An Open Letter About Scripture

I wrote a blog post a while ago on why Scripture is valuable. For a few years, the legal right of religious groups to go into schools and spend half an hour or so teaching about their beliefs has been under threat. This is a completely voluntary action made on behalf of the parents of each student, and leaves options such as “ethics” and “non Scripture” if they don’t want their kids to learn anything religious, but has recently come under fire as a waste of time, or forcing kids to learn about religion which is “for the home”. I didn’t see the problem with it then- if a parent doesn’t want their kid to learn anything religious, they don’t have to sign them up for it. And, furthermore, if a child is going to get a truly thorough historical and anthropocentric education, they need to learn about the worldviews that saturate their world. However, recently I started actually teaching Scripture and things have changed a bit.

I can’t just say scripture is good. I have to say Scripture is one of the best things I think could be in our public education system.

Religion is something personal, true. But there’s no evidence to suggest there is an age too young to be exposed to something spiritual. I’ve watched the pastor who teaches not one but two classes come week after week and make relationships with the kids. I have seen the way kids have another adult to not only trust but come to with their questions and problems- scripture teachers have the privilege of not only being there to teach but having a religious background kids want to know about. Kids are curious about, and see the changes because of religion in people’s lives- I know because I was one of those kids for seven years and now I’m watching a new generation of those kids spring up. One kid in particular just blows me away-with no religious background except for that he’s been doing scripture since kindergarten, he’s been eager to learn, is able to recite stories and lessons he learned years ago, and has started to pray about his mum, who is chronically ill. These kids don’t just go because they have to, and their parents don’t just send them because they’re religious. There is something about scripture that means, even when they don’t have to be, kids want to be there. Parents want to send their kids even if they don’t get it because something good is happening. And if we stop scripture in schools, those connections are broken.

If you want to heavily regulate it, so be it- Anglican scripture teachers now have to comply with legal regulations such as providing Working With Children’s Checks, attending annual training seminars which include Safe Ministry Training, and teaching from books that are open to the public, regularly checked, and created by a board of theologically trained men and women. But all of this hasn’t stopped regular people coming forward and giving their time, money and energy into making Scripture happen because they believe in it. My dad has been doing scripture for twelve years, buys the kids Christmas presents out of his own pocket and even makes an effort to be friends with the teacher who is required to sit in on his class. Interestingly, the number of people who teach Ethics classes has begun to decrease since the classes were first introduced. There’s something about religion that changes people and I’d say arguably for the best. Scripture teachers aren’t extremists- sit in on one of their classes and see that for yourself. Ask your kids what they’re learning and I reckon they’ll respond with something along the lines of that they’re loved and made by a God who knows their name. You can check out the syllabuses for yourself, and I watch the pastor who runs scripture at my school make sure he knows the families of the kids too. If it is all out in the open, I once again can’t see the problem but I can see the benefits. I’d happily sit in a stuffy hall full of people learning things they already know once a year just to be able to go back to my scripture classes.

So the kids have some sort of understanding of spirituality and actually seem to be enjoying it. The scripture lessons are open, the teachers are trained and the regulations aren’t a deterrent. In an age where the media is predicting the fall of Scripture, I have joined a group of people who are striving to make every lesson count. I don’t see why someone would stop scripture. I don’t see how religion isn’t as important as any other lesson a kid would learn. If a parent is happy for their kid to be there, and the kid is happy themselves to be there, as someone who did scripture for all of my primary school years I can attest to how beneficial it can be. As an adult who has started teaching scripture, I can attest to how that doesn’t seem to have changed.                I had a friend who did a different scripture every year, just so she could learn more about world religion. I had a minister who came from a non Christian background but ended up in Christian scripture and from there started going to church- he famously got baptised on the spot and had to walk home in his wet clothes. I have a kid in my class who is praying for his sick mother and is finding solace in a tough time when he isn’t quite sure where to turn.

No, I don’t know why you’d stop Scripture but I hope I’ve given you a few reasons not to.

 

Sincerely,

Patty Ayres.

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