Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Bible Illiteracy?

The Weekly Standard article on Bible Illiteracy linked to at Bibleinterp.com claims:
Lincoln was America's most "biblical" president--"no president has ever had the detailed knowledge of the Bible that Lincoln had," writes the historian William Wolf. Lincoln turned to the Bible more and more frequently and fervently as the war progressed. His heterodox but profound Christianity showed him how to understand the war as a fight to redeem America's promise to mankind. Lincoln never joined a church, but said often that he would join one if "the Saviour's summary of the Gospel" were its only creed. He meant the passage in Mark and Luke where Jesus restates God's requirements in terms of two edicts from the Hebrew Bible: to love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Lincoln's religion was deeply biblical--and characteristically American.
Um, let's not trade in Bible Illiteracy for historical illiteracy. Lincoln was an atheist, not a Christian, who wrote an anti-Christian tract when he was young. He nevered wavered from this position, a position confirmed by both his wife and closest friend late in his life. I agree, though, that there was something "characteristically American" about Lincoln the Infidel: like so many Infidels, he knew the Bible better than his Christian neighbors.
AMERICAN HISTORY STARTS with the emergence of Puritanism in 16th-century Britain. The Bible was central to the founding and development of Puritanism. It was central to the emergence of modern Britain in the 16th and 17th centuries--and modern Britain was important in turn to America and to the whole world.
Hello? The oldest settlements in North America come from which European nation?
The invention of printing in the mid-15th century, and the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th-
Ummm, printing was invented by the Chinese hundreds of years before that....

The Bible Literacy Report is here:

http://www.bibleliteracy.org/Site/index2.htm

Download requires registration.

UPDATE: It looks like some kind of propaganda thing. The study advocates bible literacy, without bible study. Here is the list of things that they think constitute literacy:

GENESIS
JESUS
ADAM AND EVE
BIBLE
MOSES
DAVID AND GOLIATH
LAST SUPPER
NOAH AND THE FLOOD
OLD TESTAMENT
GOLDEN RULE
NEW TESTAMENT
CRUCIFIXION
DO TO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD
HAVE THEM DO TO YOU
GOOD SAMARITAN
JOB
JUDAS ISCARIOT
LUCIFER
SATAN
TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL
CREATION
EYE FOR AN EYE
HELL
LET THERE BE LIGHT
PSALMS, BOOK OF
AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER?
APOCALYPSE
EXODUS
FALL OF MAN
NOAH’S ARK
OLIVE BRANCH
PRODIGAL SON
SECOND COMING
HEAVEN [OR HEAVENS]
ORIGINAL SIN
PARABLES
PARTING OF THE RED SEA
PONTIUS PILATE
TOWER OF BABEL
WALKING ON WATER
CAST THE FIRST STONE
JEWS
JUDGMENT DAY
LOVE THY NEIGHBOR
AS THYSELF
MESSIAH
ARMAGEDDON
SODOM AND GOMORRAH
TWENTY-THIRD PSALM
ABRAHAM AND ISAAC
GOSPELS
JOSEPH AND HIS BROTHERS
LORD’S PRAYER
MAGI
MARY [THE VIRGIN], THE MOTHER OF JESUS
PROMISED LAND
SERPENT
APOSTLES, THE TWELVE
IN THE BEGINNING
JACOB AND ESAU
JONAH AND THE WHALE [BIG FISH]
NATIVITY
PASSOVER
RENDER UNTO CAESAR THE THINGS
WHICH ARE CAESAR’S
RESURRECTION
REVELATION, BOOK OF
ROOT OF ALL EVIL
SABBATH
SOLOMON
TIME TO BE BORN AND A TIME TO DIE

Note that there is no mention of Markan priority, JDEP, chiasms, dating of books, Palestinian history and archaeology, etc, etc, etc. It's purely a way to get people to read the Bible without context using public school funds. I'm all for Bible Literacy. Let's make it literacy, however, not religious propaganda.

The recommendations are disturbing and are obviously political:
6. Determine the current major challenges to teaching Bible literature, and then explore creative, practical solutions for meeting those challenges. No teacher in this study felt that the Bible was absent from their school’s curricula due to “lack of importance” or “lack of community support.” At schools that did not teach about the Bible, the reason most frequently cited by the surveyed teachers was, “Too politically difficult.”

7. Explore the possible correlation between scholastic and economic success and the inclusion in curricula of Bible literature study. Are students in schools of medium- and low-end communities discriminated against by not being offered the opportunity to study Bible literature? Is it possible to help reduce economic disparity through Bible literacy?

8. Investigate trends in religious knowledge, in addition to those in religious and spiritual beliefs, affiliations, and practices. What the next generation knows about religion—their own and other peoples’—is a significant question for the study of religion that we hope will receive more and more regular attention in the future from serious scholars and educators.
"Investigate trends in religious knowledge." Hmmm -- are the authors aware that there are sociology of religion scholars doing just that? It looks like they want to append to that "....and make sure everyone is "on-script."

Some of the questions are also comical:

Awareness of Five Major Religions of the World
More than three-quarters (78%) of teenagers, when asked, can name Christianity as one of the five major religions of the world. And, 83% cited either Christianity or a specific Christian denomination. Buddhism was recalled by 54% and Judaism by 47%. While 54% could name at least three of the major religions, no more than one in ten (10%) could name all five religions and 15% could not name any of the five major religions. Male students were more likely to name Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism than were female students.
EARTH TO REPORT: Taoism? Is it not bigger than Judaism? This question is a pointless exercise in ethnocentricity.

It's not much of a survey. It looks like it was created merely to support Bible-pushing at taxpayer expense.

UPDATE II: Yup. That's a big 10-4.

* Funded by the John Templeton Foundation

2 comments:

Sarah Jenislawski said...

Thank you for posting about the Bible Literacy Report. We don't advocate only knowing the catch phrases of the Bible, but are attempting to illustrate some of the basic concepts with which students should be familiar. For more information on our pedagogical approach, please see The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, a set of guidelines we co-published on how to teach about the Bible legally and fairly in the public schools.
We advocate an elective course on the Bible as literature and in literature for high school students. Regarding your comments about Markan priority, JDEP, chiasms, dating of books, Palestinian history and archaeology, these are all subjects worthy of study, but may be a bit advanced for students who may never have read the text of the Bible before. We are not attempting to provide religious education or a complete scholarly overview of the Bible - which could take a lifetime - but only to familiarize students with the basic concepts and themes of the Bible.

Thanks for posting about our work.

Sarah Jenislawski
Executive Director, Bible Literacy Project

Michael Turton said...

Thanks for your comments. I'll be responding to them in a longer post above.