Friday, March 24, 2006

This Might Not Be a Bad Thing 

I think the left has been a little knee-jerk on this story, characterizing it as "Georgia House Okays Bible Study in Schools". I think "Bible Study" is a bit of a loaded phrase, as it does bring up images of earnest young born-agains sitting around praying in a classroom and planning how to disrupt the Sex Ed classes.

But the law really seems to be aiming at something else, despite it being proposed in a somewhat red state. It's not "Bible Study" in the Jack Chick sense. It's "Study of the Bible" thusly:
The legislation, which passed 151-7, would allow high schools to form elective courses on the history and literature of the Old Testament and New Testament eras. The classes would focus on the law, morals, values and culture of the eras.
Now, studying the Bible as literature, studying the history of how it was written and edited and eventually passed down to us, can only be a good thing, because it helps take the mumbo-jumbo bullshit out of that book and show people what it really is: the cultural and historical record of one small tribe of people, with the would-be messianic adventures of a breakaway cult being tacked on after the fact.

I went to a (very liberal) Catholic University (they had one of the best schools in my major in the area), and the one thing that worried me the most going in was that every student was required to take two Theology courses, one upper division and one lower division. I had images of nuns trying to convert me.

But then I got to school and looked at the catalog. Their definition of Theology was broad; they really could have called it "comparative religion." There were classes covering every major religion, general courses on spirituality and, of course, the more hardcore, pre-seminary courses in hardcore Catholic hoo-hah.

I wound up taking a "History of the Old Testament" class lower divsion, which was taught by a nun. The class was about 50/50 split between public school kids and Catholic school kids. But she walked in on the first day in civilian clothes (she was a MILF) and the first thing she said was, "Some people think that the Bible is the word of god, actually written down by him and passed on intact through the years. Well, that's just ridiculous..."

When she said that, you could tell which kids came from which schools. The public school kids just grinned like idiots, while the Catholc school kids waited for the ground to split open. But she proceeded to teach just how secular the sources were, how a lot of the religious laws of the OT came about as common sense measures for wandering nomads without refrigeration to keep from poisoning themselves, and how the stories did and did not match up with known history. She taught the Bible as just a book, with no mystical powers, nothing more than one people's version of their own story, told from their own point of view.

If that's how they teach the Bible in Georgia high schools, then maybe it's a good thing. And whether the motive force behind the law comes from Fundie-Nuts or not, it's definitely a chance for the secular wing of humanity to step up to the plate, teach the Bible as just another book, and short-circuit the brainwashing of another generation.

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