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Christian Examiner:
Attacking cultural illiteracy: The Bible and its influence

By Chuck Colson

November, 2005

Chuck Colson: Breakpoint"In the short story we just read," said a public high school English teacher, "there's a reference to one of the characters 'washing his hands' of the situation. Does anyone know where that phrase comes from?" Most students stared blankly, but several sheepishly raised their hands. "The Bible," said one nervously. "Exactly," said the teacher, who went on to explain how Pontius Pilate washed his hands to symbolize that he was not responsible for Jesus' death and the meaning of the allusion in the story.

Is this an example of unconstitutional religion in the public schools? No, of course not. The Supreme Court made it clear years ago that the Bible can be studied in public school as long as it is "presented objectively as part of a secular program of education." It's legal, and it's necessary.

As a Chicago Tribune editorial put it, "Trying to understand American literature and history without some knowledge of the Bible is like trying to make sense of the ocean despite a complete ignorance of fish." Western culture was built on the Bible. Our literature, music, history, and politics are permeated with biblical themes and biblical language.

Commenting in the Los Angeles Times, David Gelernter asked, "Can you understand American culture without knowing the biblical context of 'covenant,' 'promised land,' 'shining city on a hill'?" The answer is a resounding, no. Cultural literature begins with Bible literacy.

That leaves one question unanswered: If it's legal to teach the Bible in public schools and it should be taught, how should we teach it?

Recently, the Bible Literacy Project unveiled the answer in the form of a new high-school textbook called The Bible and Its Influence. The book looks at the Bible as literature and goes on to discuss the Bible in literature, the arts, and history. It's also a beautiful volume filled with some of the great art the Bible inspired.

The Bible Literacy Project is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to research and public education on the academic study of the Bible in schools. Led by Chuck Stetson (a Wilberforce Centurion), the project has taken great care to create a textbook that is fair and academically sound, but avoids being prejudiced toward any canon or doctrine. That is, it has been vetted as to scholarship and to its being constitutional as a public high school text.

As Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress and an expert on church-state law says, "[The book] will serve as an excellent and even-handed introduction to the Bible. Without question, it can serve as the basis for a constitutional course about the Bible in the nation's public schools."

This represents a rare opportunity for us. The Bible and Its Influence is a great resource for anyone looking for a comprehensive academic understanding of the roots of modern civilization.

So I hope you let teachers, administrators, and school board members in your community know that they can teach the Bible in school without fear of being sued, and that a necessary resource, if they are to provide a well-rounded education, is this kind of a book.

Copyright© 2005 Prison Fellowship Ministries
BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries
break point charles colson


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