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How About We Compromise?

7:00 AM EST on March 9, 2010

After the World Trade Center attack, there was an email forward that, if it did not hit your inbox, it probably means you had no friends.  (Which explains why Chad is going to be completely confused by this next couple of paragraphs.)  It was a quoted bit of scripture from the Islamic Holy Qur'an's ninth chapter, eleventh verse that almost certainly foretold the Osama bin Laden ordered terrorist plot and what would happen next:

For it is written that a son of Arabia would awaken a fearsome eagle.  The wrath of the eagle would be felt through the land of Allah, and lo while some of the people trembled in despair still more rejoiced; for the wrath of the eagle cleansed the land of Allah; and there was peace.

Pretty shocking stuff...and how coincidental that this verse corresponded to the recognized label of the event:  9:11.  Unless you were not gullible enough to consume internet folklore as truth.  Like me, for instance.  Not having any firsthand knowledge of the Islamic faith, I actually took the time to look up the citation.  It reads:

But if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, they are your brethren in faith; and We make the communications clear for a people who know.

The point is not that email forwards are garbage--you probably didn't need me to point that out.  The point is that just about every person who read this hoax was so illiterate about the Qur'an that most didn't even know to be skeptical.  And I include myself despite the fact that I consider myself pretty educated.

On the other hand, if a similar hoax had gone around claiming John 3:16 of The Holy Bible had said something about Jesus being cleansed by an emblem associated with Iraq (see? not even knowledgeable enough to come up with something plausible), most Americans would have spouted back:  "No it doesn't, unless that's a bad translation of 'For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son so that whoever believe in him should never perish but have everlasting life.'"

Just by growing up in this society, I have a pretty good grasp on what is in Christian holy book, despite not spending a single minute of my public education reading a copy of The Holy Bible for a grade.  Yet, being totally immersed by Christian doctrine is not enough for the Oklahoma senate who recently passed Senate Bill 1338 to create an elective class teaching the bible to Oklahoma public school students.  (The House is currently debating the bill, but expect a similar margin in favor.)

Even with my firm belief in the separation of church and state, I am not totally opposed to this concept.  Living in this society without at least a passing understanding of Christian principles is difficult.  It would be like playing in a baseball game without knowing how to record an out.  There still value in learning The Bible from an academic perspective even if the person learning thinks it's nothing more than a book of Ancient Jewish fairy tales.

But with the United State assuring religious freedom, Christianity is not the only religion practiced in our country.  So, wouldn't it be just as valuable to pass on some literacy in the largest world religions?  Couldn't Christians benefit from understanding anything about what drives the worldview of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and even Atheists?  I know I would have liked the option to learn such things in a structured situation.

My problem with the Senate Bill as currently written is that it blatantly favors one religion, and therefore is bound to eventually be struck down by the judiciary.  So, why don't they get it right the first time and make the course one on world religion?  As it stands, the only kids who are going to elect to take the course are those that already attend Sunday school and church youth group during the week, and get to regurgitate that knowledge into an easy A for the transcript.

Except, I project that if my proposal were to go before the state senate it would be shot down by a margin similar to how the 1338 passed.  The reason is that the constituents want public school bible courses in hopes of possibly converting some un-churched  youth.  Suggesting that their already saved, but still malleable children get exposed to competing religions would scare the crap out of them...Muslim children, however, that's a different story.

Personally, I think that is a really pessimistic view of the importance of their child's faith to their child.  If the kid can't stick to their belief in the Messiah based on the basic knowledge obtained from a structured syllabus, guess what, they aren't really "saved."  And a class taught to them by the schools assistant football coach isn't going to solidify the faith.

On the flip-side, a basic knowledge of other religions could lead to better understanding of those who do not take Jesus Christ as their savior and could start a path toward more peaceful co-existence.  I'm pretty sure there are some Biblical verses favoring that (say Matthew 22:36-40), but since I never had a high school class to teach me, maybe I'm wrong.

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