Thursday, August 11, 2016

Real Biblical Education

A dear friend on Facebook has suggested that kids would be far better off if Bibles were read in the classroom.  I agree that there’s nothing wrong with bringing Bibles to school provided that they are used solely for paperweights or doorstops. After all, over the centuries, the Bible has been used for a totally different kind of education.

For example, in the Middle Ages, the Bible was used to justify massacres of nonbelievers.  It encouraged knights to go on murderous Crusades.  It validated anti-Semitism and wholesale abuse of anyone who wasn’t Catholic.  It was then used to induce wars between Protestants and Catholics, and attacks on scientists.

Slaves at work
In the 1800s, biblical verses gave support to racism and slavery.  Southern ministers quoted such revered lines as "slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling" (Ephesians 6:5), or "tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect" (Titus 2:9).  How could you oppose slavery in the face of that?

Northern ministers used the Bible and came to a different conclusion.  Citing the Book of Revelation, they argued that victory by the North would pave the way for Jesus’ return.

Same book, different thoughts.

The Bible became a cudgel against women’s suffrage and for prohibition.  It quickly morphed into a weapon against women’s rights and even women athletics.  It was quoted by senators opposed to the Civil Rights Act, while ministers like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. relied on biblical verses to urge their cause.

Today, gay rights are continually attacked on biblical grounds.  At the same time, the Bible is being used to justify ignoring Climate Change.  Evangelical radio minister John MacArthur, for one, has spoken out against environmentalists.   Citing the Bible, he said they were wrong to try to preserve the Earth because “the Lord is going to destroy it.”  In contrast, other ministers cite biblical texts calling on us to be good husbands to the planet.

You name the issue: opponents and proponents take turns swatting each other with Bible quotes.  How that approach will aid education eludes me.

The reality is that the Bible’s 66 books contain enough contradictory statements to support any cause, even nefarious ones.  On top of that, the Bible is the best-known unread book in the world.  People learn names, such as Jesus, Moses, Abraham and so on, but have no idea of the lengthy investigations into the historicity of textual events and sayings.

As the result, they are easily victimized by unscrupulous clergy who calmly quote the text out of context.  That’s how early Christians could look at the Jewish religious books and “find” references to Jesus, which are actually nonexistent.

That’s also how today’s evangelicals can ignore every gain in scientific knowledge because of words in a book written by people who didn’t examine a modicum of today’s hard-earned research.

Bible class in college
I am not opposed to education courses that deal with religion, provided they are taught in an ecumenical way.  I took one in high school and regularly teach classes in religious history.  All of us need to know about other belief systems.  Everyone should learn about the intense studies of biblical figures, events and sayings.  The Bible is an integral part of the Western cultural heritage; it shouldn’t be ignored.

But, if those classes are going to be used to indoctrinate, then the Bible and religion should remained banned from school.  Educational systems these days are bad enough.  Bring the Bible to class will only make them worse.


Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University and an M.A. in communication from Kent State University.  You can reach him at

 He is the author of the famed novel The Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus as well as The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Comparative Religion for Dummies.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

In addition, you can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion, at

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