...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Bible is a foundational text of Western civilization. Stop whining and get over it.

Today in Feminist Theory we were discussing bell hooks' Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Great book, thought-provoking, challenging, blah blah. One of the last few chapters is about language as both oppressive and a site of subversion. bell takes a line from Adrienne Rich and expands on it: "This is the oppressor's language, but I need it to talk to you," or something like that. In our discussions, the guest lecturer brought up the example of the Bible, and how the first-year students were "required to read the Bible" in the new first-year core.

You would not believe the reaction. (Unless you are Amy, and have already blogged about it.) There was an audible gasp and a cry of outrage: "THEY HAVE TO READ THE BIBLE?!?!?!?! Oh, the inhumanity of having to spend six dollars on the Bible! The offense! The oppression! The tyranny of the white bourgeous males trying to beat down the free spirits with the Bible, that tool of patriarchal upper-middleclass privilege!

It was complete bullshit. Utterly. I could not believe the ignorance and close-mindedness of the reaction on the part of the majority of my classmates. It's just...I...I don't even know where to start. Here's on place to start, I guess (and what I ended up saying in class):

Whether or not you accept or consider the Bible as religious truth, you absolutely cannot deny that it is a foundation text of Western civilization, and you cannot fully understand...pretty much any element of Western culture, art, or literature if you do not have at LEAST a rudimentary grounding in the basic stories of the Bible.

I honestly think a lot of the people in that class thought that professors teaching the Bible in class is tantamount to inviting evangelical missionaries in to preach to the kids. Which is totally, totally false. If anything, I would be more concerned about professors denigrating the Bible and teaching it in a totally reductionist way, making fun of Christian students or Christianity, not realizing that there actually are people at this school with a religious commitment. I've already had this experience in several classes. As a practicing, commited Christian, I recognize how hard it is for religious students here, and how antagonistic the atmosphere often is. And as Amy pointed out, there's this assumption that all LC students are agnostics, athiests, or enchanted with this kind of hazy, don't-really-believe-in-anything-but-considers-one's-self-a-spiritual-person, vaguely Eastern-inspired "if it feels good, do it" build-your-own religion. And there are students like that here, but we're not all like that.

Plus, it's not like the first-years have to read the whole Bible. The exact books assigned are up to the professor, as I understand it, but one freshman I know had to read Genesis, Exodus, Matthew, Romans, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. That's not very much. (If it were up to me, I'd add Isaiah, swap Matthew for Luke, take out Thessalonians, and add in James. But then again, I'm from the United Church of Christ, and if you know anything about the denomination you probably understand why I would want to make those changes.)

It's just...God! That class made me mad.