Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Muslims and Jews know their sacred texts. Why don't Christians?

By Cristina Odone Religion
April 20, 2014

Cain and Abel. Moses parting the Red Sea. The Prodigal Son's return. Lazarus rising from the dead. Imagine how impoverished our literature would feel if allusion to these biblical tales were lost on the reader.

Today, they are. A recent survey found that only one in 20 people could name all ten commandments, and that 62 per cent of respondents did not know the tale of the Prodigal Son. Poets like Michael Symmons Roberts, who's just won the Forward Poetry Prize, have warned against what Seamus Heaney called the "hollowing out of civilisation": our ignorance of the Bible and other sacred texts means poets, writers, or artists can no longer assume that we draw from a common and cherished legacy.

The Church of England wants to fight this by inviting adults to enrol in a "Pilgrim" course, a kind of Sunday School for grown-ups. Good luck to them – though I suspect that the only people who will make time for this are the lonely elderly who probably already know their Bible anyway.
What the bishops should be investing in, instead, is their existing faith schools. Here, among primary and secondary schoolchildren, the Churches can teach not only the stories of the Good Book, but their morals. The Anglican and Catholic hierarchies should be fighting critics who want to shut down faith schools as divisive — reminding them that ignorance, not knowledge, is divisive. They should be fighting the enemy within who would want to dilute the Anglican (or Catholic) ethos of these schools, for fear of seeming "exclusive".

Read the full story at www.VirtueOnline.org

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