Can you teach the bible and not preach the bible? Well the Wood County Board of Education in West Virginia voted 5 to 0 that you can. What they approved was an elective class to study the Christian bible as literature and history.
Alright, I have a number of objections to this. First, history? Not unless they’re going to teach what’s currently known of the actual history of the area in which particular stories read take place, and for that matter, I would hope they introduce geography as well since that too doesn’t quite jive with the stories all the time. I don’t have a problem with showing how the various authors took liberties with facts in order to craft a better work of fiction. That’s certainly a viable topic for a literature course.
My next objection is based on an assumption, and that assumption is that there are no comparable elected classes on say the Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Ghita, the Koran, Rigveda, Zorastrian Avesta, the Diamond Sutra, or even the Epic of Gilgamesh. Now I wonder why that is. Hmmmm, could it be merely an oversight? Could this Christian bible class be a pilot for such comparable electives? I seriously doubt it. I have serious doubts about this being simply about studying history and literature.
Along that same line of doubt, I have to also wonder if there are any classes, mandatory or elective, which use study just one book. I’m not talking about a textbook for a math or science class, but for an English class. Study only one book of literature? That seems highly unusual, doesn’t it? I doubt if there’s even a grade school class on the works of just one author like Shakespeare or Dickens. At best you might find a Brit Lit or American Lit class, encompassing a region or specific era, and this brings me to my next point.
Why isn’t this elective a comparative literature course? You know, where the Christian bible is one of several works studied. Anyone fancy to take a guess why not? Well I’ll take a stab at it. It’s because this is put in place with the hope that it can function as stealth proselytizing and the proverbial foot in the door which believers hope will lead to more intrusions into the school. Now about that proselytizing, I did ask originally can you teach the bible and not preach the bible? I think yes, but it would take a teacher with high integrity, should they be a believer, to present stories as just stories and not facts which you must believe. Ironically, the ideal candidate for teaching such a course might just be an atheist.
But, as always, what about the children? It’s one thing to say it’s tough for the teacher to remain objective and teach, not preach, the Christian bible, but can we expect that from the students? Can we really expect children to behave themselves and cross into Sunday school mode in such a class, speaking out as if this literature is in fact truth? I have serious doubts about that, and what then should the teacher’s response be? Then of course you might have the occasional non-Christian (I know, it’s West Virginia, but humor me) who takes such a class. What’s that going to be like if the teacher and/or students cross that line? Yikes, what a minefield this class might be!
Last but not least I have to ask, which of the many Christian bibles will be taught?