Why Do We Teach the Bible in Religious Education?

Every other year, the 4th – 5th grade religious education class studies the Jewish and Christian Bible for a full year. This year is a Bible year. Some UU adults wonder why we teach the Bible in religious education. They may have a negative bias toward the Bible because of what they’ve experienced about it in popular culture and politics or they may avoid the Bible because of the rigid and dogmatic way it was taught to them in their childhood religion.

At UUCWC, we teach our children Bible stories for several reasons. First, there are good lessons based on timeless themes such as jealousy, forgiveness and kindness 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 need to 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.

Third, for centuries the Bible has played a critical role in helping shape today’s Unitarian Universalism and the earlier religious movements, which spawned it. “Jewish and Christian teachings” are one of the six sources of Unitarian Universalism.

The final reason for teaching our children about the Bible is that they need to be biblically literate in order to defend their own beliefs. Knowing more about the Bible enables our children to explain their own beliefs better to others who are biblically oriented.

In class, Becky Lang, who chooses to teach this class every week and every other year, makes Bible stories come alive. She also frames them with 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. The curriculum allows the class to experience the stories of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. They encounter a crime scene that tells the story of Cain and Abel. They face down the temptation of candy. They conduct a Bible Women’s Awards Night. They construct masks of animals that didn’t make it onto the ark, and build living sculptures.

Unitarian Universalists do not teach that the Bible is the word of God. Rather, it is the result of many people 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, UUs 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. Most important, the principle of neighborliness and love at the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition is central to our Unitarian Universalist faith.

Unitarian Universalist Views of the Bible – https://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/sacred-texts/bible