Why does Jesus belong in schools? Christianity is more than a thought

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Does Jesus belong on school the school campus?
Does Jesus belong on school the school campus?

SAN DIEGO, June 30, 2014 — The question of whether exposure to, or adhering to a Christian based ideology is acceptable on school campuses is once again under debate.

Religion is viewed by some as a non-intellectual exercise, but even apart from that, many assume for constitutional reasons that religion should be left out of the classroom, even at our major universities.

But perhaps discussion of Jesus does belong on a college campus. Maybe people should be allowed to talk candidly about religious figures in the classroom or at special seminars.

Here are some things to consider:


1) Jesus is not merely a religious figure, but an historical figure.

Although the New Testament itself can certainly be defended as an accurate collection of historical documents and eyewitness accounts, it may be of interest to people that Jesus was also mentioned by other ancient historians, such as the Roman writer, Tacitus, and the Jewish writer, Josephus, neither of whom converted to Christianity.

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.  He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ.  And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again at the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”
— Josephus,William Whiston translation 379 Antiquities book 18 Chapter 3 pg 379.

Although much controversy surrounds this passage, its textual tradition is as sturdy as anything else we accept from Josephus, and historians often turn to Josephus as they try to understand the ancient world. (See footnote below.)

In any event, the history of Jesus does not ride upon this one narrative. We can also look to The Talmud, Pliny the Younger, Lucian of Samosta, Thallas and Tacitus.  On top of that is an additional passage in Josephus about Jesus that nobody questions. For now, it suffices to say that Jesus is definitely an historical figure, and the very notion that an institution of higher learning would censor discussion about a person of history is rather bizarre.

2) Jesus is talked about by professors quite a bit anyway.

Oh sure. They talk about him in a negative way, but they do talk about him. In typical Religious Studies classes, many professors say on orientation day, “In this class we will not critique religions. We will merely study what they teach and allow them to speak for themselves.”

What they mean is that they will not critique any religion but Christianity.

They continue, “In this class we are going to learn to respect all religions.”

What they mean is that you are going to learn to respect all religions except Christianity. On the day you study Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, or even some religion about aliens being hatched from space pods, you will learn about how beautiful the religion is. On the day you study Christianity, you will learn that the Bible is a chauvinistic and a racist book. It promotes genocide and even rape. The Bible is also full of contradictions. Oh yes, and the Bible has been rewritten and mistranslated. Any Christian who dares to argue with the professor and defend the gospel will hear, “Whoa…Buddy. Back off…Separation between church and state. You’re not allowed to preach in here.” Funny how this separation never cuts both ways. People can say any vile thing they want about Christianity, but we Christians dare not defend ourselves. See how it works?

If professors feel the campus is an inappropriate place to mention Jesus, then maybe they should stop talking about him. However, the notion that the Constitution forbids religious discussion unless Christianity is being criticized, smells like an open jar of pickled herring on a hot windy day.

3)  The phrase, “Separation between church and state” is found nowhere in the Constitution, and I mean nowhere.

The First Amendment reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

That’s it. That one line is what all the bugaboo is about. How then, did the myth of separation between church and state raise its ugly head?

It actually began in the year 1947 in a court case called Everson v. Board of Education (330 US (1947)). The court said: “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable.”

They were quoting Thomas Jefferson, but quoting him out of context. Jefferson used the phrase in a letter he wrote to the Baptist  churches of Danbury, Connecticut, whose members were concerned that the new federal constitution might begin to limit the rights of the church.

The fear was that if it was the government’s prerogative to grant religious freedom, it was also its prerogative to take away religious freedom. The Danbury Baptists asked Jefferson to affirm that religious rights were inalienable rights before God, not privileges which the state invented. Jefferson agreed with them and in 1802 wrote:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter that lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’ thus building a wall of separation between church and state. “

Jefferson clearly used the phrase “separation between church and state” to agree with the Danbury Baptists that they were free before God to practice their religion as they saw fit.

When our country was founded, our fathers were determined to avoid the way of Europe. In Europe, different countries declared their own brand of Christianity. Italy was Catholic. England was Church of England. Germany was, for the most part, Lutheran, and Switzerland was Reformed. One risked death to break from the religion of his country. In America, it would be different. There would be no mandatory state church. People could participate in any Christian denomination they wished or chose not to be religious at all.

This did not mean that we were not allowed to mention the Bible at school or to pray in public. American colleges taught the Bible well into the early years of the Republic.

Today, secular activists, while claiming they are only looking out for their own rights, ignore the fact that their right to be unreligious has not been infringed upon by our great nation. Indeed, many of them  are systematically eroding the rights of Christians and they are doing it with historical revision.

Jesus always has and always will belong on the college campus.

This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious, obvious.

Footnote:

Certainly some try to portray the Josephus passage about Jesus as a Christian interpolation but many scholars accept most of it and some accept all of it.  The inarguable extant manuscript evidence favors the passage and objections are subjective ones, namely that Josephus says things about Jesus that a non-Christian (supposedly) would not say, such as calling him the Christ and claiming he rose from the dead. In my book, I’d Like To Believe In Jesus, But…I defend the notion that a non-believer in those days could still have used that kind of descriptive language but such a detailed discussion goes beyond the scope and purpose of this present article. The book can be ordered through my website or Amazon.com.

 

Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net. Comments to posts are discussed by Bob over the air where anyone is free to call in and respond/debate. Call in toll free number: 1-888-344-1170.

 

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Bob Siegel
A graduate of Denver Seminary and San Jose State University, Bob Siegel is a radio talk show host and popular guest speaker at churches and college campuses across the country, using a variety of media including, seminars, formal debates, outdoor open forums, and one man drama presentations. In addition to his own weekly radio show (KCBQ 1170, San Diego) Bob has been a guest on many other programs, including The 700 Club, Washington Times Radio's Inside the Story, The Rick Amato Show, KUSI Television's Good Morning San Diego, and the world popular Jonathan Parkradio drama series, for which Bob guest starred in two episodes and wrote one episode, The Clue From Ninevah. In addition to CDN, Bob is a regular contributor for San Diego Rostra. Bob does a good deal of playwriting as well (14 plays & 5 collaborations), including the award winning, Eternal Reach. Bob has also published books of both fiction and non-fiction including; I'd Like to Believe In Jesus, But...and a fantasy novel, The Dangerous Christmas Ornament.
  • Part-Time Deist Tim

    Bob, I find the points in your piece above to lack substance in attempting making your point. I’ll tackle them one at a time:

    1.) Virtually no one is asserting Jesus himself was not an historical person. Furthermore, we live in a Christian nation in the sense that a vast majority of Americans are Christian. A general knowledge of who Jesus was and the highlights of the accounts of his life per the bible, even without any formal instruction in school, is still an order of magnitude greater than the public’s knowledge of Buddha, Mohammed, and other people who actually walked the Earth. This contrived martyrdom of Christianity being so under attack from every angle is contradicted by the FACT that no other religion commands a national holiday, the crosses abound on churches in every neighborhood, and that Congress opens with an invocation of God’s influence and blessing – just to names a few highlights. We still live in a nation with more than a super majority of Christians, and where there are virtually no non-Christians in national public office. Christianity is not a risk here.

    Are there really high school history teachers out there instructing that Jesus never existed? Even if the odd nut were to be scraped up, it still doesn’t make this a real issue. This is not to say Jesus, and more precisely early Christianity, should not be studied for its very important impact on Western civilization itself. I’ll grant you that much. But what exactly about Jesus the man do you think ought to be taught in public high school students? Should walking on water, raising dead people back to life, and the resurrection itself be taught as real as the assassination of Lincoln? Be specific. What exactly is missing from public instruction?

    And as an aside, your treatment of the Testimonium Flavianum utterly overstates scholarly reliance on this passage, and just isn’t necessary. Only a small percentage (about 10%) of published scholarly work accept it as without any interpolation. This means you’re in the great, great minority. More than 75% finds it has anywhere from some to complete interpolation. One need only read Josephus objectively to see the odd apologetic for Christianity in that passage is out of step with the rest of Antiquities and his other writings. It just doesn’t make sense. And to spend the equivalent of a single paragraph on what is described as the most amazing person one could write about itself shouts to the obvious presence of interpolation. Your fondness for objectivity should extend here, rather than a passing mention of “controversy” that the average reader will likely never investigate.

    2.) You make a lot of statements about what professors do public universities, but I have no idea where this comes from, or the objective, independent evidence to support the contention. I realize I went to a public, four-year university some 20+ years ago, and perhaps some things have changed, but I don’t recall anything remotely like this. In fact, there just weren’t a ton of religion classes anyway. I actually took a class on Judiaism, which was quite fascinating. This involved (mostly) the same bible you use, and certainly what you’d consider the same god – yet I didn’t get any of this diatribe.

    I find this type of evangelism misleading to the uninformed observer. It is without question the tactic of painting oneself, or one’s group, as being persecuted can be an effective mean of rallying the troops, so to speak. But to characterize higher education as so generally anti-Christianity at every turn is not what I’m hearing from college students. What I hear is that just go to class, study, maybe try to have some new experiences and a little fun. This “God Isn’t Dead” approach only works with the choir, and you already had them at hello.

    3.) Yes, the so called “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution. But it is in Supreme Court case law interpreting the Constitution. And THAT is the law of the land. I’m a big fan of Jefferson, actually. Read everything he’s personally written, including the Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Jefferson was repeatedly called an “atheist” by his Christian opposition at a time when such was infinitely more a curse word than it is today. He understood better than most anyone of his time the effect that an official imposition by the government could have on those not belonging to the majority.

    With your repeated invocation of objectivity, the statement, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” could be no more obvious that this intent is to avoid the use of government to impose one religious tradition over another (when taken with the 14th Amendment). President Jefferson was responding to the Danbury Baptists, who were concerned about state legislative religious action that threatened them. The fact is, Bob, you might be in the majority today and like the idea of prayer and government sponsored Christianity in school. But when you’re in the minority, you’ll find yourself running to the Establishment clause as your protection from a tyrannical government. The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in particular, are anti-majoritarian instruments specifically designed to protect the few from the many. But in doing so, it protects all of our unalienable rights – including yours.

    And how is it that students themselves can’t seem to get enough time to pray at home, in church, during recess, at lunch, or quietly to themselves just before the teacher lays down that trig quiz on their desk? Is it really about religious liberty, or is it about you wanting YOUR religious views asserted through the public finances? Is your voice not loud enough through your columns, your books, your public speaking, or your radio show? Do you really need public money and resources to spread your personal religious opinions as well? I think you’re much better off being free, and having the unentangled liberty to express your view without government interference.

    In conclusion, I apologize if I came across a little harsh at times, but I am passionate about many of these issues as well. Perhaps we can, at the very least, agree to love and protect the freedoms and liberty we enjoy.

    • bobsiegel

      You are welcome to come on my radio show sometime to debate each and every one of these points.

  • Part-Time Deist Tim

    Bob, I tried several times this last Sunday, but the phone just kept ringing and ringing. I suppose it might not have been a call in show. But I would be happy to discuss this with you. I’ll email my contact info to you privately through your website.

    • bobsiegel

      Our operator might not have had the phone lines open. But we can arrange ahead of time to have you on.

  • Part-Time Deist Tim

    Correction….THAT show might not have been for calling in. I know you usually do take calls.

  • Boston You

    Obama’s criminal marxist regime has strongly objected to a Defense Authorization amendment that reinforces religious liberty in the military

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  • David Lee Perry

    Religion doesn’t really belong in school unless you go to a religious school. You can debate semantics all day long but it’s irrelevant at the end of the day. Not only that, but two other things: One, the idea that Yeshua is a historical character is highly debatable. Anyone who actually understands the history of Christianity knows this very, very well. Two, Yeshua himself said to essentially keep your religion to yourself. Do people just ignore that part?

    If you want to talk about religion amongst your buddies, fine. If you want to pray in class, fine. If you want to tell everyone at school that the Holy Bible is the greatest work of non-fiction ever written, fine. Hell, if you want to start up a religious discussion in philosophy class, fine. All’s well and good. What is NOT fine is when a public school, be it a high school, elementary school, or public university… any school that receives even a cent in taxpayer dollars… starts peddling religion, of ANY flavor, to students.

    If you honestly believe that this line of thought is correct, then I expect your full support for the teaching of Islam in public schools too. After all, Muhammad is also a “historical figure”, and unlike Yeshua, there *is* actual evidence for his existence. Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s start teaching neopagan Satanism… after all, Anton LaVey is also a “historical figure”, and some people who are alive today actually knew him. In fact, his daughter still runs his church, last I knew. Hey, can we teach Santería? How about Asatrú? Jainism? Shinto? Wicca? Yeah, Wicca would be great… Gardner is a legitimate “historical figure” too.

    • bobsiegel

      So…Jesus said to keep our religion to ourselves? Where in Matt 28 where He commanded his disciples to take His message to the entire world?

      That is just one example of your many, many inaccuracies, not only about the Bible but American history and the American constitution. But if you think you have some actual facts to back up your statements, you are welcome to call my radio show some time and debate this over the air.