Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
Here at Pine Knot Abundant Life, our Sunday School class, God's Go-Getters, agrees with the Arkansas legislators who want the Bible taught as literature in our public schools.
Of course the young people won't get anything out of it — because literature is not something they care about. It's from the old times, like vinyl records, newspapers, typewriters, dial phones, and pictures that people painted themselves with real paint instead of letting the computer do it with virtual paint.
Manners are a memory from the old times. Civilized discourse is from the old times. A belief in progress — even in the possibility of progress — that's from the old times. Charity of several kinds that would cleanse your heart; public service when it really meant that. Knowing a little bit about what you're talking about is from the old times, and being ashamed to hold and bray stupid opinions. Wars that had starts and finishes are from the old times. I'm from the old times. Very soon now, if not already, Harry Potter will be from the old times. And the Bible is from way old times.
The Bible won't go over in literature class any better than algebra does in algebra class, or abstinence in sex ed. But it can't hurt anything. And there's always the chance that something will be quoted in there, or misquoted, that will inspire some teenager to put off having sex for a week or two. That's the underlying point of all the legislation to re-Bible the schoolhouse anyway. It's a longshot hope to persuade youngsters to put off sex until they're out on their own and no longer in your keeping, because you know what can happen and they don't. Or they act like they don't. Or they don't care. Or if they do know and do care, they can't help themselves.
How are young people supposed to know how to behave themselves if they don't have Bible classes in the schools? You can't force it on them at gunpoint, as Bro. Huckabee wants to do, because this is the United States, which disallows gunpoint instruction, even for young people and scoffers. You can't beat it into them, although the monks of the older old times tried to flog temptation out of themselves, using cruel whips, and that might set a good example if we made absolutely sure it was voluntary and done on the honor system. Sunday School is just once a week, and wears off by Tuesday, and most Sunday Schools have become so lenient and modern that you can't even criticize youngsters much less whup them or scare them straight with factual descriptions of what Hell is like.
Nads just don't listen to reason.
It can't just be the King James version, though. For one reason, because King James himself was such a rounder. He was bi, did you know that? What lesson would the youngsters draw from the flowery dedication to a rascal like that? You might as well be teaching "Tropic of Cancer" in your literature class. And the King James version has words in it that you wouldn't want the youngsters exposed to — words like whoremongers and knob-gobblers. Well, maybe not knob-gobblers, but St. Paul wasn't shy about using the vernacular when a congregation needed stirring up.
You wouldn't want Jesus turning the water into wine and then everybody in the class having a cooler or spodie-odie, either.
My suggestion to the Go-Getters was that we endorse Bible stories in the classroom rather than the straight text that God passed down to us. Straight King James can be harsh and lacking in positive reinforcement. If you're stiffnecked, which most of these youngsters are, it's on your case from start to finish.
Bible stories, on the other hand, bowdlerized, modernized, softened just a little, would be more classroom-friendly. They'd eliminate all the begats and verilys, and the boring characters like Jumping Jehoshaphat, Ahab the Arab and his 70 sons, and the endless cast of underachievers who frontweight the Chronicles, burying it to its axles in genealogical ennui. And strip-down stories would allow the lit teacher to avoid such embarrassing questions as should we still hunt down and kill witches and where Adam and Eve's daughters-in-law came from.
The Writ-lit textbook I'd recommend would be "Heroes of the Bible" by Olive Beaupre Miller. She and her book are from the old times too. I use the 1940 hardback edition — mainly because its handsome illustrations make the mean lives of ancient Canaan goatherds look so clean and colorful. The first one in the book shows God and Abraham conferring, God trying to talk him into hitting the road, and Abraham looks like a younger Billy Crystal in a midnight blue bathrobe, and God, in leather flipflops and no-iron apricot raiment, is the spitting image of Col. Harlan Sanders. Not the stand-in nephew Col. Sanders; the original recipe one.
With more up-to-date references, such as that might pique the young people.
That hardcover edition of "Heroes of the Bible" is long out of print and hard to find, and I'd bet you a mess of pottage that the Texas Board of Education has bought up all the copies of the 1991 paperback edition for use as primary sources in the Lone Star State's public-school science classes.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.
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