Every parent, teacher, and school district has a policy to deal with unruly children, and the Bible does offer some advice.
“If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death.”
Deuteronomy 21: 18-21
Yes, this may be one way to cut down on class size and disobedient children, but no rational person with an ounce of compassion or sense of justice would ever advocate such a horrific and murderous way of dealing with difficult and rebellious children. My students are shocked to learn that this is in the Bible. And a few, rather comically, have expressed their great gratitude for not having lived in Biblical times.
One of the first things I do on the second day of class is help my students understand that all the “holy books” from all the great religions were written by people who had some very different concepts of “right and wrong” and social justice. Consequently, the argument that we should do something, such as executing unruly children, solely because it says to do so in the Bible is nothing short of insanity. Yet, people often use this kind of Biblical rationale in hopes that their audience will be unaware of the fallacy of their argument. For example, Christian conservatives cite the Bible as the main reason behind their condemnation of homosexuals. But the argument that we should condemn homosexuals BECAUSE it says so in the Bible is no different from the argument that says we should stone our children if they become too unruly. See my point?
People often think that I am attacking the Bible and endorsing the homosexual lifestyle in my lecture when I bring this up. I am not! I am doing neither. I am simply attacking a foolish argument, not the Bible. I say “foolish” because it is foolish to think that we would be better off if we literally lived in accordance with everything in the Bible, and certainly anyone foolish to try would be at risk of ending up in prison or a padded cell with finger paints. Keep in mind, the Bible does say in Deuteronomy that when “two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand without mercy.”
It is a well-known fact that people often cite holy books to justify their own prejudices, biases, and personal agendas. Slave owners in the south were notoriously quick to point out how the Bible condones slavery. And they were right, it does, but this is certainly no reason for the return of slavery.
These Biblical “outdated ideas” and practices are often the subject of scorn by groups wanting to discredit the Bible and religion. The below billboard is one example.
Another example of an outdated Biblical idea can be seen in Deuteronomy 22:28-29. It reads as follows:
“If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.”
Forcing a young rape victim to marry her attacker is wrong on so many levels I don’t even know where to start, and I should not have to, it’s pure insanity and absolutely offensive to our sense of moral justice. However, this was patriarchal justice in Biblical times.The rapist was “court ordered” to pay the girl’s father and to care financially for his victim the rest of his life. For most sane people this kind of “Biblical wisdom” is incomprehensible and clear evidence that the entire Bible cannot and should not be trusted as a moral compass. Oh, and it should be noted, that a man could have many wives in Biblical times, but women could not have more than one husband.
Despite these “totally wacko ideas” (my student’s words) in the Bible, I do go to great lengths in my classroom to make it very clear to my students that the Bible and other holy books have great value after you separate the outdated unusable parts from the usable wisdom-for-modern-day-ethical-living parts, but this requires a commitment to read and critically examine literature, which can be a daunting task. And I have a feeling that people – especially the young and uneducated who are under the influence of religious and political leaders – often accept holy books as they do online license agreements; they never really read them, but rather scroll down to the bottom and click “agree” to the whole darn thing. This might be okay when adding software to a computer, but it is a deplorable way to approach holy books and religion, and I think every public school in America needs to help children understand this.