In a modern, multi-faith, multi-cultural world is it right to use The Bible the main literary reference point? Saphora Smith investigates.
It is often repeated, along with the fact that A-levels and the Leaving Cert get easier every year, that modern students’ contextual and literary grounding is narrowing. Students today, the argument goes, know less than they did twenty years ago.
Patronising this may be; but perhaps they have a point – I can’t remember a class in the past few months where Shakespeare, Joyce or Homer have enjoyed more airtime than Downton Abbey. This is true with one great exception: The Bible.
Constantly referenced, quoted and discussed; it is the default point of reference even in the most unrelated, unreligious of lectures.
Whilst I see that some study simply can’t be done without reference to the bible (Dante’s Divine Comedy, for example); I fail to understand the ease and frequency with which lecturers allude to Scripture. Of all texts why use this one to analogise even the most unrelated issues?
For many the answer here is that it is closed minded and ignorant to write-off the Bible just because it is a religious text. Just as we have an obligation to know other greats like the aforementioned Shakespeare and Joyce, you could argue, we should also know our scripture.
In this sense I have to agree: we should not be limiting our knowledge but instead expanding it. That said, I am fed up with lecturers using Scripture as the default didactic tool to explain human experience.
It is equally important for us to be familiar with the Classics as it is for us to know the teachings of the Bible. But if this is the case why then is the Bible disproportionally used as a teaching aid, when it does not necessarily reflect the academic and religious backgrounds of those listening?
If a teacher were to refer constantly to the Quran, for example, to explain or illuminate points totally unrelated to religion, the majority of the students at Trinity would be lost. Why then do we assume that when referring to the Christian Bible everyone can follow?
It is not that I see the Bible as irrelevant, not in the slightest, and of course it is the crucial foundation of much of Western art, literature and history. It is, after all, an historical source.
Yet the assumption that we, the students, have the verses of the Bible at our fingertips is backward and archaic. Perhaps our contextual grounding has in fact diminished, but even so, in today’s supposed liberal multicultural society is it really fair to expect us to know the content of the Book of Isaiah?
There is of course a middle ground between being overly politically correct and being academically relevant – I am just not sure if we’re on the right side of the line. Perhaps a little consideration of others’ religious ideologies, heritage or lack of them, would be far more Christian.