Friday, November 25, 2011

Bonkers Bible plan titillates Twitter and incenses NSS

Thanks to Phil Ritchie for alerting me to today's news that every school in the country is to receive a King James Bible to commemorate the 400th anniversary of that hugely important edition. Phil's piece on his blog is lucid and succinct as usual.

This is a great Friday evening story. There's part of me that really wants this to be a good idea. Certainly it's further evidence that we are living under a political regime that no longer seems to think that faith and religion are shameful concepts that need to be banished from view. It's easier to have the public discussion about Church, the Bible, and even Jesus now than it has been for years. And anything that causes such annoyance to the National Secular Society is welcomed by Always Hope. This is not because I'm hostile to Humanists, but the fact that the NSS so rapidly disappears up its own fundamental orifice when something like this happens shows what a silly, petty, and irrelevant organisation it is. "If Mr Gove intends to go ahead with this, will he also please ensure that a copy of On the Origin of Species is sent out on Darwin Day", pontificates Terry Sanderson, once again revealing a total failure to get to the heart of the matter.

But, sadly, the idea is a bit bonkers really. It's easy to satirise, far too easy, and as I write, Twitter is exploding with glee about the #ToryBible. But sometimes what is superficially ridiculous is also fundamentally ridiculous too. Sure, the King James Bible is a hugely important historical landmark for our culture, language and religion. But the anniversary has already been fairly extensively marked by various special interest groups, hundreds of churches, and even the Queen herself, who recently attended a special service to that purpose in Westminster Abbey. I wonder what Messrs. Gove and Cameron think they are adding by sending these Bibles to schools. In fact, I often wonder what Mr Gove is thinking, at all. 

Like many Education Secretaries before him, Gove seems to have become confused and imagines that it is actually his job to do the educating, rather than run the education system. Mr Gove is worried that 7A seem to be a bit behind on British history and culture. So today's lesson is the King James Bible. Pay attention at the back, there. What he imagines the schools are going to do with these Bibles when they get them is anyone's guess. What they will actually do with them - well, ask any headteacher of your acquaintance. Of course, he also misunderstands what the Bible is for. It is not an educational text. It speaks to the deepest needs and problems of humanity, and can only be grasped when it is used in the context of the worshipping community. That's why the original KJV was to be placed in every church, not every school. 

Gove is so worrying and zealous that we should perhaps not be surprised that the icing on this cake is the news that he will be writing his own preface to the Bible. I would say it was beyond parody, except that there is a genius among us who has done just that - let the last word go to Archdruid Eileen, who has composed the Gove Preface to the King James Bible.

1 comment:

chaplain.cz said...

Charlie - I'm with you - anything that causes annoyance to the NSS or the BHA is to be welcome! However, I can't help but notice amount of space given to these two irrelevant organisations by the TES in the article to which you link.

The rest of your post is a very good commentary on the proposed distribution of a KJV Bible to every school. I particularly liked you line about Secretaries of State for Education wanting to 'do the educating rather than run the education system'. Very true!

My other concern about all the fuss that has been made over the 400 anniversary of the KJV Bible is that it has helped to perpetuate the myth, believed by many, that the Bible was actually written in 16th century English. The 'If the KJV was good enough for St. Paul, it's good enough for me' brigade.

I don't know how many times I've had to explain that the New Testament was not written in Classical Greek but in Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the people of the Eastern Mediterranean at the time, so it could be read & understood by all! Hence as far as I'm concerned, I want the language of scripture and of liturgy, to be the current language of the people, not a language which was current more than 400 years ago.