by James A. Haught
Here in Appalachia’s Bible Belt, conservatives in the Legislature want to force all West Virginia public high schools to teach Bible classes, as occurs in several other Republican-controlled states.
I wonder how such classes handle Bible topics like these:
First, the Bible decrees that gay males must be killed. Leviticus 20:13 says:
“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
Imagine classroom disputes that could erupt between Bible-believing students and others. Could classes turn violent? (Oddly, lesbians aren’t mentioned.) Now that America allows same-sex marriage, would classes conclude that America violates the Bible?
Next, the Bible decrees that those who work on Sunday must be killed. Exodus 31:15 decrees: “Whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.” Exodus 35:2 is almost identical.
Would teachers apply this mandate to police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, hospital aides, paramedics, snowplow drivers, power repair crews, bus drivers, airline crews, radio and television staffs, store clerks and others who must work on Sundays? What about cooks and waitresses serving Sunday food? Come to think of it, ministers and church organists work on the Sabbath, don’t they?
The 22nd chapter of Deuteronomy commands that brides who aren’t virgins must be taken to their fathers’ doorsteps and stoned to death. (But non-virgin grooms aren’t mentioned.) With millions of unwed American couples living together, will students debate whether the execution decree applies to females among them?
The Bible endorses slavery. Leviticus 25:44 says: “Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.” Exodus 21:7 gives rules when “a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant.”
Would high school students discuss buying slaves from neighbor nations, and selling daughters into servitude?
In 1 Samuel 15, God commands Hebrew soldiers to attack a neighbor tribe “and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” Numbers 31 does likewise, with this exception: “But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” Would classes apply these decrees to U.S. soldiers today?
Many other Bible sections contain controversial commands that could provoke classroom disputes. Before the Bible-in-schools plan reaches final passage, I hope sponsors offer a way to prevent turmoil.
James Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.