Sept 11, 2008, Greg Clarke:
Fewer and fewer people know the Bible, even among those with religious commitment. The latest National Church Life Survey of 500,000 people across 22 denominations, reported in yesterday's Herald, shows a whopping 59 per cent of respondents read the Bible only occasionally, rarely or never at all.And maybe an equally important reason to read the bible is to experience a Western tradition of belief in god. Though I am now a dead-again atheist reductionist, I have recently returned to occasionally reading the Bible, listening to Christian music, and even praying. I like to think of it as Christian dreaming. Though I don't believe, and don't subscribe to (or understand) all of what the Bible says, I suspend disbelief to experience a relationship with a pretend god. I mainly cherry-pick for verses that encourage compassion, humility, peace, etc. I suspend disbelief and say "yes" to the shepherd's call to "follow me". Jesus said:
But why would you bother reading it if you didn't have some belief the words of the good Book were true? What could motivate you to wade your way through those strange, cigarette-paper pages?
To my mind, there are still plenty of reasons to bother with the Bible. But at least one is indisputable, and it reveals a gaping hole in the Australian educational experience. You need to know the Bible in order to understand the history, literature and arts of Western culture. In fact, it is an educational and cultural tragedy that the Bible has quietly disappeared from the schooling experience of many Australians.
In the US, a major project to restore biblical literacy is under way, called the Bible Literacy Project. It is a joint venture of Jewish and Christian educators intended to "encourage and facilitate the academic study of the Bible in public schools". In a country where religion and public education mix like oil and water, it is no mean feat they have got their textbook, The Bible And Its Influence, into the curriculum in 40 states, and counting.
The project had its own statistical grounding. A Gallup Poll for the project found only 37 per cent of American high school students could recognise any of Jesus' words from the Sermon on the Mount (Australia would have to be worse). And yet 98 per cent of English teachers surveyed agreed knowing the Bible delivered a distinct academic advantage in the study of English literature...
There's no need to be sidetracked by six-day creationism, or Zionism, or the subtleties of denominational differences. This is about teaching the Bible in the same way that you teach scales for learning a musical instrument, or the colour palette for painting. It's necessary to the whole task of understanding what is going on in our culture, literature, and history.
I have a vested interest in biblical literacy; after all, I'm a Christian and I think there's something to the big, unfolding story it tells. But I'm also a literary academic, and I can't bear the biblical ignorance students display. Regardless of whether you find something alive and kicking in the Scriptures, there is a strong argument it should be somewhere near the foundation of Australian education.
"Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need ..."Like it or not, believe it or not, I feel like a better person for it.
The goal should be to pass on a Western tradition, not just reading a book. So maybe our kids should be exposed to a fuller experience of Christian fellowship, music, etc.
Will this offend serious Christians? Maybe. But I think it's better that pseudo-belief is passed down, rather than no belief. I'd go the whole hog and attend a pseudo church if I could find similar pseudo believers.
Just make sure the result is not liberal Christianity which has brought us the stupid belief in open borders and one-worldism. Fortunately, I have a strong identity as a white person and a strong belief in the value of a homogeneous race and culture, which I believe to also be Western traditions worth preserving. Hey, maybe even worth teaching in schools too.