I always have such mixed emotions when I hear of legislation concerning prayer or the Bible. I have friends on either side of most political issues (this one included), so I write humbly and cautiously. I acknowledge my limited knowledge of specific policy points and hold no discernible policy agenda. Nevertheless, as a pastor and citizen, I write.
I believe the Bible is unique among the sacred texts of the world. In its pages unfolds the story of God. It moves from a garden in Genesis, through a wooden cross and empty tomb, to a heavenly city in Revelation. This story refuses to stay on the page, and it is in the context of this story that I understand all of life. It is my firm conviction that the Bible is God’s Word.
It’s worth noting a few things, though, that the Bible is not.
The Bible is not a symbol of political power. The Bible is not the means by which majority culture flexes its muscles on minority cultures. Public spaces in a pluralistic society must be inclusive for people from all walks of life. Yes, legislation should protect religion in the public sphere, but legislation should not replace religion in the public sphere. (We evangelicals are always looking for shortcuts and programs.) Venerating the Bible in public spaces will not lead to its adoration in private spaces. The lunchroom remains the best place for kids to share the message of the Bible with one another in meaningful ways.
The Bible is not self-interpreting. Bible teachers in public schools would have a great deal of influence on the spiritual formation of public school students. This might be good, and this might be quite bad. I tend to think religious courses would add value to public school curriculum, but I must acknowledge how much influence teachers would have in the teaching of such curricula.
The Bible is not losing. Every time I speak with my colleagues around town, I hear stories of people trusting Jesus and believing the message of the Bible for the first time. As Christian leaders, we must serve our churches, love our neighbors and trust God with the outcomes of our ministry. Evangelizing West Virginia does not start in the Statehouse. It starts in my house.