Friday, February 3, 2012

Wrong Way to Use the Bible

There are lots of uses for the Bible.  It makes a great doorstop.  It fits nicely in a bookcase.  The Gideons know it’s perfect for a hotel desk.  In a pinch, you can open it and read stories about people who are integral to our culture.  You might even get a moral lesson or two.  With 66 books, the Bible is a massive storehouse of ancient ideas and culture.

It just isn’t very good for negotiating teacher salaries.

Naturally, that’s what one politician is trying to use it for.  Alabama state Senator Shadrack McGill reportedly told a group of people at a prayer meeting in the Heart of Dixie that increasing teacher pay goes against "a biblical principle."  His reasoning (if that’s the word) is that God calls teachers, and higher pay might attract people who didn’t hear God whisper in their ear.

"If you double a teacher's pay scale, you'll attract people who aren't called to teach ... and these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It's just in them to do. It's the ability that God give 'em,” he is quoted as saying.

Odd, I started teaching when I was 4 years old.  My younger brother wanted to learn how to read, so I showed him.  No one actually said a word to me, not even my parents.  No one has since.  I have always been a writer, but found teaching was a great way to earn extra income or to get a paycheck when writing was in the doldrums.   

No “still small voice” has ever said a word to me, unless I count my brother’s request.  I doubt he saw himself as God’s messenger.

Of course, McGill’s comments are hardly new for a Bible Belt politician.  After all, they were the same folks who used the Bible to endorse racism and slavery before the Civil War.  They are descendants of the ilk who 60 years attacked women’s rights with quotes extracted from various biblical pages.  And, today, they now use the Bible to attack gays.

What a versatile book.

It even has some comments about knowledge and education, something McGill probably knows by heart.  For example, in Psalm 78:5, we are told that God “decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children.”  

Proverbs encourages education:  “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding. (3:13)   Students are encouraged to learn:  “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. “(Proverbs 4:7) “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” (Proverbs 19:20) 

The book of Daniel notes that “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning.” (1:17) That should mean something to McGill, whose first name is the same as one of the four friends God endowed with knowledge.
To get that knowledge, children need teachers to help guide them through the bewildering amount of information that inundates us regularly.  Those teachers need to be paid a decent amount of money, so they can afford to educate the next generation.

Alas, the Bible does not say a word about how much teachers should be paid.  However, it should be noted that that the Bible doesn’t even hint at how much a state senator should take home either.

In this case, I would suggest McGill is definitely overpaid – unless, of course, he was “called” to be a politician.  I doubt even McGill could pin that one on God.

Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.

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