Officials at Springs Charter School in Temecula, California, must have misunderstood what Banned Book Week (Sept. 21-27, 2014) is all about. The celebration is not about why it’s good and proper to ban books; it’s about the freedom to read. The sponsors of the celebration are against banning books unless, maybe, those books mention Jesus, question evolution, and offer arguments against abortion and same-sex sexuality.
“Liberals have long-rallied against some parents attempts to ban controversial books from student curriculum. But at least one school is taking it a step further and purging books from the school library itself, to the dismay of some parents. What was so offensive that it garnered an entire purge of its content? Apparently, it’s the name of Jesus
“One parent of students enrolled at Springs Charter School was shocked when she saw which books librarians were taking off the shelves to give away. Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom’s popular ‘The Hiding Place’ was among the books targeted for removal. When the parent asked what was going on, library staff told her that they had been given orders to remove all Christian books, books by Christian authors, and books by Christian publishers.”
The Hiding Place is a true story of a Christian family in the Netherlands hiding Jews from the Nazis. Like The Diary of Anne Frank, it’s a first-hand account. Every high school student should read it. It’s a harrowing story but also one of courage and an example of the Bible’s directive to love thy neighbor even when the reality of a concentration camp awaits those who refuse to submit to Nazi political tyranny.
If books that mention Jesus can be banned, then it’s logical to assume that books that have religious themes based on the Bible could be next.
How is it possible that any school student can be considered educated without knowledge of the Bible and its central character?
“According to one estimate, [William Shakespeare] alludes to Scripture some 1,300 times. As for the rest of literature, when your seventh-grader reads The Old Man and the Sea, a teacher could tick off the references to Christ’s Passion — the bleeding of the old man’s palms, his stumbles while carrying his mast over his shoulder, his hat cutting his head — but wouldn’t the thrill of recognition have been more satisfying on their/own?”
“If literature doesn’t interest you, you also need the Bible to make sense of the ideas and rhetoric that have helped drive U.S. history. ‘The shining city on the hill’? That’s Puritan leader John Winthrop quoting Matthew to describe his settlement’s convenantal standing with God [Matt. 5:14]. In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln noted sadly that both sides in the Civil War ‘read the same Bible’ to bolster their opposing claims.1 When Martin Luther King Jr. talked of ‘Justice rolling down like waters’ in his “I Have a Dream” speech, he was consciously enlisting the Old Testament prophet Amos [Amos 5:24], who first spoke those words.”2
There is no way to understand history and literature without some knowledge of the Bible. The phraseology of the KJV has become part of our common vocabulary: “apple of his eye,” “birds of the air,” “broken reed,” “clear as crystal,” “decently and in order,” “handwriting on the wall,” “labor of love, “lick the dust,” “a leopard can’t change its spots,” “multitude of sins,” “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” “beat swords into ploughshares,” “blessed are the peacemakers,” “cast the first stone,” “feet of clay,” “forbidden fruit,” “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword,” “many are called but few are chosen,” and too many more to list here.
How does a teacher explain the meaning of A Tale of Two Cities without knowledge of the Bible?
“In Dickens’s England, resurrection always sat firmly in a Christian context. Most broadly, Sydney Carton is resurrected in spirit at the novel’s close (even as he, paradoxically, gives up his physical life to save Darnay’s — just as Christ died for the sins of the world.) More concretely, ‘Book the First’ deals with the rebirth of Dr. Manette from the living death of his incarceration. . . . Sydney Carton’s martyrdom atones for all his past wrongdoings. He even finds God during the last few days of his life, repeating Christ’s soothing words, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ [John 11:25-26].”
Marilynne Robinson writes, “The Bible is the model for and subject of more art and thought than those of us who live within its influence, consciously or unconsciously, will ever know.”
Even atheist Richard Dawkins agrees:
“Oxford atheist Richard Dawkins, who in The God Delusion denies the God of the Bible but insists we should remain acquainted with KJV phraseology and imagery in order to understand our cultural past, cites more than 100 expressions to underscore its pervasive presence, from ‘signs of the times,’ to ‘grapes of wrath,’ to ‘no peace for the wicked.’ Further, Canadian critic Northrop Frye created a course in the Bible as literature, citing William Blake’s proclamation, ‘The Old Testament and the New Testament are the Great Code of Art.’”
The Bible is the key to understanding great works of modern literature, from Milton’s Paradise Lost and Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur to William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and so many others too numerous to list here (e.g., Moby Dick).
Let’s not forget films, art, and music.
James B. Jordan writes:
“The most cursory glance at the history of Western literature reveals that it has been deeply influenced by the Bible. Some of the greatest classics of Western literature draw their plots, characters, and ideas largely from Scripture; Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost are two of the most notable examples. Even when plots were not derived directly from the Bible, Scripture provided a commonly understood source of symbols and themes. Critic Northrup Frye has said, ‘a student of English literature who does not know the Bible does not understand a good deal of what is going on in what he reads.’”
Fair to say, the students of Springs Charter School will be considered uneducated if this nonsensical edict continues.
- Let’s not forget Lincoln’s use of Jesus’ words “a house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matt. 12:25) in his “House Divided” Speech. [↩]
- David Van Biema, “The Case for Teaching The Bible,” TIME (March 22, 2007). [↩]