“Why there should be Bible Reading Once Again in Our School System,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
Some years ago, a disgruntled atheist brought a case in the United States Supreme Court challenging Bible reading in our public schools on the ground of the separation of church and state and the establishment clause of the U. S. Constitution. He was successful. First, I would make this comment, that the establishment clause understood in its history and meaning was directed to the matter of the establishment of a state church such as the Anglican Church in Virginia and the congregational church in Mass. Bay Colony. The clause was certainly not directed in its meaning and import to bar Bible reading in the then public schools. The result of the lawsuit was to eliminate Bible reading, which was generally a section or portion of the Psalms, as I recall, basically nondenominational in its presentation.
Be that as it may, I now argue for Bible reading in our elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, at least during the assembly. First, the Bible is the foundation of our culture and certainly of our literary culture. There is no English writer that has not been affected by and inspired by the beautiful cadences of the Authorized or King James versions of Holy Scripture. The Bible and its translation in the Authorized Version is not only a part of our culture, but has literally made and created our literary culture. There is no English poet that did not have his source of inspiration in the Bible. Milton, one of our very greatest, was inspired by the Bible to write his epic poems Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and his play, Samson Agonistes. John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrims Progress, certainly in this very great allegory had his source and inspiration in the Bible. Thus, to not have our young people hear the most beautiful cadences and ideas in the Bible is to not only cheat them immeasurably, but to deprive them intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally of hearing what is the treasure of world culture and civilization that has probably been the source of style and inspiration, certainly for most of our greatest English writers.
The second reason I argue for the reinstatement of Bible reading in our schools are the profound ideas and concepts found only in the Bible. In Genesis, chapter 2, we are told that God created man and woman in his image. These verses inspire equality among the sexes. If anyone in the women’s movement and feminism seeks to find their source and their truth, they have only to look at, examine, and understand the biblical position of both men and women equally having and bearing the divine image. St. Paul delves even deeper when he says there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, but all are one in Christ. One does not have to believe that Jesus is God to grasp the meaning of this passage where St. Paul makes the unequivocal statement that national origin and sex make no difference in the mind of God. St. Paul, in these few words, eliminated race, national origin, and sex prejudice.
Let us also take a look at the Psalms and the Hebrew prophets, where there is a continued and constant reiteration of our responsibility and obligation of all of us to the poor, needy, and widows. These thoughts and commands to help and assist the poor and needy are ideas and thinking that our young people should be made aware of and not be left with the materialism our society so fervently embraces and be; left with the message of consumerism where all that matters is our next pair of designer shoes and our next pretty dress and our next new smart phone. If this is all we give our young people, and we bar them from hearing the words of the Bible, we are doing them a disservice. Perhaps our young people would greatly benefit from hearing the words of Jesus that the poor and poor in spirit are blessed. Finally, our youth might benefit from the Garden of Eden story, where our so-called first parents were tempted and, because of their pride, fell thinking they would become like gods. The Garden of Eden story is a way of telling how evil and wickedness came into the world and why our world is so confused and broken and twisted. One does not have to literally believe every word of this story, but we can begin to understand that the problem of evil is the problem of pride and that sin and our selfishness is the issue of sin and its reality and pervasiveness.
So why do I argue we should have Bible reading in our schools? We should have it so our young people can be exposed and come to an understanding of the deepest and most profound of thoughts and ideas. No one would be making our youth believe and follow the Bible; Bible reading would merely be attempting to bring them to glimmers and hints of some truth. But also, in hearing the words and cadences of the Bible, we would bring them to the source of our wonderful literary heritage and the beauties of the Authorized Version that, once heard, will never be forgotten.