Thursday, January 26, 2006

Baby? What Baby?

Mention religion these days at your peril. We are bombarded by images of Dominion takeover, court stacking, zealotry and the unsupportable Intelligent Design from one side, and belief of persecution, attack by secular hedonism and being the only party of faith by the other. We’ve been handed our positions by the dividers, not uniters; it’s time we lost the blinders.

It is no more true that all Republicans think Pat Robertson makes sense that it is that all Democrats are athiests.

Unquestioning acceptance of religious stereotypes according to party affiliation is a dangerous path. Entrenchment along these lines leaves little room for acceptance and growth, both as a nation and as individuals undertaking journeys of faith.

Jews are encouraged to constantly question their faith. Christians know that to rail against God is beginning of learning. Seeking, questioning, arguing and acceptance are part of every major faith on this planet. Most of those faiths are at home and welcome in their quest, here, in America.

An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them choose.

An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God. — Peter Ferrara, George Mason University School of Law

What I fear, and what motivates many faith based groups nationwide, is the potential backlash against religion caused by this insane manipulation of faiths for political gain; thowing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. When we see Intelligent Design stuck down in the courts, we need to maintain objectivity. This attempt to teach unsupportable theory should not be in the classroom; striking it down sent a great message. The message, incidently, is NOT religion is bad, go back and hide in your hole, you nut-jobs!

So what is the message? It’s simply that the steps towards faith need to be sought, questioned, argued and accepted elsewhere. School is not the venue. There is a place for religion in school, however, and its place in the curriculum is critical.

Human history is inexorably intertwined with the journeys, by billions, towards faith. The incredible gains in human interaction, the sorrowing loss of millions of lives due to religious manipulation and persecution, and the ability to grasp and understand inferences in literature and nuances in socialization cannot be understood fully unless some working knowledge of religious history is part of the student’s filter.

We need to be careful that in an effort to quash things like Intelligent Design, we lose site of the value of insightful coursework like “The Bible and Its Influence“.

Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, says the textbook, which is promoted as an examination of the Bible’s influence on
literature, art, history and culture, successfully keeps religion out of public schools. The center is a non-profit institute that promotes constitutional freedoms covered by the First Amendment.

“If you’re considering a Bible elective, look at this textbook,” says Haynes, who helped review a draft of the book with 41 other scholars, including Christians, Jews and agnostics. “They’ve done a Herculean effort to make it as constitutional as they could.” — USA Today

I happen to know quite a bit about this project, as a family member of mine did a large chunk of editing on it. The effort to keep a historical, verifiable perspective was paramount. I have a great deal of respect for this work; I hope my kids have an opportunity to tackle this coursework and the inevitable questions it will raise. I’m not afraid of questions. They’re part of the quest for knowledge. They are also a crucial part of testing and building faith.

The correct position to take with religion in schools is not to look at how to bend facts to conform to religion, but rather to study religion’s far reaching impact on the continual development of the human race. It’s in our art, our music, and our literature, it affects our perceptions, our decision making and the stucture of our society. God is, literally, everywhere.

Regardless of our personal stance on spirituality, we cannot deny the influence of religion on the development of individual and societal humanity. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated, intelligent and frequently faithful scholars such as those involved in “The Bible and Its Influence“, we can keep the growing baby and lose the stagnant bathwater.

Crossposted at Bring It On!


At January 27, 2006 9:41 AM, Blogger windspike said...

Hey Jet,

I like this post over here too:-)

Thought I would leave a comment here since there were none.

It is indeed a bit scitzo to post in both location, but I am really finding the BIO spot to be addictive. For some reason, it's not accepting my comments today (ever since the preview function was added).

At January 29, 2006 6:23 PM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

If it's skitzo, then so be it; I'll be skitzo and comment again! I loved reading it when you cross-posted to and I enjoyed reading it again over here, friend. I guarantee this post has hit more nerves than the comments suggest, Jet... it's that well written and articulated. You're a talented writer and it's a friggin' HONOR to have you cross-posting to GTL whenever you feel the urge.

Blog ON, sister!

At January 29, 2006 6:40 PM, Blogger Jet said...

Thanks, Wind. BIO is growing by leaps and bounds. It's the best site out there by a longshot.

Hey GTL. I'm not worried too much about the comments. This post garnered 62 over at Bring It On, and trust me, nerves were hit. It's pretty Dem good to have you back, friend.

At January 30, 2006 6:48 AM, Blogger frstlymil said...

I must have missed this one over at BIO, so it's good that I stopped over here. Two chances to get it.

We are hopelessly behind our European brethren who must study theology in school. The more secular euros actually know more about what is in the Bible than most church goers (including my dear friend the fundamentalist who readily admits to not knowing what it says in there).
When I was in highschool (public high school, mind you) a truely fabulous PhD (who chose to teach highschool with that doctorate) taught numerous classes that fell within the English requirement. Mass media being one - The Bible as Literature was another. A very popular class, with a teacher who was a strong advocate of separation of church and state -

I think our country actually DOES need something in the school - but not in the science department. There needs to be a World Religion class - if kids actually are familiar with and understand the belief systems of other cultures - are made aware that in the history of those religions, including Christianity - that tyranny, prejudice, war, etc. . . have been a part of ALL of them (except perhaps Buddhism or B'Hai) - there might be a bit more rationality when it comes to dealing with people of difference - thus better communication, etc. Hell, it might even be good for business.

At January 30, 2006 11:54 PM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

WOW! 62!??? That's a rockin' friend. And there I was, all excited about that one time when my post over at BIO got 40-somethin'.

You need to quit the day job, Sis! ;-)

Blog ON...

At February 09, 2006 12:00 PM, Blogger Drew said...

I was going to say it but frstymil beat me to it. I concur that high schoolers need some sort of world religions coursework. This was one of the first classes I took in college and I found it to be very enlightening. It also really changed my narrow perspective when it comes to faith. Cultural and religious misunderstanding is one of the greatest stumbling blocks in our world today... as you can see by the riots going on within the Muslim countries.

At February 12, 2006 7:26 PM, Blogger ~Betsy said...

World Religions 101, it should be mandatory in every student's education, both here and in other countries, no matter what religion the student is -- or not. Only by trying to understand the depth and breadth of this thing we call religion can anyone grasp the importance of freedom of --and from -- religion. There is more than one way to pray, to worship, to practice spirituality. Live and let live.

Sounds like a very interesting book. Thanks for the heads up, Jet.

At February 17, 2006 2:39 PM, Blogger 1138 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At March 05, 2006 4:48 PM, Blogger 1138 said...

Jett, are you still with us?

At March 05, 2006 4:50 PM, Blogger 1138 said...

The compound of Religion and Politics is a poison for democracy and civilization.

At March 06, 2006 5:40 AM, Blogger liberalprogressive said...

As usual, a stellar post, Jet. I really enjoyed this. I think discussion of religion and its affects on our society are more important than ever now, considering the current attempts to Christianize our government. Thanks for the book recommedation.

At July 11, 2006 7:09 PM, Blogger Bonnie said...

Excellent post on timely topic.

At August 31, 2006 2:31 PM, Blogger Aaliyah Hannah said...

People love to argue.

At September 19, 2006 6:48 AM, Blogger Aaliyah Hannah said...

Religion is causing lots of problems.

At September 19, 2006 8:14 AM, Blogger Jet said...

True, but compassion, a key to spirituality, can solve them. The question really is, what is the motivation behind the action.

At August 17, 2008 6:37 PM, Blogger 1138 said...

What are they doing at teambio I can't find your stuff at all.


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