Whoever want to live in Jesustan can stay in Texas; we'll welcome the rest as religious refugees. Because this, my fellow heathen, is the Lone Star State
The school year is almost here, and if literature of the Bible is not already offered in your child's school, it will be this fall.
Books are a common sight in classrooms around the nation, but the Bible is one book that is not. Come this fall, a Texas law says all public schools must offer information relating to the Bible in their curriculum.
"By the end of the year, what they begin to realize is that it is pervasive. You can't get away from it. The kids came back and were like 'It's everywhere,'" said John Keeling, the social studies chair at Whitehouse High School. Whitehouse already offers a Bible elective. "The purpose of a course like this isn't even really to get kids to believe it per say. It is just to appreciate the profound impact that it has had on our history and on our government," said Keeling.
The law actually passed in 2007, but this will be the first school year it is enforced because the bill says, "The provisions of this act pertaining to a school district do not take effect until the 2009-2010 school year."
This has gained mixed reactions from East Texans. "I think it is a good thing because a lot of kids don't have that experience, and they already want to take prayer out of school as it is-- and you see where our kids are ending up!" said Tyler resident Laura Tucker.
Tyler resident Havis Tatum disagress with Tucker. He said, "I don't want anybody teaching their religious beliefs to my child unless they want to send their child to my house and let me teach them my religious views. There is no difference."
Funny that this should surface right now, because I've been pondering a post on whether the complete yanking of all references to religion in public schools has perhaps had the opposite of the effect intended.
Last week I was talking to a friend who grew up in Mao's China. She does not practice any religion because of the nature of the country in which she grew up at the time. This summer she sent her daughter to a day camp sponsored by a local church because she'd heard it has a lot of good activities. One of these activities, it turns out, is a half-hour a day of "Bible study", which seems to consist of proseletyzing and coercive conversion of eight-year-olds. This child, whose family practices no religion, is being told by authority figures at this camp that if she doesn't believe that Jesus was the literal son of God who died on the cross for our sins, she is going to burn in hellfire eternal.
Now, this is a child who is at a stage where she is both curious and fearful about death. And here she is, getting this crap pumped into her head every day at day camp. The mother is stumped as to what to do, because without a framework to offer as an alternative, and with little knowledge of even the major, let alone the minor, religions of the world, she has to find a way to speak to this child so if the child DOES decide to become a fundamentalist Christian, she does it out of free will instead of playing on childhood fears.
So I got to thinking: Maybe it's not such a good thing after that ALL references to religion have been removed from the schools, because it sets up a situation in which the loudest voices (who are usually conservative Christians, because witness and conversion is so much a part of their practice) are the ones who manage to bulldoze their beliefs into the schools.
When I was in elementary school, we were pretty much limited to the issue of "These people believe he's the Messiah and these people don't", which of course led to the foofarah over the Christmas tableau at the local high school. But by the time I was in high school, we had a comparative religion class which included most of the world's major religions, and it was presented as a function of belief and traditions, with absolutely no sense of preference as to any of them being "truth."
Somehow I don't think that's what's going to happen in Texas.
The fact is that the Bible studied as literature is fascinating. I studied it that way in college, and I also studied Biblical Hebrew. The problem is that religious leaders who support Bible study don't want it taught that way, because if it is literature, it by definition cannot be truth. Somehow I don't think Texas is going to go into how the first woman in genesis starts out as "ishah" (woman) and later, in the second telling of the creation, becomes "chevvah" (Eve) -- which is, of course, the genesis (sorry) of the Lilith question. Or how the same deity is referred to variously as "Adonai", "Elohim" (which is a plural) or "YHWH" (Jehovah). Or about how the Bible wasn't written in English and everyone spins in translating. Nor are Texas schoolchildren going to read the Koran, or the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, or about Hinduism and how it has no known founder, and about Shinto and Ba'hai and the thousands of other religions of the world.
They aren't going to hear about these things because it's clear that Texas doesn't give a shit about nonestablishment of religion by the state. It's a shame, because the more children learn about beliefs, and what they have in common and about how they are our species' way of trying to make sense of the unfathomable, perhaps we would be raising smarter children.
Of course then they wouldn't be as malleable.