The Birth of New <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />AmericaPart I <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will
go on prospering. . . But if we and our posterity neglect its instructions
and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm
us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity."
In previous articles I have traced the significant influence of the Bible on what I call "Old America," the America of the Pilgrim Fathers and the founders of our country. America's government, society, art, literature-everything about Old America-was shaped by those who believed in the Bible and read it often. The influence and place of privilege afforded to the Bible in Old America continued into the 20th century, up to the birth of New America.
Solomon Schechter, dedicating the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York in 1903, reiterated the iconic position of the Bible in American society. He said, "This country is, as everybody knows, a creation of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, and the Bible is still holding its own, exercising enormous influence as a real spiritual power in spite of all the destructive tendencies, mostly of foreign make. . . . The bulk of the real American people have, in matters of religion, retained their sobriety and loyal adherence to the Scripture, as their Puritan forefathers did."[i]
One would not expect a Jewish scholar to reference the Puritans at the dedication of a Jewish theological seminary, but the overwhelming impact of the Bible on American society was pervasive and Schechter knew it. At the turn of the last century, it would do no good to deny it. You couldn't.
But that was then and this is now.
What is New America?
Sometime after World War II the influence of the Bible on America began to change and America's attitudes and approach toward the Bible changed with it. By the early 1960s new winds blew through the land of the free and home of the brave. They were not just the winds of change. They were not the winds of freedom. They were the winds of a feeling awfully close to hostility and an inexcusable lack of memory-hostility toward the Bible and a lack of memory regarding its pivotal role in the foundation and strength of our country.
This is New America, an America very much unlike founding America or building America. This is the America of postmodernism. It's the America of the 60s to the present. It's an America where the Bible is no longer read, no longer trusted, no longer revered. Old America began in 1492 and lasted approximately 470 years. New America began in 1962 and unless things change dramatically, I wouldn't expect it to last nearly as long.
I was chatting about growing Bible literacy in the office of Dr. Duane Litfin, president of Wheaton College. He made an astute observation to me.
"The problem of Bible illiteracy is that the Bible doesn't function in society the way it was designed to function. America was a nation that accepted both the Bible as God's Word and the principles of the Bible by which to live, make laws, and work. America was a Christian-friendly nation because it respected the principles of the Bible and the Bible itself. As long as America had a friendly attitude toward the Bible, the Bible functioned in society as a guide for life and God blessed America."
"But in the 40s and 50s the Supreme Court made some decisions that turned the tables on America being friendly toward the Bible. It began to admit non-biblical, non-Christian views in the courts, on the public square, in schools, etc. It took the Constitution which was Bible-friendly and twisted the Separation Clause to make America clearly Bible-unfriendly."[ii]
The attitude of New America towards the Bible
Old America, the America of the Revolution, the Civil War and World Wars I and II, was morphing into New America. Old America was friendly toward the Bible. Not that everybody in Old America was a Bible reader or believer, but that society in general had an innate respect for the Bible. They trusted it, they believed it, and they quoted it, even if they didn't always read it.
But after World War II societal attitudes toward the Bible began to change. There was no universally-perceived need to show respect to the Bible. There was no cause to pretend that it was a special book. New America no longer trusted the Bible, no longer believed it, no longer quoted it. In fact, New America has become generally hostile toward Gods' Word.
In this chapter we'll think more closely about the two major arenas where the changes in New America have been concentrated. These two centers of influence have fueled the Bible's fall from its iconic place in the heads, hearts, and lives of Americans. With that fall came an unintended, unforeseen consequence--Bible illiteracy.
THE BIBLE AND THE MEN IN BLACK
When I speak of MIB, I'm not talking about Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in the movie by the same name. These are not the men in black who changed America's attitude toward the Bible. The men in black are "the nine high priests in their black robes," members of the Supreme Court.[iii] Decisions by the United States Supreme Court played a huge role in shaping the attitudes of New America.
The American people were already in a mood to allow the removal of God from public education.
Often the High Court is viewed as the bad guys because they "took the Bible out of the schools." That may be true, but they attitudes of the American people were already beginning to weaken toward the Bible or there would have been a popular uprising against the High Courts unfortunate decisions.
An early poll of the pulse of America was taken by Richard Dierenfeld in 1962. He discovered that in the year I graduated from high school, 68 percent of public school classrooms in the East used the Bible in class.[iv] That was also the year when there was visible movement in the Supreme Courts that has contributed to Bible illiteracy in America.
[i] Solomon Schechter, Seminary Addresses and Other Papers. Cincinnati: Ark, 1915, 48-49.
[ii] Conversation in the office of Dr. Duane Litfin, president of Wheaton College, May 6, 2006.
[iii] For more insight into the role of the High Court in advancing Bible illiteracy in America, see Mark R. Levin, Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America. Washington, D.C.: Regenery, 2005. Levin accuses the High Court of corrupting the ideals of America's founding fathers. By pursuing an ideology-based activist agenda that oversteps its authority.
[iv] Richard R. Dierenfeld, Religion in American Public Schools. Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1962.
Read more in:
TAKING BACK THE GOOD BOOK
How America Forgot the Bible and Why It Matters To You
Check it out at yur local Christian bookstore or
go online at backtothebible.org or call 1-800-759-2425
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