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Biblical Illiteracy

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Christian churches no longer teach the Bible. That is the inescapable conclusion of a report on Bible literacy released earlier this year by the Biblical Literacy Project. Researchers conducted a survey of teenagers in which they asked questions about the Bible. Students were asked, for example, to identify which of four statements about David was not true. Only one-third correctly knew that David did not try to kill King Saul. One in four believed David was not a king of the Jews, and one in five believed he did not love Bathsheba. “Perhaps surprisingly, born-again and Evangelical teens were often only slightly more likely than other teens to display Bible literacy. In the whole sample surveyed, just 44 percent of born-again teens could correctly identify a quote from the Sermon on the Mount, compared to 37 percent of all American teens” (Bible Literacy Report, 25).

I’ve seen some of the odd mish-mash of pop psychology, contemporary values, and Bible stories that pass as Sunday school curriculum nowadays. Nearly all of them have a core lesson summed up in a few words. The teacher parrots these words throughout the session. Nearly all bury the Bible story in a five-minute segment that serves to re-inforce the core lesson. There are usually other activities and stories also designed to drive home the core lesson. The actual details of the biblical narrative are lost or even altered to fit the core lesson. No wonder even church-bred kids are growing up not knowing the Bible. Churches have substituted abstract lessons for the nitty-gritty details of messy and—let’s face it—politically incorrect stories.

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Bitter Pills

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Last Thursday our youngest daughter had a serious asthma attack brought on by a bad cold. She woke us up at about 4:00 am barely able to breathe. After a call to our clinic, we took her to the hospital emergency room. They ended up admitting her, and she spent a day and night in the hospital, coming home on Christmas Eve. The time was stressful and draining, but that’s just part of life. You learn to roll with the punches.

To help reduce inflammation in her lungs, the doctor prescribed Prednisone, a corticosteroid. I had it once myself when I had a persistent sore throat. It was the nastiest, bitterest medicine I’ve ever had, and I could readily understand my daughter’s reluctance to take it. She could barely get it down. I called the pharmacist but was told that Prednisone is not available in capsules or with a coating that would permit swallowing without tasting. Why not? Apparently no one knows.

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Christmas Lessons

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My third-grade daughter came home with a Christmas word-find. Here are the words, associated with Christmas, which she was supposed to find:

  1. GINGERBREAD
  2. CANDLES
  3. HELPERS
  4. GLOVES
  5. CINNAMON
  6. FRIENDS
  7. HATS
  8. GIVING

I don’t know about you, but HATS and GLOVES always make me think of Christmas. What about JESUS, MANGER, STAR, SHEPHERDS, ANGELS, JOSEPH, MARY, and BETHLEHEM? What about WISE MEN and INNS and TAXES? Certainly they are more representative of Christmas than GINGERBREAD and CINNAMON. My daughter thinks she is just doing homework, but she is learning what her culture says about Christmas. The not-so-subtle message of her assignment is that Christmas is just a winter holiday—not a celebration of the Incarnation. Here is a holiday drained of all religious content. Even SANTA CLAUS and REINDEER are missing. Too Christian? Or just not bland enough. Either way it’s disgusting.

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