Mandan News

Tricky nature of Biblical studies

Observations of a News Editor
By Dustin White

A few days ago I read a news article regarding a student who had their Bible taken away at school. As one could imagine, the story has stirred up quite a bit of emotion. However, the reaction has largely been regulated to a small group. Personally, I do have doubts about the authenticity of the story, as it has failed to be confirmed. Either way, it did get me to start thinking.

I am a proponent of religion, in general, being taught in school. Being a religion student myself, that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. My position though is that one can not fully understand history, or the world around them, without at least a basic knowledge of other religions.

In the United States, we know that Christianity has had a major impact. Regardless of one’s personal belief, if they are religious or not, Christianity has left its mark on our culture. If nothing else, we can see it on our calendar with the holiday observances that we practice. The impact is also seen on many other levels though, such as our literature. In the same manner, other religions have had large impacts elsewhere.

So I see an importance with individuals having at least some understanding of religions in general. More specifically though, I think the Bible does have a place in a persons education. However, I also think it should be guided.

That being said, I do not think that an elementary student should be given the Bible and be expected to understand it. As anyone who has spent time studying the work, it can be extremely complicated.

I think it can be a bit more troublesome than just not understanding though. While the Bible does contain many great stories, there are also portions of it that simply are not children friendly. For instance, the Song of Solomon, which is a beautiful love song, is not something I would want my son to read on his own. I don’t think that the subject matter is suitable for someone who doesn’t have the correct context to evaluate the work.

There are also portions of the Bible which do contain graphic violence, and what could be construed as hate speech. A quick internet search reveals dozens of sites that seek to show their viewers all of the “evil” they see in Biblical works. Which is another problem with reading the Bible without some guide.

Now, I’m not questioning that there is some adult material in the Bible. I think anyone who has studied the Biblical books has probably seen this. But that doesn’t mean that the entire work, or even the specific books should be disregarded. It just means that it has to be studied a bit more carefully.

That is where I think a good guide is needed, and unless a child has that, they shouldn’t be allowed to just go at the Bible willy nilly. When it comes to reading the Bible in school, I think this poses additional problems as it can be a disruption. Many teachers are not prepared to answer the difficult questions that a child may ask, and many children, when finding adult themes in a work, can become troublesome.

With a good guide though, an individual can get the context of the work, both literary and historical. As the Biblical books were written in a very different time, and space, as well as in a different language, there can be issues while trying to understand what is being communicated. On top of the those differences, the Bible also contains some very difficult theological arguments, which, without the proper context, can be near impossible to fully understand. Hopefully, a talented guide would be able to help navigate through this forest to eventually find the right path, however wide it may be.

I do think that such study should be promoted though. Without some knowledge of the Bible, much of western literature loses it meaning. Much of western art also loses its proper significance. Western culture in general greatly changes without some background knowledge of the Bible. So I think it is important to teach the subject.

It does get tricky though. I’m sure we all know someone who doesn’t accept the Bible for one reason or another. The world is a diverse place, with a multitude of differing views. So approaching the Bible in an academic setting can be hard to navigate. But I think it is something worth putting the effort in.