Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bible Literacy

I teach the seventh graders in our religious education program.  Today's topic was an introduction to the Bible.  As I find the Bible a fascinating book, I was looking forward to discussing it with the kids.  What I hadn't counted on was the complete lack of experience they have with the book.  Many of them hadn't even held a Bible.  Since my kids go to a Lutheran school, and husband and I come from religious families, I had wrongly assumed that other families had similar backgrounds. I quickly revised the lesson and started with the very basics of Bible education.  The kids were very receptive to the lesson and I hope they begin to see the Bible in a different light.

It really shocked and saddened me that so many of them (at the ages of 12/13) had such little experience with the Bible. As it is one of Unitarian Univesalist sources, are we doing a huge disservice to our youth by not giving them a basic level of understanding of the Bible?  I asked the group to turn to Genesis 1:1.  Only one child was able to find it.  I could have cried.  I find it incredibly important for UUs to understand their history.  The Bible is part of that history.  Additionally, if UUs want to be taken seriously in theological discussions, we need to be literate on one of the most influential books in history.  As many know, the Bible is large, complex, and subject to many interpretations.  If we want to be part of that discussion, we need to start Bible study with our youth NOW.  I know of several RE programs that are on a three year pillar schedule.  Mentioning the Bible once every three years is not enough.  I am not advocating that the Bible needs to be present at every Sunday lesson, but it does need to be more integrated within RE.  Our kids need to be comfortable with it and not just admire how "thin the paper is".


Kim Hampton said...

Welcome to the (dare I say) fight to make UUs more theologically relevant and religiously literate.

Be prepared to be disappointed, as you will be constantly told that it doesn't really matter if UUs know the Bible because as the number of "nones" grows the Bible will be less and less significant.

plaidshoes said...

I welcome the fight ;-)!

Robin Edgar said...

I can't help but wonder if there is a causal connection between the failure of the Unitarian Universalist "church" to provide at least a basic understanding of the Bible in UU religious education classes (assuming that what you are relating here is a widespread problem...) and the significant decline in RE enrollments over the last decade. i.e. Is it possible that parents are pulling their children out of UU RE classes precisely because of this failure to provide basic education about the Bible and Judeo-Christian religious heritage?

UUnderstand said...

Just out of curiosity, what version of the bible does your RE class use?

When my parents were children attending a mainstream protestant church, they were given literary King James Version bibles. By the time my sibling and I were old enough to receive bibles in a church of the same denomination, they were the (boring) Revised Standard Edition.

I think the RSE is one of the reasons I never got very far in reading the bible as a child. With the KJV, I might have taken a little more interest. Overall, however, I think UU children should be taught the Jerusalem bible, which is presumed to be the most accurate translation.

plaidshoes said...

We used several different versions. I have collected quite a few and brought them all. Unfortunately, I don't have the Jerusalem version. I will have to find one. I wanted to use a variety so the kids could see how different the various translations can be. I grew up with both the King James and the Good News - so very different!