Bible Literacy Project’s “Communist Ideals”: Claim in Agape Press

While conservative Christians celebrate the establishment of ID Creationism in Kansas high-schools (although suffering setbacks in Dover and Minnesota), there is also some action on another front on the war over education, as the Associated Press reports (links added):

A public meeting is Thursday in Odessa as the Ector County Independent School District seeks input about a Bible elective class…A committee of 13 people — mostly teachers — will study what the curriculum should be used.

The teachers will choose between two options: “The Bible in History and Literature”, by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, and “The Bible and Its Influence”, by the Bible Literacy Project.

Curiously, “extra security” will be provided. The teachers involved were listed in an earlier report from the Midland Reporter-Telegram (via Biblical Theology weblog).

Back in April, Agape Press reported that Odessa was all set to go with the NCBCPS syllabus, but since then the NCBCPS has come under heavy fire. At the time of the report, I noted the complete absence of serious Biblical scholars connected to the project and the presence of some notorious cranks (there was also an endorsement from Chuck Norris, for reasons that eluded me). Biblical scholar Mark Chancey soon after wrote a devastating critique of the syllabus, exposing sectarianism, plagiarism and gross academic incompetence (including an urban myth that NASA had confirmed the sun stopping in the sky for the benefit of Joshua’s army). In good old-fashioned American style, the NCBCPS retaliated by calling Chancey “far left”, before quietly making some revisions. Chancey reviewed the new version, but was still dissatisfied:

…Though it claims that it has been reviewed by “primary scholars,” not a single one with a full-time academic position is named. Similarly, it continues to rely heavily upon popular-level (rather than scholarly) resources written primarily from a conservative Protestant perspective. Some of these resources are idiosyncratic, such as the writings of Robert Cornuke, who claims to have identified the biblical Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia.

…In addition, there are still problems in content. For example, discussion of Jesus’ last week reflects a problematic harmonization of the Gospels, and the consideration of the dating of the Exodus is still murky. “Action Statements” for the Dead Sea Scrolls still imply that the view that the Dead Sea Scrolls directly link Judaism and Christianity is more widespread than it actually is (very few scholars hold this position) and that the scrolls prove that the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible is equivalent with the “original text.” Some typographical and factual errors remain.

Chancey also notes the continued involvement of David Barton, a pseudo-historian who advocates a tendentious and politicised “Christian America” reading of history:

Most troubling is the fact that the new curriculum still clearly reflects a political agenda. Like the old version, it seems to Christianize America and Americanize the Bible. It continues to recommend the resources of WallBuilders, an organization devoted to the opposition of church-state separation, and it still advocates showing that group’s video, Foundations of American Government, at the beginning of the course. This video, narrated by the founder of WallBuilders, David Barton, argues that the Founding Fathers never intended for church and state to be separated and that America has descended into social chaos since devotional Bible reading and prayer were removed from public schools. The curriculum’s disclaimer that the video is just “one perspective” and “one historian’s viewpoint” (page 11) that should be balanced with other perspectives does not alleviate the problem, especially since no other perspectives are even discussed. Despite the curriculum’s characterization of Barton as a historian, he is neither an educator nor an academic. He is a political activist who is highly influential on a national level. Foundations of American Government is not an educational video; it is political propaganda. Another Barton video with similar content, America’s Godly Heritage, was banned from classroom use in Herdahl v. Pontotoc County School District (N. D. Miss. 1996).

(One critique of Barton’s claims can be found here).

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League took issue from a Church-State angle:

“This wholly inappropriate curriculum blatantly crosses the line by teaching fundamental Protestant doctrine,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “The text relies solely upon the King James Version of the Bible and hews to a fundamentalist reading, especially of New Testament passages. This is the primary flaw in the curriculum — that it advocates the acceptance of one faith tradition’s interpretation of the Bible over another.”

Agape Press has now also re-entered the fray, by offering an uncritical piece about Christian author Berit Kjos. Rather than defend the absurd NCBCPS syllabus, Kjos instead goes on the attack against the Bible Literacy Project, by postulating a conspiracy theory:

A Christian author alleges a new curriculum put out by the Bible Literacy Project spreads communist ideals.

But one Christian author, Berit Kjos, warns that several board members of the Bible Literacy Project have ties to the Communitarian movement, which she describes as an attempt to blend all religious beliefs and create a different society where the individual is de-emphasized in favor of the community or state. “That agenda,” she contends, “is being implemented through this curriculum.”

Kjos says the purpose of the Bible Literacy Project’s new course is “not to teach people about the Bible or to make students biblically literate. Rather, she asserts, is objective is to train people “to set aside what the first head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Brock Chisholm, called ‘poisonous certainties’ — the ‘certainties’ that keep them from embracing all other religions as being equal.”

Kjos’s evidence? The syllabus allegedly asks students to consider whether “Adam and Eve received a fair deal as described in Genesis”, and in a discussion of the Book of Daniel it mentions the “‘so-called’ end times”, thus undermining Biblical prophecy. Of course, by beginning with “A Christian author alleges”, Agape provides a bit of distance between itself and Kjos, but since no opposing view or criticisms are offered, one gets the strong impression that Agape concurs.

So who is Kjos? Christian Worldview Network provides a profile:

Berit Kjos is a respected researcher, the author of many books and magazine articles, and a concerned parent (and grandparent) who has extensively studied religious trends, today’s social changes, the roots and branches of the United Nations, the rising worldwide management system, and – most alarming of all — the transformation of the church.

Kjos first became aware of New Age and occult influences in our society at a 1974 conference on holistic health. As a registered nurse, she was interested in methods of healing, but soon discovered that the occult powers found in New Age methods brought bondage instead of true healing. As a parent, Kjos became aware of similar New Age influences in education. She began to monitor the schools for classroom programs that taught occultism and New Age spirituality, then began to share what she learned with other parents and teachers.

…Her articles have appeared in magazines such as Virtue, Moody, Servant, Focus on the Family, and the Christian Conscience. Kjos has also written numerous Bible study guides, booklets, and devotional.

Kjos has been interviewed several times on The 700 Club, Point of View (Marlin Maddoux) Bible Answer Man, Beverly LaHaye Live, Crosstalk and Family Radio Network. She has also been a guest on “Talk Back Live” (CNN) and other secular radio and TV networks.

Kjos also has her own website, Crossroad; many of her claims are debunked by Pagan Protection. However, Kjos sniffs out the New Age in not just neo-Pagan or secular environments – she also accuses other Christians, particularly prominent evangelical leader Rick Warren:

In September 2005, Pastor Warren was invited to speak at the United Nations and at the Council of Foreign Relations — two powerful organizations determined to unify the world under a new set of social rules and systemic controls.[5] Both pursue a peaceful transformation that would stifle the “divisive” truths of the gospel and conform Christian beliefs to UNESCO’s Declaration on the Role of Religion. Both recognize the need to draw churches into their worldwide network of partners and servers.[6] Both realize that Rick Warren — a most magnetic Pied Piper for their transformational agenda — can serve their grandiose purposes well.

Of course, this fundamentalist anti-UN “end times” paranoia is old hat (and figures prominently in Tim LaHaye’s work). But why hasn’t Agape Press also reported on Kjos’s views about Warren, if her opinions about the Bible Literacy Project are of such value? (She’s not a fan of JRR Tolkien or CS Lewis, either, by the way). Or when faced with careful scholars whose work appears to threaten fundamentalist dogmas, does Agape just fall back on anyone with a good line in defamation, hatred and fear-mongering?

UPDATE: More paranoia here, from Dennis Cuddy. Cuddy shockingly reveals that the Bible Literacy Project’s document on teaching the Bible in the context of the First Amendment was in part penned by someone who had previously worked for the ACLU, and who once consorted with a Wiccan! And worse, other members of the Project’s board of advisors apparently support gun control!