I can’t get Ted Haggard’s shrill voice out screaming “It’s written in the Bible” out of my mind. Last year, this man was filmed for Jesus Camp preaching an anti-gay sermon repeating that slogan. Never once in this scene did he say where in the Bible this was written. Instead, he played the idiot’s refrain of “I shouted it, I’ll shout you down, so it must be true.” And, we all know what happened to him.
One issue with teaching the Bible in schools is the interpretations a teacher would put upon the Scriptures, especially a literalist one. This has been a big headache for the scientific community from the early 20th century on. With a popular school of thought that the earth is only 6000 years old and that God created the universe, stars, sun, earth, and life in 6 days, high school biology teachers find their ability to teach observable facts greatly challenged by an unwillingness to learn. For some people, ignorance is bliss, but they cut off the means for others to learn. More seriously, human rights has often been a casualty of one’s view of the Bible. The slave trade and the creation of racism went on for a long time in this country largely because of alleged Biblical justifications for them. Of course, there were a lot of secular reasons (such as money in someone’s pockets), but the blessing of the religious establishment went a long way here. After slavery was abolished, many of these people with their piety and paper Pope stood in the way of African Americans (and even others) of claiming their rights as human beings. Now, what one thinks the Bible says is a roadblock to gays and lesbians getting full recognition and the rights others take for granted. Some even point to passages here and there in the New Testament and even fewer in the Old Testament.
With the patchwork of some Bible verses, modern conservative Christians have created a theology that excludes gays and lesbians, insisting on the literal Word of God. However, this is quite convenient. How many of these folk stick to the other things the Bible say? Do any of their wives cover their heads in church? The Apostle Paul makes a case of it in his epistle of First Corinthians. Given that some of these Bible believers like fashion (or even have horrible taste in clothes), how many of them wear a fabric blends of one kind or another? These things are trivial, but what about the more important issues. Jesus pointed out to the young ruler that his wealth was an obstacle to his spirituality, but how many modern believers in this man’s place would see and apply the lesson to themselves? On his Sermon on the Mount, the peacemakers are called the sons of God. In a time where peacemakers are needed more than ever, many (but not all) of these literalists have thrown their support in the past couple of wars that have cost the lives of countless Americans, Afganis, and Iraqis.
Students would be better served with a course on ethics. While many believers find their moral compass in a thick, incomprehensible book, others learn it from family or from the various code of conducts they are exposed to. But, students would be better equipped to understand why some things are right and others wrong (and downright illegal) if they were systematically taught ethics.