Donald Trump ascended to the presidency with a ton of help from evangelical Christians. He has spoken about his Christian faith – while sometimes stumbling in his expressions of it. While I’m not going to judge him on whether he is a true believer or not, it can be easy sometimes to smirk at him when he tries to engage with Christians.
Recently, the president saw a piece on Fox & Friends about a move in some states to include elective Biblical literacy classes into the curriculum in a half dozen states. Naturally, he took to Twitter to express his approval.
Though these classes aren’t meant to lead kids to faith in Jesus – that would definitely blur the lines between church and state – Trump seems to think that’s what’s going on. Not so fast, Mr. President.
A handful of states are making pushes to introduce elective courses in schools that lawmakers say would teach the Bible in terms of its historical context, and though none have passed, critics have pointed out that such bills could blur the constitutional line separating church and state.
USA Today reported that “Bible literacy” bills of some sort have been introduced in six state legislatures across the country that “would require or encourage public schools to offer elective classes on the Bible’s literary and historical significance.” And one state, Kentucky, recently passed a law creating a framework for such classes.
These classes aren’t attempts to proselytize kids – though some states are allowing kids to take elective classes that do teach them about the Bible and Christian faith. Instead, the idea behind these electives is to expose kids to the historical and literary context of the Bible.
That idea in and of itself isn’t a bad one. The Bible does expound on historical events, and the historical context of the Bible is worth knowing. Also, literature is full of Biblical allusions, so it’s good to know where those references come from.
No, the purpose of these classes isn’t to point kids to Jesus, but who knows whether they might do so indirectly? After all, God promises us in His Word:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. –Isaiah 55:10-11 (ESV)
I can’t help but think of Andrew Klavan and his memoirs of his journey of faith, The Great Good Thing. He writes of how his move from non-practicing Judaism to Christianity began when he surreptitiously read the New Testament in his bedroom away from his disapproving parents for the purpose of understanding the references to the Bible in the literature he was studying in school. You never know how the Bible will bear fruit in someone’s life.
So, while the president doesn’t really understand what these Biblical literacy classes are really meant for, they’re a good idea in so many ways. It never hurts to understand how the Bible plays into historical and literary study, and it’s good to expose teens to the Bible and allow God to work in their lives through what they read. Even if that’s not the purpose of the classes on the surface, God can do some amazing things.