BY PAUL ASAY
The Gazette – Colorado Springs
April 21, 2007 – The Scrooge Report Post
Americans like their religion. Nearly half go to church regularly, according to a study by the University of Michigan, and at least 85 percent believe in God, according to a study by Baylor University.
Our money reads “In God We Trust,” and we buy Bibles by the bushel. But when it comes to reading and remembering what’s in the Good Book, Americans just plain stink. According to a 2004 Gallup poll sponsored by the Bible Literacy Project, American teens barely know their 10 Commandments from their 12 disciples, or their Pauls from their Peters.
Of the more than 1,000 teens polled, only a third could pick out a quotation from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 25 percent didn’t think that the Old Testament’s
King David was king of the Jews. Harper’s magazine reports that 12 percent of Americans think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
That’s an issue, experts say, considering how much world literature, American history and Western culture owes the book. Many high school teachers and college professors say we’re raising a bunch of biblical nimrods, and that it’s time to teach — but not preach — the Old and New Testaments in public schools.
“This is definitely about education,” said Sheila Weber, vice president of communications for the Bible Literacy Project. “The Bible is the foundational document for Western civilization and the best-selling book of all time.”
Weber is biased. The Bible Literacy Project produces a textbook titled “The Bible and its Influence,” one of a handful of Bible-centric textbooks geared toward public schools.
But she’s not alone. For its April 2 edition, Time magazine published a cover story on the issue, and, according to the Gallup study, high school and college English teachers are nearly unanimous in calling for more biblical education. The works of William Shakespeare alone contain more than 1,300 biblical references, and they want their students to get them.
“There’s a kind of pleasure that comes from realizing that you know where that expression — that allusion — comes from,” said Sam Williams, a professor of religion at Colorado College.
He worries that those not equipped with some biblical knowledge won’t experience that pleasure as often as they should.
Williams said the Bible has been crucial to the thinking of many of the Western world’s most important figures, from philosopher John Locke to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I don’t think you can very well understand our foundation as a nation” without understanding the Bible, he said.
About 8 percent of high schools offer some sort of elective secular Bible class, according to Weber. Locally, the pickings are slim.