This is the third time recently that Mark Frost has influenced my post (see ‘Two Things “Argo” Missed‘ and ‘Walking With Fire‘). Through his Twitter feed I saw this article by Hunter Stuart about a “Hollywood Power Couple” trying to advertise their new History Channel program The Bible by advocating for The Bible to be taught in public schools.
The point this couple raises in their article (which you can read here) is that The Bible is important as a fundamental text of Western civilization, never mind the religious ethos attached to it. Fair enough. There is no doubt The Bible is one of the building blocks of our culture. It is still by far the best selling book of all time, even beating out 50 Shades of Grey.
They claim The Bible is responsible for many of the phrases that some people use every once in a while. They also claim the allegories originating in The Bible made possible the work of Shakespeare, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Matrix and so on. They even quoted the Supreme Court:
“[T]he Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as a part of a secular (public school) program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.” (Abington School District v. Schempp)
Naturally the sticky part here is the separation of church and state. The Bible is the foundational book of one specific religion, so the outcry from non-Christians would be unstoppable. It could be argued also that The Bible had a comparable impact on the formulation of The West as Roman imperialism and Greek philosophy. Why should The Bible, taken as a historical and literary document, take prominence?
Because clearly there is more to their agenda than English and History class. If we believe, as Roma Downey and Mark Burnett do, that The Bible is the living Word of God, we have to admit that God borrowed a lot of those stories. The New Testament borrows from the Old Testament. The Old Testament borrows from Egypt, Zoroastrianism, Babylon, and more. Christianity itself would never have existed without Neo-Platonism, but I don’t remember Plato or Plotinus from public school. Don’t we care about the foundations of the foundations of Western civilization?
And as for the literary merits of The Bible, Downey and Burnett might feel a little differently if The Bible was thrown into the English class alongside The Catcher In The Rye and 1984. Imagine the book reports.
“Moses: Murderer Hero” by Little Tyler
“Leviticus: A Comedic Interlude” by Little Billy
“Sexual Motifs and the Mother of Prostitutes in Revelation” by Little Monica
The whole idea of an “historical” Bible stripped of its religious principles is absurd. Were it not for the religious aspect The Bible would not have proliferated as it did, people would not have been “converted/saved” and other people wouldn’t have been burned to death as “heretics”. Are those nasty bits part of the curriculum as well?
In order to have real significance, a reading of The Bible has to presuppose the validity of Christian metaphysics, Christian morality, and the supremacy of YHWH, the Jewish God, who is one of several gods mentioned in The Bible (and the supposed author of the book…but I’m sure He’s impartial).
Please leave your book reports in the Comments section for grading.