saying, but it does it an incredible injustice. The Bible is The Word, an enfleshed Word in Christ.
Both Jewish and Christian leaders endorse this book. Now I know that the "golden thread" of Christ is missing. Why would a Jewish religious leader acknowledge, as Christian would, that Christ is the thematic thread that unites the entire 66 books? I'm sorry, I just can't get excited about the book. Should public school teachers acknowledge the place and role of the Bible in history and culture. Sure! But to attempt to form an entire curriculum to present it as merely an influential book would seem shallow to anyone who has read it and received from it the hope and joy it promises. The Bible is unique in all of literature, even though it shares literary qualities with all great works. But to present it in such a way as to rob it of its right to proclaim Christ? Not for me.