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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Can You Speak Bible? Does Anyone Understand It When You Do?

A few weeks ago I heard an interesting news article about Mike Huckabee's use of biblical references in his speeches. In an NPR story, February 8, 2008, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...oryId=18821021, his usage of biblical references was called "a separate dialect." NPR went to the National Mall to ask people what they understood his references to be. (Read the whole article to get a sense of how basic the biblical references were and how clueless the respondents were in their interpretation of them as Huckabee used them.)

For instance, when one person was asked about a reference Huckabee made, stating "it's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5000 people," he answered that it had something to do with Moses. In reference to using a "small smooth stone" instead of relying on armor, one confused person said, "is he talking about peace, a resolution of peace?"

The list goes on recording the general confusion about the references. Finally a woman who attends a church in Omaha, NE (all of those questioned had been "raised in Christian households and had attended Sunday School") got all the references right when asked. Stephen Prothero, a Boston University professor who wrote a book Religious Literacy, commented on hearing that someone actually got the references right by saying, "It's an exceedingly small target audience, about as small as the percentage of animals climbing on Noah's ark."

I heard this NPR article while driving one day and pondered why these persons who had attended church and Sunday School didn't know these references.

As the pastor of a church, I have often been concerned about the quality of biblical teaching in Sunday Schools. Once the church I was serving needed to add educational space and because many adults never went to that part of the building to see the need in the overcrowded rooms, I had someone take pictures of the classrooms in session for a display. Looking at them, I noticed that the children (5th and 6th grade) were making snowmen. I made some comment about how the phrase, "a snowball's chance..." is not in the Bible, and therefore expressed deep concern about what was being taught; how the time was being used. What did snowmen have to do with Sunday School?

Why don't people who are raised in the church know these basic biblical references well enough to interpret Huckabee's comments?

How are we intentionally teaching and preaching the basics of the biblical faith so that people would know these stories or references?

Is it important that people know the scriptures for their faith development or is it simply a matter of cultural literacy (obviously missing some main points in Huckabee's speeches)?

WDYT?