The picture is of a textbook, from the Dallas Independent School District, published in 1960. W.T. White was the Superintendent during that time. He decided that because students earned a half-credit for attending Sunday Schools in the city, the district should offer courses in Old Testament and New Testament to make earning those credits easier. What a difference a generation makes!
Fifty-one years ago a case was brought to the Supreme Court that eventually made the DISD textbook, and others like it, unconstitutional. The landmark case, Engel v. Vitale, ruled against a school-sponsored prayer in a New York school district. The public prayer the children said was: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen.”
A year later Madalyn Murray O’Hair was involved in another case banning school-sponsored devotional readings of Scripture. The decades that followed saw more cases brought with a goal to curtail religious expression at other public events. I was two or three years old when Engel v. Vitale was ruled on and I’ve watched those other lawsuits take place for most of my lifetime.
A lot of Christians think we have lost the war and I used to be one of them. Then I realized that was just silly. Why should we ever feel like we have been defeated? Christians have more hope than any group in the world. We may be on a downhill course right now, but maybe God is just helping us pick up speed!
I am a big fan of Hobby Lobby. I am an even bigger fan of Mardel’s Christian Bookstores. Both businesses are owned by the Green family. Hobby Lobby has been featured recently in the news for having won a Supreme Court battle for religious rights about birth control and Obamacare. The Green family had placed another project on the back burner during that battle that I hope will now be renewed.
The school board of Mustang, Oklahoma recently adopted a curriculum that the Green family is hoping will be picked up by other school districts in the future. Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and editor of a booklet sent out to all schools by the U.S. Department of Education had this to say about the curriculum: “It’s unique in its ambition and its scope and its use of the latest technologies. I think school districts far from Oklahoma will take note.”
The study, developed by Steve Green, has been described as Museum of the Bible Curriculum, an ambitious four-year public school elective on the narrative, history and impact of the Good Book. I have not studied the curriculum but I hope to. I’ve looked at the website and I’m impressed with what I see. This is an academic, historical look at the impact the Bible has had on world history.
I think it would be wonderful if students were given the opportunity to study the Bible as an academic curriculum. I don’t think most people realize that the Laws of the Bible were strategic help to the men who drew up the Constitutional Laws that govern our country. Democracy was in many ways, God’s idea. I have great hope that people would be exposed to the Bible, learn of its history, learn of its influence and impact, and then choose to learn of its Author. There is a power to God’s word that is unlike the power of any other book. Men like C. S. Lewis were led to faith by the power they discovered in Scripture.
I hope the Green family has continued success as they battle the culture for the cause of Christ. But God didn’t just call us to cheer others on. He gave all of us the job of living as his light and making disciples. How will you use your influence, or your affluence, to help others know our amazing Lord?
Let’s not become discouraged that it appears we are on a downhill slope. Maybe we are just gaining the momentum needed to reach a new height. God always wins – He always will. Just think about what David accomplished using his talent, his faith and one little rock.
Who will God give you the chance to influence today? It might be the next Steve Green or C. S. Lewis. The Bible is “alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). God has given us an amazing weapon. How will you use it today?