Monday, March 11, 2013

Jonathan Merritt: Why conservative Christians should oppose teaching the Bible in public schools

Jonathan Merritt of the Religion News Service suggests that it would be a very bad thing for public schools to teach the Bible.  In the wake of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's History Channel miniseries The Bible, he writes:
Two days before the first episode aired, however, the couple penned a controversial opinion column in The Wall Street Journal titled, “Why Public Schools Should Teach the Bible.” They argued that public schools should encourage or perhaps mandate teaching courses on the sacred book. This should apparently top the list of priorities in a time when America’s educational system is faced with depleting resources and failing to keep up with the rest of the world’s students.
Christian pastors and leaders in social media lauded Burnett and Downey’s article as wise and appropriate. And while the timing of publication could not have been more perfect—the article reads like a thinly veiled marketing piece with a commercial for the television show inserted as the seventh paragraph—the  arguments are worth considering.
The crux of the problem is, as Merritt sees it (and I fully agree with him) how would the Bible be taught? He suggests that it would not likely be the Bible that most evangelicals want taught. For example:
Those who teach these courses will most likely be non-literalists trained at secular state universities, not homeschooled conservative evangelicals or Bible college graduates. They may believe that the many “seeming contradictions” of the Bible are actual ones. If asked, they may teach students that the stories of “Jonah and the Whale” or “Noah’s Ark” are mythic allegories, rather than historical accounts of miraculous events.

Do the Christians crying for a reintroduction of Bible courses want their children taught, for example, that the creation account in Genesis is little more than pretty poetry? It’s safe to assume they do not. But most haven’t thought this deeply about the issue.
I have used this argument against the teaching of young earth creationism in schools. Typically, when Christians advocate this kind of thing, they are unaware of the insurmountable scientific problems associated with these views.  Aside from the fact that it is ersatz science, teaching these arguments in a public school setting would paint a target on those cherished beliefs and open them up to complete ridicule when it is discovered that they don't hold up to even rudimentary scientific examination. If Christians thought this one through, they would not want this.


  1. I am sorry to hear about your mother. May she rest in peace and rise in glory

  2. Anonymous6:56 AM

    I am a home schooling parent, but if I were to send my children to school, I am not sure if I would want them to receive Religious Education. RE is offered in our schools here in Melbourne and I personally know a couple of RE teachers.

    With so many Christian denominations and a wide spectrum of beliefs (conservative to liberal), not to mention a growing number of unchurched children, it is hard to come up with a curriculum that would be acceptable to all without being watered down to the bare basics.