The Bible Never Left Public Schools

Trump and Bible

No one knows more about Bible courses in public schools than Southern Methodist University religion professor Mark Chancey.  Today Chancey weighed-in on the recent Donald Trump tweet about the Bible.  (Some of you may recall that we posted on this yesterday).

Here is a taste of Mark’s piece at The Washington Post:

I can’t heartily endorse Trump’s tweet because its words reflect a deep misunderstanding about the way the Bible, in the present and the past, has been handled in public school.

In fact, the measures to which he seems to be referring, state-level bills promoting study of the Bible in public schools, aren’t new and aren’t necessary. It’s already legal to teach about the Bible in U.S. public schools, but the topic has been swallowed in recent decades by politics and culture war that blur that fact. What American public (or private) schoolchildren in 2019 desperately need is broad religious literacy. The backstory of the measures Trump cites, unfortunately, instead makes clear that our youth are sometimes being subjected more to culture war than cultural literacy.

A little history: Courses like the one Trump mentioned, focused on teaching the Christian and Jewish Bibles, have been around for a century, and in most states, at least some schools teach them. But even in their heyday, they were never omnipresent. The president’s expression of nostalgic longing (“Starting to turn back? Great!”) reflects misconceptions of the Bible’s historical role in the schoolhouse.

But perhaps that’s not a coincidence. The idea that a certain Christian-centric view of the Bible was always taught to American public schoolchildren until very recently feeds into a narrative of loss and restoration popular with his base.

Read the entire piece here.

3 thoughts on “The Bible Never Left Public Schools

  1. But perhaps that’s not a coincidence. The idea that a certain Christian-centric view of the Bible was always taught to American public schoolchildren until very recently feeds into a narrative of loss and restoration popular with his base.

    The narrative of a Grievance Culture, I.e. a culture whose only reason for existence has become Revenge on The Other:
    1) “Once WE Were Lords of All Creation, and Everything Was Perfect!”
    2) “Then THEY came and took it all away!”
    3) “PAYBACK TIME!”

    The most blatant and extreme examples of this in history are the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis, though you find lesser versions in Afrocentrism, modern Islam, tribal blood feuds, and even extreme Zionism.

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    • Unicorn,
      I can understand that points one and two might not apply to traditional Christians but it’s difficult to name manybelievers who are speaking out in favor of “payback.” If you know of anyone of consequence seriously advocating this path, please tell me who it is. There is a difference between regaining one’s rights and punishing those who earlier removed them.

      By the way, the late Margaret Thatcher was once accused by an opponent of being a “reactionary.” The unflappable Thatcher calmly and definitively replied, “There is a lot to react against.”

      James

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  2. I notice that the president is holding an old Revised Standard Version. This version was released after The Second World War so it cannot be linked to return to the truly good old days of American Christianity. I would guess it’s a family Bible, but I am sure that Donald Trump doesn’t realize that this particular version was generally held in disrepute by conservative Christians. There were a lot of problems with the RSV but most controversial was its rendering of Isaiah 7:14 where it allegedly impugned the Virgin Birth and hence the deity of Christ.
    If the president had a better feel for the sensitivities of orthodox Christians, he might not have displayed his RSV. Is his religious affairs advisor falling down on the job? Ha ha

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