This Will End Badly

Georgia has decided to introduce Bible as Lit courses into their high school curricula. The classes won't be required and the school systems won't be forced to offer them--though I suspect many will. The classes are titled "Literature and History of the Old Testament Era" and "Literature and History of the New Testament Era," and the Bible will be the main text for both classes.

The article didn't go into which translation of the Bible will be used--maybe that will be left up to the individual school systems--and that, no doubt will be a point of contention. The Georgia legislator who shepherded this bill to this point added in a caveat--the courses are to be taught "in an objective and nondevotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students."

Now here's the questions I have. First of all, how many high school teachers anywhere, much less those in rural, overwhelmingly evangelical Georgia, are qualified to teach the Bible as literature as opposed to the Bible as religion. This is a state that had to be ordered by a federal judge to remove stickers from textbooks that referred to evolution as "a theory, not a fact." What are the chances that these classes will remain non-devotional?

I'm not uncomfortable with the idea of this as a literature class--I think the Bible ought to be considered a literary book as opposed to as a fount of unquestioned truth, and maybe having students actually read the entire thing would wake them up to some of the uglier sides of the cultures from which that book sprang. But I would like to know what else the class will use as texts. Gilgamesh? Love poetry from ancient Egypt? Socrates? Plato? Aristophanes? How about for the New Testament? If the class is going to be on both history and literature of the New Testament era, then certainly some Suetonius and other Roman historians ought to be included.

I'm very uncomfortable with this as a history class, however. The Bible is not an accurate historical document, especially in the earliest parts of the Old Testament and the Gospels. It's a great collection of cultural snapshots, and we can learn a lot about the peoples of the time by reading their stories, but it's not a history, and again, we're dealing with a place where large segments of the society consider the Bible to be infallible. I don't think I'm being paranoid when I say that the teachers most likely to ask for this class are probably going to be the least qualified to teach it in a non-devotional way.

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