Why We Teach About the Bible in Children’s RE

This year the grade 4-5 class in religious education is studying the Jewish and Christian Bible using a UU curriculum called Bibleodeon. Some of you may be surprised at this topic, or even alarmed. Many of us who were raised in non-UU faiths avoid the Bible because of the rigid and dogmatic way it was taught to us. However, we need to remember that most of our kids are not carrying the same emotional and theological baggage.

We need to teach Bible stories for at least three reasons.

First, there are good lessons based on timeless themes such as jealousy, forgiveness and healing in the Bible. Biblical scriptures are by no means the only valuable religious scriptures but they are the foundation of the Western concept of human freedom and human dignity.

Second, biblical heritage is an integral part of western culture and history. Biblical references are common in art, music, language, architecture, literature, and many other aspects of our culture. Our children and youth must be knowledgeable about the bible just to be well-rounded, culturally literate members of society. We do them a disservice by neglecting this part of their religious education.

A third reason for teaching our children and youth about the Bible is because they need to be biblically literate in order to defend their own beliefs. Knowing more about the Bible from a historical perspective enables our children to explain their own beliefs better to others who are biblically oriented.

We do not teach that the Bible is the word of God. We believe that the Bible is the result of many people and writing over centuries of time, a long time ago. These people were trying to answer some very important questions, such as “When did the world begin, and how?” and “Where did people come from?” Although some people believe that the Bible’s answers to these questions are the only right ones, UU’s believe that there is no one final answer. There is “truth” in the Bible, in the truth of the insights and stories that still speak to us today. There is beauty, and myth, and poetry, and compelling stories that are worth knowing.

In class, Becky Lang, who chooses to teach this class every week, tells the Bible stories in an engaging manner (important because our kids are often hearing the stories for the first time). She then gives the historical background and asks thought-provoking questions, which challenge the kids to form their own opinions about the stories. She invites the class to think whether each Bible story supports or challenges Unitarian Universalist principles and purposes.

Some Unitarian Universalists, who still suffer from a religious education based on teachings from the Bible that inspired fear rather than love in their hearts, have little desire to return to the Bible and reclaim its essential teachings as part of their own faith. Others, Unitarian Universalist Christians, center their faith and their devotions on the scriptures. But however we gauge the nature of the Bible’s authority, nearly all of us can embrace the principle of neighborliness and love at the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

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