Bible-believing Christians and Religion in Public Schools

Soren Kierkegaard

Two Things Bible-believing Christians Are Famous for Doing

Background Information

I grew up here in the American South and have lived here all of my life. Religion has always been a big factor in life down south—particularly what has been described by its adherents as Bible-believing Christianity.  This term is pretty much synonymous with the terms “Christian fundamentalism” and “conservative evangelicalism.” The chief characteristic of Bible-believing Christians is their belief that the Bible (particularly the 1611 authorized King James version) is the inerrant word of God (as written in the original manuscripts, which just happen to no longer exist, making this claim conveniently unverifiable).  The term inerrant means that the Bible contains no factual errors, no scientific errors, and no stated internal contradictions of any kind. In most cases this doctrine of inerrancy means that every word in the Bible, by some miracle of ancient inspiration, is a directly stated word straight from the mouth of God himself and straight into the eyeball of the Bible reader. Furthermore, this doctrine of inerrancy holds that, except for a few places that are clearly allegorical, the Bible should be read simply and literally because God caused the Bible to be written simply and clearly so even the most simple-minded of average persons will understand the full word of God. Put another way, as Bible-believing Christians have actually told me, “the Bible is a simple book written for a simple people.” Biblical scholarship that goes beyond solely using scripture to understand other scriptures is generally discouraged. Finally, the Bible and its words are believed to be a mystery to nonbelievers who do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.  They can read the Bible—but will not understand it.  The “true” Bible-believing Christian has the indwelling Holy Spirit within him, and the Holy Spirit reveals to him the unique and true meaning of the scriptures as his eyes read the words of the Holy Bible.

This brings us to William Jennings Bryan, American citizen, Bible-believing Christian, populist politician, and perennial losing candidate for President of the United States.  Most Americans remember him as the Bible-believing court opponent of Clarence Darrow in the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee.  This is the court case where school teacher John T. Scopes was put on trial for violating a Tennessee law that made it illegal to teach biological evolution in Tennessee public school science classes.  Bryan was an arch opponent of evolution because it violated the simple, literally read creation stories in the Book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible.

One of my favorite journalists and historians was the late Alistaire Cooke, a British-born American journalist who wrote a now famous and very good book entitled  America: A Personal History of the United States.  This 1972 publication was so well-liked that it was turned into a copyrighted 13-part television series on American history, one teachers still use to supplement lessons on American history in K-12 classrooms. In the television version, Cooke stated that William Jennings Bryan believed in two documents that he considered to be Holy writ, the Bible and the U.S. Constitution.  Over my many years of studying Bible-believing Christianity, reading the writings of Bible-believing Christians, hearing their sermons, and reading their various commentaries, I can pretty much agree with Cooke’s perspective on Bryan. Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals in the United States tend to hold the U.S. Constitution, its Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and to a somewhat lesser degree The Mayflower Compact in a degree of high esteem lesser than, but clearly bordering on, the Holy, and from that point, at least reaching out for the notion that these documents too are somehow “the word of God.”

This is my most important point in this background discussion. Listen up!!! Just as fundies believe mainline Christians and nonfundie Bible scholars have undermined, corrupted, and sullied the one, true, only, and unique understanding of the Bible held alone by Bible-believing Christians, the U.S. Supreme Court, lower federal courts, and other assorted knaves and fools have similarly undermined, corrupted, and sullied the “true” meanings of the words in the key founding  documents of the United States. In other words, Bible-believing Christians, sitting under their own fig trees and reading these documents simplistically and literally (or not at all), know better than anyone else what our founding fathers truly meant when these documents were written and what they really mean today.  How is that?  I do not know for certain. However, I suspect they have drawn a Bible-reading analogy. They believe that the indwelling Holy Spirit has somehow given them special knowledge and intuitional understandings of our American founding documents that only a person with a truly Godly, Bible-believing worldview can fathom.

The Main Topic for Today

Todd Starnes, the religion journalist at FOX News, has his panties all in a twist about a voluntary-attendance baccalaureate service (a religious service) held recently for graduating high school seniors in Opp, Alabama. This was an allegedly illegal religious service because it was held inside a taxpayer-owned public school, and the public school administrators and teachers were helping to plan it and set it up—and they were participating in it along with the students, which if true, was a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that such religious services and school personnel participation are illegal. With this in mind, the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Wisconsin wrote a letter to the school system to point out their sin against the U.S. Constitution, and then the usual local and national fundie outrage and kerfuffle ensued. (After all, only Bible-believing Christians are officially authorized to point out sin in the public and private domains.)  You may read the Todd Starnes article by clicking on the following safe link:

Baccalaureate, Graduation Prayer

After reading over the many comments on this Starnes article from outraged Bible-believing Christians living in Opp, Alabama, and elsewhere, I felt compelled to leave a large comment of my own.  My comment was based on three things:

(1)  The content of the actual statements various commenters made in their comments.

(2)  Reading between the lines of these comments (as my English professors taught me).

(3)  Quite similar statements and complaints I have heard and read from Bible-believing Christians across many years.

Quite frankly, I was appalled and shocked at the stated and implied contents of these comments from Bible-believing Christians and assorted political conservatives—and what these comments reveal about their way of thinking and their worldview relative to the traditional legal understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which are the first 10 amendments to the constitution.

The Actual Text of my Summary Comment on the Reader’s Comments

“After reading most of the comments below, I have gleaned several observations and themes that pretty much summarize them:

(1) Most of the conservative folks who have commented, particularly those from Alabama and other Southern states, have an appalling ignorance of the U.S. Constitution, the American legal system and how it works, and American civics in general. Were you folks never taught these things in K-12 or college? Were you not listening to your teachers, doing your homework assignments, and reading your civics and American history textbooks? Said kindly, your ignorance of these things screams out from your comments and breaks my heart. I grew up down South too, but I somehow managed to learn these things. Are the school systems in Alabama and other Deep South states really this bad—or were you just not interested in learning new things in your K-12 school days?

(2) Major Theme (Both Stated and Between the Lines): Bible-believing Christianity, particularly the several Baptist kinds, should be made the OFFICIAL NATIONAL RELIGION of the United States.

(3)  The U.S. Government should provide Christians, particularly Bible-believing Christians, with special considerations, special rights, special high rewards, and unique favors that nonChristian Americans do not have. They and their churches should get as much preferential treatment as possible.

(4) The “free exercise clause” in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution means that every Bible-believing school administrator and teacher in the United States should be totally free to conduct Bible studies in class, order students to pray prayers she has written, and evangelize her classrooms until all the children in class become Bible-believing Christians. If many of the students in class are mainline Christians (e.g. Methodists, Lutherans), adherents to other religions, or people of no particular religious persuasion, complaints from these students and their parents should be ignored. All are apostate and enemies of God. They should have no human rights or civil rights in school because they are Godless. The only thing that really matters, even above daily 3R’s education itself, is using the taxpayer-funded public school system to save all the children in class from the eternal certainty of the Hell that is assuredly awaiting them if the school system does not succeed in its primary, over-arching mission to evangelize the school child.

(5) For American adults, the “free exercise clause” in the First Amendment should be legally understood and applied in a very different way than it is now—but only for Bible-believing Christians. Bible-believing Christians are taught from birth that evangelism is the most important thing in life and that they must be in a constant state of active evangelism in every small and large thing they do each day—throughout their entire lives. To them, the words “free exercise” mean that Bible-believing Christians should be given free rein to evangelize people wherever they are. They should be able to evangelize in their work place, even if the business owner/property owner objects. Bible-believing Christians should be able to invade a department store or supermarket anytime they like and do street preaching in the shirt and canned goods aisles. Bible-believing Christians should be free to ruin a Saturday evening party at a person’s private home by turning the party into a fundie evangelism fest with baptisms in the swimming pool out back. Bible-believing Christians should be allowed to crawl into a complete stranger’s bedroom window at 3:00 a.m., wake up a couple, and evangelize them in their bed. Then and only then will Bible-believing Christians have the “free exercise of religion” guaranteed to them in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—and they are going to do everything within their power to make this happen.

(6) The government (federal, state, and local) should be doing everything in its power to discourage and work against religions and religious beliefs that ARE NOT Bible-believing Christianity—-particularly foreign religions like Hinduism. Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Shintoism, etc. The construction of Mosques and other centers of worship for these foreign religions should be banned inside the borders of the United States. People who are adherents to these religions should not be allowed to immigrate to the United States. For those who are already here, Bible-believing Christians and their churches should have special government authority to hound, harass, discriminate against, and persecute these people, and even take away their civil rights, until they finally submit to becoming Bible-believing Christians. Those who refuse to submit should be deported, even if they are already American citizens.”

A Final Statement

Who knew? I have never harvested any of these very oddball and truly outrageous understandings from my American history classes, American civics classes, my readings of the U.S. Constitution, and my readings of the Bill of Rights. I very much doubt that most experts on constitutional law and most American attorneys believe in this garbage—and that is what it is—pure garbage. However, as one Starnes commenter would probably hasten to add here:

That’s because you, them experts, and them attorneys were all corrupted by the lies of your God-hating liberal and progressive college professors.  They taught you nothing but lies.  We have God and the truth on our side!!!

Dear readers—this is insanity.  Most people do not care about insanity as long as they can put some distance between themselves and all the craziness—-and just forget about it. However, that option may no longer be open for any American, mainline Christian, or nonChristian.  A very serious and quite radical element is right now—at this very moment—trying to organize a Convention of the States (a legal constitutional process) to create a Constitutional Convention to amend the U.S. Constitution in various ways. To succeed, the legislatures of 38 states must agree by voting “yes” in this process. Twelve states have already signed on. Jim DeMint, a famous former U.S. Senator from South Carolina, has left The Heritage Foundation to lead this national effort on behalf of the Tea Party.

A Constitutional Convention led by Tea Party radicals may turn out to be one of the worst threats to American constitutional rights, liberties, and human rights this nation has ever faced. So-called Bible-believing Christians will be in the thick of this Constitutional Convention with every uneducated, hair-brained idea they can muster. God help us all if they start revising the Bill of Rights. They are doing this now because the U.S. Congress and most state legislatures are controlled by radical Republicans who are just as crazy as their Bible-believing supporters. Their ace in the hole is President Donald J. Trump, a man so uneducated in the ways of constitutional government (and often unwilling to even learn) that he will sign off on anything a radical Republican U.S. Congress shoves under his nose—and without even personally reading through it before he signs it. My prayer: “Lord  Jesus—please deliver us all from this fundie evil, ignorance, and insanity.”

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