In case you missed it, one state is taking full advantage of the relaxed view toward Christianity under the current Presidential administration. On June 27, the governor of Kentucky signed a bill into law that permits public schools to teach Bible literacy as an elective social studies class. The stated intent of the bill is not to allow the teaching of religion in schools but to explore the Bible’s role in American history.
According to Kentucky Representative D.J. Johnson, “It really did set the foundation that our Founding Fathers used to develop documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. All of those came from principles from the Bible…. Where you believe that it’s the word of God or you think it’s complete fiction, you can’t deny the impact it’s had on our culture.”
Opponents of the new law include atheists, humanists, and I would assume members of other religions who oppose the teaching of one set of religious beliefs without balancing them with other viewpoints. According to the Kentucky Secular Society, “If this course is really for literary purposes, it should include other mythologies and literatures that have impacted our culture as well.”
Some Christians also oppose the law, such as one person who posted a comment on the Christian Post article about the law: “I can't imagine why any reasonable person who believed in the holiness and sanctity of the Bible would want to put its teaching into the hands of the state government…. I am a school teacher and if you had worked with many of the people that I have over the years, then you would not want most of them teaching the Bible to anyone.”
It’s very difficult, of course, to teach the Bible without touching on religious issues. Is there really a God? Did he create the world? Are humans made in his image? How does God want us to live in this world? and What happens if we don’t live according to his plan? These are all questions likely to come up during a discussion of the Bible. Who is going to answer these questions? The Kentucky Department of Education will be tasked with putting together the curriculum for this class and ensuring that the classes do not promote Christianity in violation of the 1st Amendment Establishment Clause. That’s not a job I would want!
One has only to do a quick search of the different Christian denominations in their area to realize there are many different ideas about what the Bible teaches. Even at the time our nation was founded, there were different ideas of what it meant to be a Christian and how to live as a Christian. Some of our Founding Fathers, including the author of the Declaration of Independence, considered the Bible to be a good source of wisdom, but they denied its authenticity as the inspired Word of God and rejected Jesus as the Son of God and source of our salvation. Will that important bit of information be included in Kentucky’s Bible literacy classes?
Bible literacy is a good thing – I won’t deny that. But teaching the Bible as a source of human rights and governmental structure without the essence of the Bible’s message is a very bad idea! Stripping the Bible of the Gospel leaves behind only laws and moral admonitions that never saved anyone. That’s the core message of the Bible. Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ – not through good living, good intentions, or good government. And that’s not a message our government is tasked with sharing. That’s on us!
It’s time that we stopped trying to authenticate our religious beliefs by having them taught in public schools or posted on courthouse walls or set in stone on memorials in city parks. It’s time we got back to the job of preaching the Gospel to our neighbors, near and far, and loving them as Jesus loves us.
Spider-Man swung into theaters last weekend to rave reviews and big box-office numbers. I have a thing for superhero movies (if they aren’t too dark or just plain weird), so I went with my family to see it. It was a fun movie, with lots of humor and just enough danger to make me gasp a few times.
This movie joins Peter Parker after he’s already been introduced to the Marvel Universe of movies as Spider-Man. He’s a smart, somewhat awkward, high school student with super strength and the ability to hang onto walls, ceilings, and other surfaces like—you guessed it—a spider. His origin story (how he got this way) is skipped over except for one short discussion with his buddy about getting bitten by a spider. You have to watch the older Spider-Man movies, or read the comics, to get the whole story about secret experiments, radioactive spiders, and genetic mutations.
Although we don’t see Peter become Spider-Man, we do see him continue to grapple with the big question: what do I do with this power now? The villains in the story come across a different kind of power—high-tech alien weaponry and power sources—and they use it for themselves, making money to take care of families or just for the rush of blowing things up. Peter wants to use his power for others—to help people who are in danger or just being taken advantage of.
All over the world, I’m sure people were leaving theaters debating what kind of superpower they would like to have and what they would do with it. Most of the answers were probably pretty self-centered. Some might want to have super strength so they could get back at the bullies who tormented them in school. Others might want to read minds so they could embarrass people or blackmail them. My husband might like the power of teleportation so he could go on a business trip without 4-hour delay at the airport. Sometimes I wish I had super speed, so I could whish through my housework and computer work and still have time to relax at the end of the day knowing everything is done.
As Christians, we often forget that we have been given something much greater than any of the superhero superpowers. We’ve been given life eternal, a relationship with a loving God, peace in troubled times, and hope for the future. We can focus on ourselves, as many Christians do, asking for God to bless us, to take care of our families, to protect our rights and privileges. Or we can focus our gifts on others, the way Jesus did, and bring light into a dark world.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” - Matthew 5:14-16
So “hero up” and think of ways you can use your gifts to help others this week.
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What is my mission as an author? It's a tough question, but I believe the goal dearest to my heart is to help Christians think about what they really believe and then to act as if they really believe it. It all begins with understanding what it means to be a Christian. Then we have to learn to live like a Christian.