The history of education in America is interconnected with the Bible. In the earliest classes, students learned to read from the Scriptures and then studied them all the way through college. It was not until the 1960s, when we eliminated prayer and Bible reading from schools, that our educational system was lacking a biblical foundation.
For the next 50 years after the Bible was removed from schools, many parents who did not go to church themselves would bring their children to Sunday School classes and catechisms. When I started my ministry in the mid-seventies, we had buses that would bring children to church from various apartment complexes. There would be a line of parents dropping their children off in front of the church and picking them up again in one hour. They wanted their children to learn the Bible stories, to learn morality, and to have a sense of right and wrong.
At the beginning of the 21st century, even people who were members of their community churches stopped bringing their children to Sunday School. Sunday became a sports day. Promises were made that children need more sports – sports in the school, sports in the community, and sports that might provide scholarships for the future.
As a pastor, I talk with my fellow ministers and we see that these decisions have impoverished generations. I have talked with children who have never seen a Bible in their home, some who have seen them but only far up on the bookshelf, and others who never saw their parents read the Bible. A young man in his 30s came to our church, and after the worship service decided to stay in the church and read the Bible. It was the first time in his life that he had a Bible in his hand. I have students in the seminary from time to time who do not know if a certain book of the Bible is in the Old or New Testament.
A number of years ago, Harvard University changed its literature curriculum because it was too Eurocentric. They greatly reduced the number of classics that they used in their courses. But the ones that have been left cannot be understood without some knowledge of Greek and Roman history and the Bible. A friend of mine who is teaching English literature told me that he has to explain every biblical reference because high school students no longer know simple terms or any biblical stories.
It is this poverty of knowledge that makes revisions of history and story very dangerous. A new movie version of Anna Karenina was released in 2012. A reviewer praised the movie for its excellent cinematography and the authentic, expensive costumes that portrayed the opulence of Russian society at that time. Yet the last sentence of the review was an indictment of the whole movie. The reviewer wrote, “This is Anna Karenina without guilt and without guilt she is not the Ana Karenina that Tolstoy, who was deeply religious and Russian Orthodox, wanted to convey.”
We have thousands of years of writing to teach us about right and wrong and the consequences of our choices. How will we teach future generations to live well if we do not teach these foundational texts?