Sunday, January 29, 2006

Should EO offer a Bible as Literature course for seniors?

In Georgia and Alabama, a course in reading the Bible as literature course is being promoted. I just finished reading Harold Bloom's study, Jesus & Yahweh, The Names Divine a very sophisticated analysis of just such a topic and I have to say that such a course might be wonderful.

Here's what the NYTimes article says about the subject;

Democrats in 2 Southern States Push Bills on Bible Study by David D. Kirkpatrick -
Published: January 27, 2006

Democratic sponsors of the Bible class bills say their efforts would help shield local school districts from First Amendment lawsuits, in part by recommending a more neutral approach.

The textbook they endorse was the brainchild of Chuck Stetson, a New York investment manager and theologically conservative Episcopalian who says he was concerned about public ignorance of the Bible.

Mr. Stetson helped produce "The Bible and Its Influence" as the centerpiece of a course that seeks to teach about the Bible and its legacy without endorsing or offending any specific faith.

The textbook came to the attention of Democratic legislators in Alabama and Georgia through the advocacy of R. Randolph Brinson, a Republican and founder of the evangelical voter-registration group Redeem the Vote.

Mr. Brinson, who said he was working with legislators in other states as well, described his pitch to Democrats as, "Introducing this bill will show the evangelical world that they are not hostile to faith."

Some liberals are unhappy, however. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, argued that "The Bible and Its Influence" was "problematic" because it omitted "the bad and the ugly uses of the Bible," like the invocation of Scripture to justify racial segregation.

Conservative Christian groups have been skeptical, too. "This appears to be a calculated effort by the Democrats to try to out-conservative the conservatives," said Stephen M. Crampton, a lawyer for the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group that supports the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.

"To mention any curriculum by name is suggestive of some back-room deal cut with the publishers," Mr. Crampton said.

For his part, Mr. Stetson, founder of the group that produced the textbook, said a political fight was not what he wanted. "We are the first English-speaking generation to have lost the biblical story," he said, lamenting that studying the Bible had become "a political football."


Anonymous said...

Mr. Stetson laments the loss of the biblical story to a generation. We may also lament a whole wealth of classical liturature familiarity is being lost. A working knowlege of Greek philosophy, Roman mythology, Shakespeare, etc. were once considered necessary for a liberal education.
Separation of church and state does not require an avoidance of nonsecular literature. I think E O students would be enriched by a broad course in literature of the worlds religions, both past and present.

Frank Krasicki said...

I happen to agree and I'm a Liberal.

Years ago I took a philosophy & religion class at Doane College and the Professor was a Death of God theologian who unapologetically considered himself a religious man because no matter how he might frame the arguments, as an American student he could not escape the influence of Judeo and Christian thought, ethics, and cultural immersion.

To me the separation of Church and State is that both should co-exist in non-intrusive ways. Religion certainly has a place in the public square as long as it is not coersive or corrupting. Likewise for State issues.

As you say there is plenty of room to study the rich heritage of philosophy and religion short of conversion crusades.

But I would also caution that any subject can be taught so badly that the students are better off without the experience. My hope would be that EO students get a healthy exposure to lots of opinions and expertise through guest panels, discussion groups, and whatnot. I'd like to see excessive study hall time pre-empted by single class special interest subjects that can be offered by teachers sharing that interest or local experts acting as part-time instructors.