Posted by: thedirtybaker | October 7, 2011

Teaching About Religion v. Preaching Religion

I teach for Judaic Studies, and some of my classes include the Bible as one of the textbooks.  This leads to publishers and advertisers sending me some misguided ads – and sometimes even books that I did not and would not request.

Just to be clear:

I have two copies of the New Testament in two different languages.  I don’t need a third, even if it is a new translation in an attractive leatherette binding.  This is true especially if it is translated into current vernacular, since I won’t allow my students to use a translation written in “current vernacular.”  I only use it for academic or scholarly purposes and the translation should be readable, understandable, and ACCURATE.  Vernacular, colloquialisms, conversational language, child’s Bible, or “modern slang” Bibles just won’t cut it.  I’m not devaluing the New Testament.  It’s vital for an understanding of Western Civilization, and even us non-believers should read it for cultural literacy purposes, or we miss out on many cultural references in literature and art otherwise.

I will not  push any political or religious agenda.  That’s not my job.  Students are supposed to learn to think for themselves, not have me think for them.  I might expose them to a range of readings from very different perspectives, all on the same topic. The 1970s feminist reading about Adam and Eve is a little bit funny, but it’s there so that students see a different perspective, not, as some assume, because I agree with it, or because I want to torture my students.  I also won’t accept “God wanted it that way” as an explanation for why one side won an ancient war.  That’s just laziness.

I also get ads like this, which arrived in my email today.  The headline reads “Using this book could help you bring a fantastic number of people to the Lord: Bring University Students to Christ.” It’s an ad for a book called Bringing University Students to Christ, the purpose of which is to keep students from being seduced from a literal, fundamentalist view by science.   The “proof” in this email is quotes from the Bible intended to show that the two can actually work together, culminating with an explanation of how Genesis shows that Jesus and God the Father worked together to create.  (That’s who God was talking to in the “Let there be…” statements.)  As you can guess, I have no interest in bringing my students to Christ, or for that matter, to any religion.  I’ve evidently been “seduced” by evolution, because it’s based on actual evidence, not on a book put together from oral legends 2500 years ago!   Ooooo, sexy!  So now, I’m just shaking my head at this book advertisement, rolling my eyes, and leaving it at “Oy vey.”

And you can, too.

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