The new Bible curriculum developed with money from the owner of Hobby Lobby has already been adopted in one school system in Oklahoma and is sure to spread. But like earlier curricula of this type it is little more than a Sunday School program. Mark Chancey, a religious studies professor, did a full evaluation of the curriculum for the Texas Freedom Network.
The first independent review by a biblical scholar raises serious concerns about a new curriculum that promoters – particularly Hobby Lobby President Steve Green – hope will combat what they see as ignorance about the Bible among public school students.
“This is a classic example of preaching religious beliefs in the guise of promoting religious literacy,” said Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, who reviewed the partial and preliminary curriculum for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund. “It’s hard to imagine this curriculum, with its sectarian elements, errors and oddities, was put together by dozens of scholars as claimed.”
Museum of the Bible, a nonprofit created by Green, is publishing the curriculum, The Book: The Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact. Public schools in Mustang, near Oklahoma City, plan to teach a pilot version this fall.
Chancey’s review reveals that the new curriculum suggests the Bible is literally and historically accurate, promotes faith claims as fact, and advances a sectarian view of the Bible generally favored by fundamentalist Protestants but not people from other faith traditions. All of those issues raise serious constitutional concerns about the curriculum’s use in public schools, he writes.Moreover, factual errors and idiosyncrasies in the curriculum betray a seriously flawed knowledge of the subject that fails to align with established, mainstream scholarship on the Bible. For example, the curriculum treats Adam and Eve as actual historical figures, suggests that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity provides evidence for the Creation told in Genesis, and bizarrely compares the Book of Exodus to the infamously racist, KKK-glorifying film The Birth of a Nation.
All of this was quite predictable, of course. Speaking to a Christian audience, Steve Green said:
That is what our goal would be, so that we can have reintroduced this book to this nation. This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught. There is (sic) lessons from the past that we can learn from the dangers of ignorance of this book. We need to know it. And if we don’t know it, our future is gonna be very scary. So we need to be able to teach and educate students.
His goal from the start was to proselytize, not to educate. You can read the full report here.