This Op Ed from the Christian Science Monitor.Although the 110th Congress has brought to Capitol Hill 43 Jews, two Buddhists, and a Muslim, Washington remains a disproportionately Christian town. More than 90 percent of federal legislators call themselves Christians, making Congress more Christian than the United States itself. Biblical references permeate political speech, yet US citizens know almost nothing about the Bible. Although most regard it as the word of God, few read it anymore.
In their answers to a religious literacy quiz I have given, undergraduates tell me that Moses was blinded on the road to Damascus and that Paul led the Israelites on their exodus out of Egypt. Surveys that are more scientific have found that only 1 out of 3 US citizens is able to name the four Gospels, and 1 out of 10 think that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife.
Biblical illiteracy is not just a religious problem. It is a civic problem with political consequences. How can citizens participate in biblically inflected debates on abortion, capital punishment, or the environment without knowing something about the Bible? Biblically illiterate Americans are easily swayed by demagogues on the left or the right who claim – often incorrectly – that the Bible says this about war or that about homosexuality.
One solution to this civic problem is to teach Bible classes in public schools. By Bible classes I do not mean classes in which teachers tell students that Jesus loves them or that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, but academic courses that study the Bible's characters and stories, and the afterlife of the Bible in literature and history. Recently, the Georgia Board of Education gave preliminary approval to two elective Bible courses designed to teach, rather than preach, religion. As long as teachers stick to the curriculum, this is a big step in the right direction...