Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

New Study on Plusses of Bible Study

There’s a movement afoot to get the Bible taught as literature in more grade schools and high schools. Sounds like an idea that will really inflame a lot of people, but this study by William Jeynes (a non-resident scholar at Baylor University and a professor at California State University in Long Beach) indicates that Bible literacy can lead to greater student achievement.


“Students who possessed high levels of Bible knowledge achieved at higher academic levels and were more likely to demonstrate positive behavior patterns than those with lower levels of Bible knowledge,” Jeynes says, going on to add:

“One cannot thoroughly understand Shakespeare, Dickens, Dostoevsky, or Tolstoy without a solid knowledge of the Bible. Furthermore, to comprehend the effect of the life saving miracle of George Washington, the abolition of slavery, the women’s suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement, one needs a sufficient knowledge of biblical principles. Students that possess such knowledge will indubitably have an academic advantage.”

This sounds similar to what “Religious Literacy” author Stephen Prothero has been saying. What do you think?

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posted April 25, 2007 at 10:34 pm

I think all believers ought to know precisely what the scriptures of their religion actually say; that makes it much more difficult for dishonest people to manipulate them with distorted interpretations or outright lies about what’s in there. I also think it’s impossible to understand the West without a working knowledge of Christianity, just as it’s impossible to understand the East without knowledge of Buddhism. Religion exerts an unconscious influence on all aspects of culture, even for non-believers (in whom it may be all the more unconscious). Better that it should be conscious, rather than taken for granted as ‘just the way things have always been.’

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posted April 26, 2007 at 3:48 pm

Although I may be skeptical of its religious contexts, the Bible is a very important piece of literature and history. Many novels and occurences in history have Biblical themes and reach what is termed as “Biblical proportions,” and knowing what this means is important to the understanding both of literature and of American society as a whole. However, I do think it may also be necessary to learn the historical context and how Christianity came about as a response to other religions and how pieces of those religions are incorporated into Christianity, such as Paganism. After deciding whether to teach the Bible in the classroom, it must be decided where the Bible will be taught. To teach it simply as literature does not give due to its historical background. Also, to give it the term ‘literature’ puts it on a pedestal above other texts that are not literature and this may prove problematic when the Qur’an and other religious texts are not given the same recognition.

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Anonymous Also

posted April 26, 2007 at 6:56 pm

If you’re going to do this with The Bible, then you’re going to have to do this with The Qur’an and the other texts as well. I don’t know how you’d do it, maybe as a Religion In Culture course, with instructors of the faiths involved but then I’d think you’d have to have checks and balances to make sure it didn’t turn in Proseltyzing 101.

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posted April 27, 2007 at 5:07 am

I would be curious to know what the “life-saving miracle George Washington” is. Also, I have read the Bible through many times, and have large portions of it memorized. I can’t say that the idea of women’s “suffrage” (an old term for “allowing” women to do something, such as vote) is particularly put forward in the Bible. In fact, the apostle Paul’s writings were used for years to support both slavery and the subjugation of women. The plea for return to “biblical roles” for men and women is really just a plea to return the good old days when women knew their “place” and willingly followed men’s “leadership.” Frankly, having been raised with this “biblical” view of women, I’m rather charmed with godless feminism and much prefer that, thank you.Many people try to claim the writings have been twisted or taken out of context, but they look pretty clear to me–and fit well with the culture of the times. I think it’s a good idea to teach the Bible as literature, but I really doubt it’s going to do all that much for the causes that are mentioned as being supported by the Bible.

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Citizen of the world

posted April 29, 2007 at 1:35 pm

“Also, to give it the term ‘literature’ puts it on a pedestal above other texts that are not literature and this may prove problematic when the Qur’an and other religious texts are not given the same recognition.” The best written chapters of the Qur an are widely considered the greatest work of the arabic language, something which because of the unusual, and indeed unique rhyme the Qur an uses, can sadly not be easily translated, but that is what led Goethe and other great Western writers to learn the arabic language. Through its influence of the Sufi poets particularly, who were widely loved in the West at crucial times such as the French Enlightenment when they were more popular in literary circles in the West than Rumi is now, the Qur an has greatly impacted Western literature. Same can be said of many other works of the great religions, such as the Vedas of Hinduism. Tagore, one of the most respected writers of the English language, was a Hindu, and so are many of the award winning young writers in todays Britain. Various “Pagan” texts as well as the writings of the Buddha are also literary masterpieces. Every parent who wishes their child to become a person of literature should teach their children all these religious scripture, and because atheists, as well as various people who believe their religion to be the “true one” can fall in love with each of them, on purely literary terms, regardless of what they may otherwise think of them, this can easily be done what ever a parents ideology may be.Knowledge is never a threat to anything of value, and a culturally enlightened world is a peaceful world. It seems easy to hate and fear the unknown, and hate and fear can lead to violence and strive. If you know any culture deeply enough, you will also learn to love the beauty it has to offer, and there is no better way to teach this than through art.

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Citizen of the world

posted April 29, 2007 at 2:17 pm

I just wanted to add that I do not feel we are putting scriptures on a pedestal by teaching the purely literary part of their value.On the contrary, I feel that that way we can pull them down to earth to the rest of us, the way we did to the Greek and Romans myth, that have continued to enrich our literature long after only a small minority remains adherents of Greek or Roman paganism. And despite “disturbing” myths, or that we may not agree with them, most of us have learned to love them. We all have the right to enjoy great works of literature, and that can only be done when taken down from the pedestal of “truth” and “lie”, “bad” and “good”, “western” and “eastern”, “us” and “them”. Nobody asks those questions when dealing with Greek mythology, even if we are not Greek, and might morally disagree with the actions of some of the “gods” or certain aspects of some “myths”, but we see the idiocy such concerns would be, as being totally besides the real point, which sadly is yet not the case with the great world religons of the “other” yet for most of us. We can each choose to find truth where ever we so wish, and yet also be able to see the beauty of anothers truth, if only we leave those pedestals alone, atleast the negative ones, that the myths of another into “bad”. And in the end, the beauty of any work is the most important aspect of it…and it s greatest truth, even if it would be purely fictional.

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