The Bible, Not Bible-Thumping


It should come as no surprise to anyone who teaches literature that a good background in the Bible is really helpful for students. So much of Western literature derives influence from the Bible, whether through symbolism or allusion. As a teacher in the South, I never worried about bringing up the Bible in class when an author clearly referred to it. I have been known to find the reference and read that, too. I think that’s just good teaching. It is nice to work at a school where students are taught Tanakh (the Torah plus other books that make up the Christian Old Testament) and also Rabbinic literature. They know much more than any other students I’ve taught, and they pick up Biblical references. Therefore, “Call me Ishmael” means something to them, and I don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining it. I agree that studying the Bible as the most influential source for so much Western canon is a good idea, but I understand why it makes people nervous. There is a fine line to be walked. Oddly enough, my students are fairly well-versed in New Testament, having studied it in middle school, and I rarely have to describe references to the New Testament in great detail.

I think what people fear about the Bible is directly related to idiots like Republican Alabama State Representative Gerald Allen, who tried to push through a bill to ban books written by homosexuals or that have homosexual characters from public schools.

What that meant was no Tennessee Williams — The Glass Menagerie is a staple of American literature curricula across the country. It meant no Truman Capote. By extension, does that mean he might have banned To Kill a Mockingbird, as Dill was based on Harper Lee’s childhood friend Truman Capote? The Color Purple would have been gone. He even went after some of Shakespeare before backing down and allowing “classics” to be exempt, although the article’s author maintains Allen couldn’t define what a classic was.

Librarian Donna Schremser sums it up perfectly: “[T]he idea that we would have a pristine collection that represents one political view, one religious view, that’s not a library.”

Thank God for absenteeism:

When the time for the vote in the legislature came there were not enough state legislators present for the vote, so the measure died automatically.

Let’s hope it stays dead, for the good of Alabama’s schoolchildren.


3 thoughts on “The Bible, Not Bible-Thumping

  1. When I got to high school I found it very shocking that there was an elective English class called something like "the Bible as Literature". Then I took a deep breath and realized I was being momentarily paranoid and remembered the meaning of the word "elective". I can count the number of times I've read the bible on one hand, and I don't recall ever feeling at a loss in high school/college. If anything, I was shocked to be seated next to a girl in art history who had never heard of the term "Holy Trinity". I guess my Catholic childhood gave me enough to stay afloat in Art History classes, which is the only time I ever remember Christianity in my schooling, other than reading The Scarlet Letter. It's almost 5am and I know I'm rambling. Wanted to say hi, let you know that I agree a little Bible as lit probably wouldn't hurt anyone (not sure about helping though…), and thank you SO much for the update on that bill in Alabama. I shudder to think it actually got as far as an almost-vote. G'night.

  2. Oh my word. What a horrid bill. Sounds like something my state would have written. Happy Mother's Day a day late, though. 🙂

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