On Tuesday, March 29, 2011, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published an editorial in favor of HB 1032, a bill passed by the House of Representatives during the 88th Arkansas General Assembly paving the way for the Bible to be taught in the state’s public schools, “...where it should have been taught as an integral part of our literature, history and thought.” The editorial begins by culturally equating the Bible with Shakespeare, the two being recognised “...as twin pillars of not just English Literature but Western Civilization. Wherever the English-speaking peoples went, these books would go, for they were compact storehouses of wisdom, strength and beauty.”
Let’s forget about Shakespeare, early in this argument, as he is merely a straw man bending in the wind of political discourse. And let’s accept as a given that the collection of antiquities we call the Bible has had the most pervasive and far-reaching consequences for what we call “Western Civilization.” It is a heritage sewn into the very historic fabric of our being. Denying this, as many left-leaning thinkers do, does not make it so. On the contrary, not acknowledging this basic historical premise is not simple ignorance, it is the blackest propaganda, smacking of Stalinist Russia and Maoist China.
Undoubtedly, the Bible should be taught in public school: as a living artifact of history, a literary coelacanthe whose poignant and often violent evolution mimics our own civilization’s growing pains. The history of the Bible—from the first oral recounting uttered by ancient Sumarians in the crotch of the Tigris-Euphrates, to St. Jerome’s translation into Latin, to Constantine’s legitimization of Christianity, to Martin Luther’s bone-to-pick with Roman Catholicism, to King James I convening the Hampton Court Conference in 1604 to address problems detected by the Puritans in earlier English translations—is a heady story indeed, full of drama and intrigue too depraved to have been fiction.