On Thursday, famed reality show producer Mark Burnett ("The Voice" and "Survivor") and his wife, actress Roma Downey ("Touched by an Angel") penned an eye-grabbing op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled, "Why Public Schools Should Teach the Bible." True to its title, Burnett and Downey make the case that America's children should be taught the holy book's ins and outs in classrooms across the nation.
Referring to the Bible as "the most read, most influential book of all time," the two pointed out the cultural value that the document has to Western civilization. In addition to highlighting the fact that many common phrases used in everyday language have roots in the Bible, the couple noted the that it has very literally shaped modern-day literature, entertainment and the culture at large.
Producer Mark Burnett (L) and his wife actress Roma Downey arrive at Operation Smile's 30th Anniversary Smile Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on September 28, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. Credit: Getty Images
Burnett and Downey described these elements in detail, calling for the encouragement -- if not mandate -- of the book's teaching:
The Bible has affected the world for centuries in innumerable ways, including art, literature, philosophy, government, philanthropy, education, social justice and humanitarianism. One would think that a text of such significance would be taught regularly in schools. Not so. That is because of the "stumbling block" (the Bible again) that is posed by the powers that be in America.
It's time to change that, for the sake of the nation's children. It's time to encourage, perhaps even mandate, the teaching of the Bible in public schools as a primary document of Western civilization.
The two discussed the importance of the Bible in the education process. Having grown up in Europe (Burnett in England and Downey in Ireland), they believe it is key to ensuring children receive "a well-rounded education" -- something that they received while living overseas.
Burnett and Downey note just a few of the cultural elements and services that simply wouldn't exist today if not for the Bible:
Without the Bible, Shakespeare would read differently—there are more than 1,200 references to Scripture in his works. Without the Bible, there would be no Sistine Chapel and none of the biblically inspired masterpieces that hang in countless museums world-wide.
In movies, without biblical allegories, there would be no "Les Misérables," no "Star Wars," no "Matrix," no "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, no "Narnia" and no "Ben-Hur." There would be no Alcoholics Anonymous, Salvation Army or Harvard University—all of which found their roots in Scripture. And really, what would Bono sing about if there were no Bible?
Of course, they admit that advocating for the Bible's placement in public school instruction doesn't come without controversy, as church-state separatists often respond negatively to the proposal. However, Burnett and Downey reminded readers that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled (in 1963's Abington School District v. Schempp case) in favor of allowing the book to be used in schools for "literary and historic" purposes.
This means that it must be part of the secular curriculum and can be taught, not preached (if you don't believe Burnett and Downey, read the National Education Association's explanation, which corroborates their claim).
With the Bible impacting so much of the modern world, the Hollywood power couple believes that it simply makes sense for students to be studying and understanding the document. They make it clear that they aren't talking about religious or political indoctrination; instead, they're speaking openly and honestly about the need to instill knowledge of the past -- information that is inherent in the Bible and has the power to teach us about today's social structures.
"It is possible to have education without indoctrination," they write. "On this point, believers and nonbelievers should be able to 'see eye to eye.'" You can read the op-ed in its entirety here.
On Sunday, March 3, Burnett and Downey's "The Bible," a series that reenacts key scenes from the book, will premiere on the History Channel. TheBlaze has extensively covered this project in the past. The show will air for five weeks, culminating on Easter Sunday.
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