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Old 03-09-2007, 08:56 AM   #1
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The Bible In Literature Class

So what do you think, is is possible to study The Bible strictly as literature without involving religion?

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- Georgia is poised to introduce two literature classes on the Bible in public schools next year, a move analysts say would make the state the first to take an explicit stance endorsing -- and funding -- biblical teachings.

The Bible already is incorporated into some classes in Georgia and other states, but some critics say the board's move, which makes the Bible the classes' main text, treads into dangerous turf.

On a list of classes approved Thursday by the Georgia Board of Education are Literature and History of the Old Testament Era, and Literature and History of the New Testament Era. The classes, approved last year by the Legislature, will not be required, and the state's 180 school systems can decide for themselves whether to offer them.

The school board's unanimous vote set up a 30-day public comment period, after which it is expected to give final approval.

Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams, the Republican who sponsored the plan, said the Bible plays a major role in history and is important in understanding many classic literary works.

"It's not just 'The Good Book,"' Williams said. "It's a good book."

Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center, a nonpartisan civil liberties group, has said the Georgia policy is the nation's first to endorse and fund Bible classes on a statewide level.

The bill approved overwhelmingly in the Legislature was tailored to make it clear the courses would not stray into religious teaching, Williams said.

The measure calls for the courses to be taught "in an objective and nondevotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students."

But critics say that while the language may pass constitutional muster, that could change in the classroom if instructors stray.

Maggie Garrett, legislative counsel for the Georgia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the curriculum approved Tuesday -- like the Legislation itself -- is vague.

"They didn't put in any outlines describing what they can and can't do constitutionally," she said. "The same traps are there for teachers who decide to teach the class."

Some teachers might seek to include their own beliefs or be pushed by students into conversations that include religious proselytizing, Garrett said.

During last year's campaign-period legislative session, Democrats surprised majority Republicans by introducing a plan to teach the Bible in public schools. Republicans, who control both chambers, quickly responded with their own version, which passed and was signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue.
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Old 03-09-2007, 09:07 AM   #2
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It's a bad idea, because, in practice, it's only going to be a vehicle for fundamentalist Christian teachings. If these courses taught what credible Biblical scholars actually believe, then they'd probably cry that there was some sinister "atheist" agenda out there.
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Old 03-09-2007, 09:44 AM   #3
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Reeks of agenda. Why teach literature from a book which subject matter will overshadow the lesson?

Will the fundies just back off?!
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Old 03-09-2007, 09:47 AM   #4
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But it wasn't the idea of fundies, Democrats were the first to suggest it. Unless even the Democrats in Georgia are fundies..

What if the Koran and other religious texts were also studied as literature?
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Old 03-09-2007, 09:53 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen

What if the Koran and other religious texts were also studied as literature?
And the Bhagavad Gita and the Talmud, etc. But the thing is, they're not part of the proposal. Just like every time you hear creationist talking about how we ned to see all points of view, they are never talking about the Hindu cycles of samsara. It's just a guise to get the Christian story of creation into biology class.
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Old 03-09-2007, 09:55 AM   #6
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Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
But it wasn't the idea of fundies, Democrats were the first to suggest it. Unless even the Democrats in Georgia are fundies..
This is Georgia we're talking about.
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Old 03-09-2007, 10:00 AM   #7
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Well if the come at the book like its a complete work of fiction (well at least genesis and all that easter cross stuff) then i have no problem with it

But i do agree its a very fine line - start theologising and it negates the process but go the other way and its an atheism agenda.
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Old 03-09-2007, 10:11 AM   #8
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i'd love to study the bible as literature.

i'd love to study the Historical Jesus.

it'd be interesting to remove all that INFALLLIBLE! INERRANT! SON OF GOD! ONE TRUE RELIGION! RULES AND RULES AND RULES! crap, and just focus on the book and the man, and just learn about what people said that other people said happened.
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Old 03-09-2007, 10:12 AM   #9
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Originally posted by dazzlingamy
Well if the come at the book like its a complete work of fiction (well at least genesis and all that easter cross stuff) then i have no problem with it

The lit classes I took also studied mythic narratives, poetry, oral traditions, and letters, not just fiction novels. The Bible contains all of them. Whether you believe it's contents or not, it's obviously not one continuous fiction novel.


I don't feel it's necessary to study in a lit class unless other religious works are being studied as well. If there was a unit devoted to them, then it could be interesting. If people are really interested in studying religious literature, they can take classes called "religious literature". IMO, too many people aren't getting enough exposure to non-religious literature as it is.
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Old 03-09-2007, 10:13 AM   #10
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Originally posted by anitram


And the Bhagavad Gita and the Talmud, etc. But the thing is, they're not part of the proposal.
Isn't the Talmud the Old Testament - or part of it anyway?

I think it's a great idea, really - if it could actually be done. I took classes in high school and college where the Bible was taught from an Historical and Literary angle and it was fascinating. Some of these classes were taught by Catholic priests and nuns, and I don't remember ever feeling like I was being preached too. If you get the right teachers in there, you got yourself an interesting class.
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Old 03-09-2007, 10:23 AM   #11
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It is a great work of literature--with its symbolism, foreshadowing, poetry, myth and philosophy. Drama, interesting characters, sexual innuendo. Connections to to other great works like Dostoyevsky's works, Steinbeck's East of Eden, Dante, ad infinitum. I know I could appreciate those works better with the background I had on the Bible. Then again, I've missed the influence of other religions' texts on literature.

College, OK. Public school, I'm uncomfortable. Love to see the syllabus on that one. This is loaded. I'm not totally against it.
But I'm not sure how you can avoid the appearance of text endorsement and I do not know if you can control the discussion within the boundaries of literature. I suspect this is part of the Democrats' new tactic of appealing to the Christian vote. "Hey, we believe in God too." I find the timing interesting in light of Edwards' recent speech. Political move.

On the other hand, how do you ignore it as literature? How ever much I like Mark Twain (and I do, hugely), it beats the hell out of
"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" for complexity, although Twain is much funnier.
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Old 03-09-2007, 10:32 AM   #12
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in some ways, i wish i knew the Bible better, especially Bible-as-literature better. i remember being in college and some of the older professors would say how there's less of a common basis of knoweldge shared by students these days. this isn't a good thing or a bad thing -- students are as talented and hard working as ever -- but it does make studying some of the more central texts of Western Literature harder because most of these texts use ample biblical allusions.

in the 1950s and 1960s, you could expect that if you went to a prestigious northeastern university, most of your classmates would be WASPy men and they all would have had formal religious instruction that probably involved memorization of biblical passages and a grounded familiarity with the stories of the Bible. this facilitated the teaching of everything from Shakespeare to Hawthorne because all the allusions would have been instantly understood and the professor could work from this base assumption.

so there's great historical worth to learning the story of the Bible. as i've mentioned before, i'm quite envious of the felicity with which posters like Melon/Ormus, NBC, BVS, coemgen, Yolland, and others, can reference and demonstrate a deep level of (obviously contested) understanding.

i just wish we could be sure that such classes wouldn't be tools of evangelization.
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Old 03-09-2007, 10:52 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonosSaint
I find the timing interesting in light of Edwards' recent speech. Political move.
Quote:
During last year's campaign-period legislative session, Democrats surprised majority Republicans by introducing a plan to teach the Bible in public schools. Republicans, who control both chambers, quickly responded with their own version, which passed and was signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Looks more like a coincidence.
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Old 03-09-2007, 11:29 AM   #14
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You're right regarding the Edwards' speech. My bad. I'm not sure I'm wrong about the political aspects, though, watching the Democratic Party's plan to take some of the religious vote.
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Old 03-09-2007, 12:08 PM   #15
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Yeah, all in all you might very well be right.

It's politics, you look how you can catch most of the folks, and then say what they want to hear.
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