Bring your bible to school day: Maybe not such a great idea

Bring your bible to school day: Maybe not such a great idea October 4, 2022

Oct 6, 2022, is the 8th annual “bring your Bible to school day.” What do you think of this campaign? I have mixed feelings and here’s why.

On the positive side

I suspect that bringing a Bible to school and having it out so that others might see it—which I suppose is the point of “bring your Bible to school day”—might well provide an opportunity for conversations.

Others might ask, “what is that?”; or “what church do you go to?”; “why do you read that?” Such opportunities to have a conversation about the Bible, Jesus, or the kingdom of God is awesome.

I imagine that there are many Christian students who want to have conversations with others but they do not know how to go about it. There is likely a measure of fear—which is quite understandable. Starting a conversation about Jesus is not easy.

This may well be one of the primary benefits of encouraging students to bring their Bibles to school. Namely, it gives students an opportunity to overcome their fears and express their faith.

(I suspect that a “Bring your Bibles to work campaign” might have the same level of consternation among adults). In fact, why don’t they start a “bring your Bible to work day” also?

This campaign, then, may well help in the spiritual maturation of students.

In addition, I am sure that one student’s courage to bring their Bible to school might also encourage others to do the same.

On the neutral side

Shouldn’t we bring our Bibles every day?

As I watched and read through some of the promo materials for this event, I was a bit surprised that this was being billed as a 1-day a year event.

If, after all, the Bible is central to the Christian life—and I definitely believe that it is—then shouldn’t we always have a Bible at school/work? Shouldn’t every day be “bring your Bible to school/work” day?

Now, I suppose a valid response to this query might well be that we would love to have our students bring a Bible every day, but in order to do so, we must get them to do it one day first.

And this is fine, but maybe the campaign should be: “starting on Oct 6 we are encouraging students to bring their Bibles to school every day”? Or perhaps, “bring your Bible every Thursday”?

Don’t most kids use their phones these days?

Also, do kids even have Bibles? I mean actual, physical, paper Bibles.

I am sure they know that there are plenty of good Bible Apps available for download. And I bet they would prefer using them instead of carrying a Bible.

Now, although it may be more conspicuous, a conversation could still arise from someone coming up to a student, who is reading their Bible on their phone, and asking “hey, what ya reading?”

This approach, in fact, might even be more effective.

After all, not only does reading the Bible on your phone still present an opportunity for a conversation, it may be less likely to turn people away. What I mean is this: I suspect that many students will not engage a student if they see them reading a Bible.

But, if a student has the Bible on their phone, no one knows what they are reading until they ask.

On the flip side

Although I would affirm that the idea for the campaign is fine, I am actually quite concerned for a number of reasons.

NB: I am not saying that I would not encourage students to read their Bible while at school. I am just not sure that this campaign is the right way to do it.

Lack of emphasis on discipleship

For one, I saw nothing in the promotional materials for this campaign that stressed the fact that proclaiming the Gospel is something that we do with our lives.

Sure the presence of a Bible might alert someone else that you profess to believe in the Bible. But I would hope that we don’t need to bring a Bible to alert others that we profess to believe in the Bible.

I would hope that the way we live, the way we love, the way we care for others, and the way we speak would alert others that we are followers of Jesus.

In fact, if someone comes and asks, “what ya reading?” that person may be more willing to listen if they know that the other regularly manifests grace, love, kindness, and acceptance of others (I’ll return to this last item below).

We need to spend more time discipling our students and encouraging them to live and love like Jesus. I suspect that if we did this more effectively, we would not need to have a “bring your Bible to school day.”

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that those who are behind this campaign do not also believe that our character matters. I am saying that I did not see this in their literature.

I am also not saying that unless you have your life in order you should not let people know that you are a Christian. After all, none of us have our lives in order.

I am saying that the person who hasn’t lived in accord with the call of Christ needs to know how to engage in a conversation about Jesus, the Bible, and the kingdom. Here again, is the importance of discipleship.

Students need to know that they can be honest about how they are trying to follow Jesus, the Bible, and the kingdom, but they are struggling.

Certainly, this is a great way to have a conversation about the Bible. It may well be that the person who comes to ask, “what ya reading?” is also a Christian who is struggling to follow Jesus too. They can then bond and work together to learn how to better follow Jesus.

In addition, I would ask if those behind the campaign are preparing students for how they might respond if someone begins to mock them. The fact is that bringing a Bible to school will quite likely bring scorn.

The problem is that none of the promotional materials for this campaign focused on discipling our students and preparing them for living out the Gospel or how to have conversations.

They will know that you are my disciples–Love

I think that we are better served by putting a greater emphasis on discipling our students. That would include teaching them the Bible. But it would also include encouraging them to take part in some of the school initiatives that reach out and serve others.

Would not the witness of our students be better served if they worked at a food drive to help needy families in their communities? Or if they assembled resources so that students in inner-city schools might have access to better textbooks or even computers and technology?

Imagine if every church adopted a school in their neighborhood and let the administration of that school know that they were there to serve the students and their families, the teachers, and the administration. Wouldn’t the Church’s witness be more dynamic if schools knew that there were caring people ready to serve at any moment?

NB: Someone might push back on this by saying that schools would never call on a local church to help. To which I would respond: why don’t you find out? After all, I know of churches that are doing this very thing!

Other concerns

My primary concern relates to the root convictions behind this campaign. What do I mean?

The Focus on the Family website (which I understand to be one of the driving forces behind the campaign) under the tab, “For Parents,” has a list of “5 reasons students should participate.”

I find reason #4 deeply troubling.

Reason #4 is, “stand for your rights.” In other words, the campaign asserts that by bringing their Bible to school students are standing for their rights.

This reason, I believe, is nothing more than a dangerous assertion of Christian nationalism (we addressed Christian nationalism in a 4 part series on the determinetruth podcast in Nov-Dec 2021).

How so?

For one, we must understand that there is no inherent human right that demands that all persons should be allowed to “bring their Bibles to school.” It may well be a legal right of all Americans. But it is not a legal right in other countries. And I don’t suppose that we should be kicking down the doors of the UN demanding that Christian students in N Korea be permitted to bring their Bibles to school.

In addition, I suspect that many of the same proponents of the “Bring your Bible to School day” campaign would be outraged if a similar campaign to “Bring your Quran to School day” was endorsed by the Islamic community in the US.

After all, if bringing your Bible to school is an inherent right, then is it not also a right for Muslims to bring their Quran to school? If we say “yes” to the former and “no” to the latter, then we are espousing Christian nationalism.

This campaign also demonstrates a lack of awareness of the global church.

One website asserted that it was important to bring your Bible to school because “we should not be ‘undercover’ Christians.” The article went on to claim that “Jesus says to us in the book of Matthew to shine your light, don’t hide [it] under a bowl.”

Now, this might seem like a good response, but it both radically distorts the meaning of Jesus’ words and it shows no awareness of what life is like for millions of Christians around the world—let alone in the history of the church.

To claim that we must bring a Bible to school, work, or any other public setting because Jesus commanded us to let our light shine and not to hide it is an affront to millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who will be imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for doing so.

Sure bringing a Bible to school in America may well be a means of bearing witness to Christ. But in some countries of the world may well be the means of assuring your death.

Sure the idea behind this day sounds great. And I would encourage students to do so. I would not encourage them to do so, however, without discipling them. Without encouraging them to have a love for others that is modeled on Jesus’ love for us. At the end of the day, I cannot endorse this campaign because it is lacking with regard to a proper focus on discipleship and, more importantly, it is shrouded in the garb of Christian nationalism.

NB: I must say that I chuckled when I saw that the promotional materials made sure to include homeschooled students in the message: #noneleftbehind. I know that we don’t want to leave kids out, but it just seems unnecessary for kids to bring their Bibles to the table so mom may know that they are Christians.

 

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About Rob Dalrymple
Rob Dalrymple is married to his wife Toni and is the father of four fabulous children, and two grandchildren. He has been teaching and pastoring for over 33 years at colleges, seminaries, and the local church. He has a PhD (Westminster Theological Seminary) in biblical interpretation. He is the author of four books (including Follow the Lamb: A Guide to Reading, Understanding, and Applying the Book of Revelation & Understanding the New Testament and the End Times: Why it Matters) as well as numerous articles and other publications.  He is currently completing a commentary on the book of Revelation titled, “Revelation: a Love story” (Cascade Books, pending 2024). You can read more about the author here.

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