Jesus in the classroom

A recent Texas Freedom Network report indicated that Texas public school Bible courses frequently ignore state standards for rigor and objectivity. The classes least in compliance tend to promote the views of the Christian Right. Even instructional materials are often taken from the teacher's churches and not academic publishers.

This should hardly be surprising. In Texas, teachers answer to a higher call than the Legislature. Far be it from a few laws to stand in the way of truth. Our children could be corrupted by false ideologies. Like evolution.

Ironically for Catholics who have thrown their lot in with the Christian Right, the classes that are least in compliance promote a distinctly Protestant flavor of the Bible. Catholics aligning themselves with the Right probably don't care, but more traditional Catholics might.

The state guidelines were written to ensure the religious freedoms of all students, but the Christian Right and the Corporate Christian Complex (CCC) who backs them believe the only people who deserve religious freedom are themselves.

I will grant that the courses are elective, but I also want to stress that the courses are offered as English or Social Studies courses, not religion courses. The intent was to allow students to become familiar with or to understand the influence of the Bible on culture and society, not to convert them to the faith.

Ironically, it is the Christian Right that uses objectivity as the standard for including creationism in science classes. The truth is that the Christian Right only wants what serves their interests.

Texas colleges used to offer elective Bible courses at a college level. But these were a sop to Christian lobbyists. They were always taught by the Baptist Student Union or other campus Christian groups and promoted a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. Baptist kids like me took them for free credits, even though Catholics, Muslims, Jews and Atheists weren't allowed to take courses of their own. Other kids took them because they were easy to pass even when hungover.

For Jesus, his Jewish predecessors and the apostles who followed, teaching scripture was not the function of public institutions. Children were raised with the faith in their homes and synagogues. Children were expected to encounter a hostile and foreign world outside even in Jerusalem, for it was inhabited by foreign powers.

Children of the Christian Right are still taught the Bible in their churches and homes, so they don't need Bible classes. Nor should they get them for a free credit. But if they don't really need them, why do they want them?

Only one answer comes to mind. The Christian Right wants to use public school as a forum for evangelizing, and let the rest of us pay for their efforts. Of course, they would scream if the Legislature forced them to finance Episcopal, Catholic or even Koran study classes in their Sunday Schools.

Wasn't it Jesus who said the second commandment requires of the rest of us to do for them what they refuse to do for anyone else?

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