Pennsylvania To Declare “Year of the Bible”?

It was reported last evening that a Pennsylvania state senator from the Pittsburgh area has introduced legislation to declare 2012 as “the Year of the Bible” in our commonwealth. He claims that it is not a proselytizing proposal, but one intended to recognize the important role the Bible has played in shaping our culture. He also made reference to a hope that the designation would encourage people to read it because it is a source of wisdom, a needed commodity for out time.

If approved, it would not be an unprecedented act of a legislative body in this nation. In 1983 President Reagan gave the designation “Year of the Bible” to our entire country, with predictable but somewhat weak protest from the strongly secularist camp. Today’s climate is somewhat less hospitable to such outright expressions of Christian identification. Maybe that is putting the shift in milder terms than is warranted. The immediate reaction pointing to the “separation of church and state” has, of course, been voiced, to which the erstwhile senator responded by (correctly) pointing out that the First Amendment simply says that “Congress shall make no law . . ..” Congress is not in any way involved. While federal interpretation has seemingly run roughshod over the distinction between what a state may do and what the federal government may do,at the time the First Amendment was ratified several ratifying states had established churches without seeing any contradiction.

But is it a wise or helpful declaration to propose at this time? To answer that one should evaluate several factors. For one, what was the overall impact of the 1983 designation? Twenty-nine years later, do we see the country as more positively inclined toward the reading, teaching, and following of the Bible than would have been the case otherwise? Was that even the case in years closer to the act itself. I’m skeptical. Another factor to consider is, as was asked of the senator, whether this could be followed by designation of, for example, 2013 as the “Year of the Quran?” While he said this would be entirely permissible for someone to propose and for the legislature to vote on, one gained the impression that he himself would not be doing so. Yet in a climate wherein many people are heavily committed to religious plurality, it is not inconceivable that such a measure would follow and be approved in the name of fairness. Then again, maybe it would be a good thing for people to actually read the Quran.

What do readers think? What would be the positive and negative effects of a move such as this in a state, this one in particular? I’m not especially enthusiastic about the idea, but perhaps there are reasons I’ve not thought of. I’d love to read your comments!

5 thoughts on “Pennsylvania To Declare “Year of the Bible”?

  1. Political pandering in an election year. By the way, is the culprit a Republican senator? It would make sense. The GOP nabobs need the credulous Nascar crowd to win. Nominal Christians will love it.

  2. To answer Richard’s question, the sponsor of the resolution is a Republican, but the resolution was adopted unanimously. Since then, there has been a flurry of protests. My perspective on this is based in the fact that a resolution is just a “feeling” of the body that adopted it. It is not a law, and no one is required to do anything pursuant to it. If people chose to not read the Bible, so be it; that is their choice, just as it is my choice to read it. Someone suggested in response to the adoption of this resolution that it should be entitled “Year of Bible Burning.” I find comments like this unhelpful. Finally, if our legislators are taking time to study the Bible, only good can come from it. I’d rather have them discussing the Bible than other things such as the “state dirt,” the “state airplane,” and other such nonsensical things.

    • Thank you, Krista. These are the kinds of statements craven politicians love. It is easy and accomplishes nothing of substance. As I said, political pandering.

  3. If it was more symbolic it would be more powerful

    In the pa senate chamber up front is the 10 commandments, and the beatitudes on the wall big as life. A constant reminder.

    I found the distribution of camo bibles to servicemen symbolically significant

    If all we have to talk about are constitutions then that is the best metric we have to live by, and it isn’t enough

    I found ginsberg’s comments today in Egypt somehow dis-spiriting, the best she had to recommend was “we the people” and the SA constitution

    Nothing universal there

    When there is no more recognition then we better have an Amos interceding that we are little because we will be a little people

  4. This “Year of the Bible” schtick may make more sense in light of the PA GOP’s endorsement of Steve Welch. Apparently some conservatives think the GOP threw them under the bus. One political analyst called it “a poke in the face.” I have not spent enough time in the sewer of political chicanery to be certain. However, it seems authentic Christianity is perceived as a threat by both parties. But they need the benighted religious people to win elections. Hence, “The Year of the Bible.” I may be wrong, and I hope I’m wrong; but I don’t think I’m wrong.

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