This week, TIME Magazine’s cover story “The Case for Teaching The Bible,” explains why bringing the Bible into classrooms is a good thing, despite sounding like a blatant violation of church and state laws.
The recently published book, “RELIGIOUS LITERACY: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn’t,” argues that we’re a nation of religious illiterates, and that most Americans can’t name the first book of the Bible, or the four Gospels of the New Testament. The author, Professor Stephen Prothero, chair of the religion department at Boston University, says that we don't know much of anything about any of the other major religions as well.
But let’s focus on the Bible — why would it be so important for a nation that prides itself on diversity to teach the Holy Scriptures of the Judeo-Christian heritage in public schools? One answer is because the Old and New Testaments provide the foundation of the American system of government.
Ninety-four percent of founding-era documents make reference to the Bible; 34 percent actually quote it directly. The idea of “Lex is Rex”, or law is king, came from Reformist Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), one of the Scottish Commissioners at the Westminster Assembly in London.
Francis Schaeffer describes this in his book “How Should We Then Live?”:
“Here was a concept of freedom without chaos because there was a form. Or to put it another way, here was a government of law rather than the arbitrary decisions of men — because the Bible as the final authority was there as a base.”
Rutherford’s work, as Schaeffer says, had great influence on the United States Constitution. John Witherspoon (1723-1794) “… followed Samuel Rutherford’s Lex Rex directly and brought its principles to bear on the writing of the Constitution and the laying down forms and freedoms."
Others, like John Locke, created a more secular form of the Lex Rex principle, which also had influence on the Constitution.
Essentially, the Bible is an integral part in America’s heritage, now in its laws, and in the dignity it strives to attain for every person. Yes, America was never, and is not, perfect. The institution of slavery and the inadequate distribution of wealth are two blots on America’s history. We are still striving to overcome vestiges of those ugly times, but the ideals of freedom and the pursuit of happiness for all people come from the Bible’s understanding that we all have dignity, and that no one is above the law, not a king or a president.
So that would be the reason to teach the Bible — but what would be the reason not to?
The Bible, as Christians believe, is God’s word — God revealing himself to his people. This book is meant to convert. The narrative tells of man’s fallen nature, and God working to redeem us. Without that knowledge, the Bible is simply some nice poetry and literature. In a public school setting, the Bible could never be used as devotion. Therefore, its very intention is suppressed for the sake of a diverse system. Many people have read the Bible and come away with no influence at all; others believing that it’s the revealed word of God will see a totally different meaning in all its passages.
Let me give you an example. While in Rome, working on the Easter special, producers Clay Rawson, Peter Russo and I were given a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica by our very knowledgeable Rome Bureau producer Mario Biasetti. We were shooting pictures inside, and Mario provided us with a wealth of information about the Basilica. We felt we’d seen all there was to see of the great structure. Later, we realized we’d scheduled a tour of the Basilica with Father Jonathan Morris, an FNC contributor. By that time, we were all so tired and thought well, we’ve seen the Basilica, maybe we’ll cut the second tour short or cancel.
We met up with Father Jonathan, explained about the morning tour, and told him he didn’t have to take so much time with us. Father Jonathan started the tour ... but this time, it was different. He began with the spiritual meaning of every part of St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica. The statues of Peter and Paul flanking the church had now become the two pillars of Christianity, one holding “the keys to the Kingdom,” the other grasping the spear of martyrdom. The statue of Jesus gracing the center roof now became the voice of “and I will draw all men unto me.”
I was in awe and humbled. Our fatigue disappeared. We didn’t want the tour to end. Every stone, step and statue had purpose and meaning. The difference? The Basilica’s true purpose was revealed to us.
The framers of the Constitution and the founding fathers understood the Bible’s true purpose. Thomas Jefferson wrote: “I have always said, and will always say, that studious perusal of the sacred volume will make us better citizens.” Similarly, Benjamin Franklin said: “We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this.”
So the question remains — what will a greatly un-churched and religion-illiterate culture think of the Bible? And, how will that affect the nation?
Lauren Green serves as a religion correspondent for the FOX News Channel. Prior to this, Green served as a news anchor for “Fox and Friends,” where she provided daily news updates and covered arts for the network. You can read her complete bio here.
Lauren Green currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) chief religion correspondent based in the New York bureau. She joined FNC in 1996. Her new book is "Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog."