Study of religions in high school would build understanding and diversity

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Upon discovering that three Biblical excerpts were included in my university’s required “Literature Humanities” seminar, I was shocked. After dropping out of my Confraternity of Christian Doctrine education at a young age, my exposure to the Bible had been nonexistent. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is the liberal social norm that dominates in Connecticut when it comes to religious beliefs.

Consistent with that norm, my public high school education avoided Biblical references. Whenever students mentioned the Bible, my teachers uncomfortably shuffled their feet, awkwardly looked to the side, and quickly changed the subject. Consequently, participating in classroom Bible analysis was an enlightening culture shock. Through our discussion of Abraham’s willingness to murder his son in order to prove his devotion to God, I learned the value of maintaining respect for religious texts while also offering valid criticisms on those passages that are inconsistent with our widely-accepted ideals.

As a result of my positive experience, I believe that we should implement religious studies as a core subject in all Connecticut public high school curricula. This implementation, centered around exploration of the Bible, Quran, and other relevant religious texts, would promote heightened global understanding and diversity of thought.

My public high school’s intentional neglect of spiritual texts hindered any comprehensive understanding of global developments. When my European history course studied the Crusades, we conveniently skirted discussion about the fundamental differences in ideology between Christianity and Islam. This was not my teacher’s fault, but instead the educational system’s fault for creating an aura of taboo around all religious discourse.

This taboo is derived from two sources: one is our blind devotion to the Constitutional “separation of Church and State” (ludicrous in our current political climate) and the other is our fear of offending students. However, the implementation of religious study into education infringes on neither of these, so long as teachers conceal their own beliefs and so long as any critical judgement is grounded in textual evidence.

As this state trends towards “acceptance” and “diversity,” it is increasingly attempting to marginalize Christian doctrine because of the false narrative that the Bible is racist, homophobic, and misogynistic. The notion that the Bible is incompatible with liberal thought is ridiculous and ignorant.

Many point to God’s destruction of Sodom as proof of Christianity’s homophobia. Only when I actually read Genesis did I realize that God may have destroyed Sodom for its people’s violation of the principles of hospitality, rather than their homosexual tendencies. Recognition of this type of nuance becomes possible only through direct interaction with the text, not through browsing inflammatory blog posts titled “God Hates Gays.”

In order to critically evaluate these nuances and to scrutinize religious texts solely on their own merit, religious study must become more deeply ingrained in public education.

Liberal communities in Connecticut have the unproductive habit of labeling conservatives as discriminatory and hateful because many are devoutly Christian. This is both harmful and contradictory to doctrinal evidence. Indeed, Jesus promotes quite the opposite of discrimination as he repeatedly inspires his followers to love their enemies and to give much to those with little.

In addition to criticizing Christianity, many liberals encourage Americans to embrace Islamic beliefs unconditionally. In refutation of these progressive voices, many conservatives disparage Islam as a “religion of violence.” Yet hardly any Americans have ever been exposed to the Quran itself. This is the epitome of ignorance. Embracing or rejecting Islam mindlessly is equally as foolish as passionately attempting to marginalize Christianity. How is either side to make these unsupported generalizations without ever having analyzed Islam’s holy book?

Perhaps Islam truly promotes warfare or perhaps it is instead a goldmine for moral philosophy. The same can be said for Christianity or Judaism. These judgments cannot be made, however, unless we dedicate the effort and resources to immerse our communities in the study of the Quran and Bible.

In the era of Trump’s divisive and Christian value-centric politics, it is understandable why many feel that Christianity’s marginalization would help to combat racism. Even I cannot help laughing at the internet memes about Trump making it acceptable to say “Merry Christmas” again. Trump’s antics, however, do not serve as justification for sidelining Christianity from mainstream Connecticut culture and education.

Contrary to popular belief, religious thought does not impede liberal progressivism. Instead, the incorporation of religious texts into Connecticut public high school education ensures that universal understanding and diversity of thought are tirelessly pursued.

Alexander Brett lives in Greenwich and studies economics at Columbia University.


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