Texas Public School Bible Courses: Preparing Students for the End Timesby
Public school Bible courses in Texas often promote particular religious beliefs as widely (or even universally) accepted. So it shouldn’t be surprising how a number of such courses feature a significant preoccupation with eschatology, the theology of the “end times.” From the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s new report, Reading, Writing & Religion II: Texas Public School Bible Courses in 2011-12 by Prof. Mark Chancey at Southern Methodist University in Dallas:
A Prosper ISD timeline on ‘Revelations’ [sic] … relates the fate of present-day Israel and the Jewish people with various verses: “Survival of the Jewish nations [sic] is one of the miracles of history and her greatest agony is yet to come. It was sealed in the book of Daniel 12:4-9, opened in Revelation 5:5, 7, 6:19, Matthew 28:21, 23, John 30:7, Revelation 12:12, 10.” The course explains that “the first time the Lord gathered his people back was after the Babylonian captivity. The second time the Lord will gather his people back will be at the end of the age.” Students in this course are taught that they themselves may be living in the last days. A discussion of the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 suggests that “each church represents a period of history” and concludes with “the lukewarm church of the 20th century, today the last period of church history.
Such content isn’t uncommon. Another example:
Lazbuddie ISD’s only resource makes concerns about the apocalypse the central idea for its Noah lesson: “We should have an understanding of what happened in Noah’s day if we are to know when the coming of our Lord is near. What are the similarities between the days of Noah and the days preceding the coming of Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:37-39)?”
Eastland ISD, among other districts, assumes that Christians will at some point be “raptured,” presenting students with a Venn diagram showing the pros and cons of theories that posit the rapture before the returning Jesus’ 1000-year reign and those that place it afterwards. Dayton ISD shows the movie Left Behind, a fictionalized depiction of the “end times” theology influential in some Protestant circles. Although Amarillo ISD’s course outlines four reading strategies for understanding Revelation (the “futurist, continuous historical, preterist, and philosophy of history” approaches), it nowhere exposes students to the standard scholarly interpretation of the book as a fairly typical ancient apocalyptic work that reflects concerns of the original author and his audience about threats facing them in their own time and environment.
The TFN Education Fund’s new report includes many other examples of serious flaws in Texas public school Bible courses. You can read a short overview of the report here. Read what some Texas courses teach about race, Judaism, and creationism, and how they portray the Bible as “one of the most accurate history books in the world.”