Tag Archive | Bible

Honest analysis

Yesterday, I was catching up on some of what I missed over the last couple of days.  I came across this post from Monday by Registered Runaway.  It’s well-written, and I think the call for people to be honest about where they stand and what they mean is vital if we’re to keep this conversation going.  I absolutely agree that we need to stop talking about merely “loving” our LGBTQI neighbors.

I do not want to take away anything from what RR has written.  He’s at least 10 times more gracious and tender-hearted than I am, and he’s got a stake in this that I don’t.  So if you’re going to only listen to one of us, please make it RR.  But if you’re still reading here (after having read the post I linked, of course), then let me move this one step further.

There seems to be a tendency, particularly on the part of people who are unsure of where they stand or who are trying to be more progressive in their faith, to believe that sexual orientation (and sometimes one’s sense of gender, though usually that gets ignored) is not sinful.  The sin is in acting on this orientation.  Well, let’s examine that, shall we?  What’s really being said here?

It certainly isn’t all about whether or not two people who love each other can or even should build a life together.  So let’s be honest here.  There are only two real things that people mean when they say “acting on” sexual orientation:

  1. Gay sex
  2. Gender roles/norms

That’s it.  There’s nothing else it even could be.  I think it’s time for people to just own that.  (It’s not always the case, but it would also be helpful for some people to admit that they just find the idea of gay sex kinda yucky.)  I’ve seen some conservative people come right out and say it, but I’ve never heard anyone with more liberal leanings do so.  At this point, the conversation is–and will continue to be–stalled until everyone just comes clean about what the real issue is.

The reason it’s important to establish that sexual practices and/or gender roles are at the heart of the matter is that until we’re clear on that, all we’re doing is playing word ping-pong.  One side says, “But the Bible says…” and the other side says, “No, it doesn’t,” until everyone is just fed up.  So we need to examine why we believe the Bible is or is not clear in those passages and why we are driven to find Scriptural support for our respective positions.

I spent a lot of time examining Scripture on this one and reading on both sides of what at that time I considered a “debate.”*  I eventually concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to support what I’d been taught at church.  Once I made up my mind, I set to figuring out exactly why so many people are so desperate to hold on to the position I left behind.  I determined that it all boiled down to one or both of the reasons I listed above.  Since I’m not too particularly concerned with what people do in private, and I’m a raging feminist, neither of those reasons is particularly compelling to me.  I suppose that’s why I found it easy to let go of my former beliefs.

Some of you are probably thinking, “But I’m not bothered by gay sex either!  And I don’t believe in traditional gender roles!”  Okay, then.  Let me ask you this.  If you still believe the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, then what do you believe the Bible says is wrong about it–the orientation or the action?  If you believe that orientation is innate, then you must believe the sin is in “acting on” that orientation, right?  So what exactly does that mean?  Does it mean a failure to have a complementary relationship, or does it mean the sex act?  If you can’t answer those questions with anything that isn’t a variation of one of the above, then you’ve proven my point.  If you can’t answer those questions at all, then why do you cling to your certainty that it’s wrong?

We do this with other Scriptures, after all.  We do it with things that appear black-and-white.  We look for contextual cues to tell us whether there are situations in which even the Ten Commandments could be broken.  We examine Paul’s letters and read his exhortations through a cultural lens.  It’s not enough to simply repeat an English translation of the Bible, brush the dust off our hands, and say that settles it.  That’s often used to admonish people for wanting to have their own way, and it silences anyone who has a personal investment in the matter.**

Until we can be honest about what’s underneath our deeply-held beliefs, we can’t begin to have any kind of reasonable dialogue about it.  We have to break open the conversation about the meaning we ascribe to sexual behavior and gender.  Otherwise, all we have are fruitless conversations in which we compartmentalize people’s humanity into “being” and “doing” rather than integrated wholes.  That, or we reject the integrated whole entirely.

It’s time to be honest about what we mean.

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*I no longer view this as a “debate,” because it involves not a discussion of right and wrong but a discussion of people’s humanity and what living life to the full means to them.  It’s not fair to make people into issues.

**I am speaking of heterosexual Christians.  Whatever journey an individual LGBTQI person is on is that person’s own and it isn’t for me to nullify/validate that.

A Valentine Worth Following

I’m not a huge fan of Hallmark-induced holidays.  But I am a fan of love, marriage, sex, and my husband, all things worthy of celebration on Valentine’s Day.  Because I adore him, today’s “follow me” post is about—you guessed it—my husband.

I could tell you all the things I love about my husband, and why you should love him too.  But I think I may be a bit biased, so don’t just take my word for it.

Even though I’m the one who writes, my husband does keep a blog.  It’s highly specific, and not everyone’s cup of tea.  He’s not all about his personal journey or his life experiences or finding new asinine things said by Mark Driscoll.  He leaves that up to me.

Instead, Hubby is taking a 9-year trip through the Bible, dashing off his thoughts as he reads.  He took a brief break in 2010 to lead our church through the Bible in one year, but returned to regular updates last year.  He is currently at the midpoint of the read-through.

If what you want is a daily chunk of Scripture and a thought or two to go along with it, then join my husband for the back half of his reading.  If you prefer to start at the beginning, you can find all his posts archived on his blog.

You can check it all out here: Nine Year Bible (the link is also in my blogroll). ♥

Who’s In Charge?

One of the problems we create with the statement, “the Bible says it, that settles it” is confusion over when we need to rethink Scripture at face value.

It’s a lot easier to take a Bible verse and state authoritatively that the question has been answered.  But it gets murky sometimes.  When Jesus says that the only reason for divorce is marital infidelity, what do we do when one spouse is abusing the other?  For many people, that’s been addressed by convincing people to stay in those relationships to avoid sin.  Other churches have broadened the definition of “unfaithfulness” to include abuse, as it is not remaining faithful to the promise to love, honor, and cherish.

I would agree that no one should stay in an abusive relationship, and that it is not sinful to leave.  But I also don’t take everything in Scripture at its simplest interpretation.  For those churches that claim Biblical literalism, they have no choice but to admit that they are selectively interpreting Scripture.

A good example of this problem is authority, as instructed in the Bible.  The text is full of exhortations to keep our place in the chain of command and submit to those above us:

Children to parents: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)
Slaves to masters: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” (Colossians 3:22)
People to spiritual leaders: “Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed.” (2 Thessalonians 3:14)
Citizens to government: “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” (Romans 13:5)
Wives to husbands: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22)

The problem is, those verses have been misused.  I’m not even talking about their use by abusive parents and spouses, corrupt government officials, slaveholders, or deranged cult leaders.  I mean the rest of us have misunderstood and have used those verses to lock our fellow humans into unhealthy relationships.

I had a college roommate who took the verses on slave obedience so literally that she extended them to their natural conclusion.  She told me at one point that she believed that slaves who escaped via the Underground Railroad had condemned themselves to Hell unless they repented and returned to their owners.  (If that doesn’t make you several kinds of horrified, I don’t know what will.)  The irony was that she wasn’t white.

Most of us would (hopefully) not agree with her conclusions.  Nor would we mount a case for blind obedience to Jim Jones or Adolf Hitler.  (Again, putting my hope in reasonable people here.)  We might even relent in the case of a woman being beaten by her husband (although I’ve heard enough people try to make a case for reconciliation there, too).  The majority of us would not encourage children to unquestioningly submit to a parents who are molesting them.  So why would we make statements which imply that we must obey authority regardless?

It doesn’t seem as though Scripture is particularly nuanced on this point.  Each point of obedience is balanced with an equally strong call to those in authority.  Parents should not lord it over their children, husbands should love their wives, masters should treat slaves fairly, and leaders should be of good character.  The problem is, we are never told what we should do if those in power fail to uphold their end.  We’re not given the option to rebel if it seems harsh, unfair, or wrong.  In fact, there isn’t even any condemnation for the vile institution of slavery at all.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are already choosing which parts of Scripture we want to take as an all-or-nothing proposition.  We’ve already determined that even though it never says it in Scripture, there are times when disobedience is righteous, healthy, and desirable.  But we pretend that doesn’t exist.  If we don’t face it head-on, then we can hide from the fact that we take Scripture a lot less literally than we’ve let on.

Why not embrace that?  We have a choice here.  We can admit that life is much more messy and complicated (something Jesus understood well), or we can continue to insist that the Bible is God’s version of an Owner’s Manual for us.  Many of us have already moved on from a black-and-white vision for our lives.  It’s time the church acknowledged it too.

It’s Like, Literally…

If there was any question before, let me put it to rest: I despise the word literally.  In most cases, it’s either used incorrectly or it’s unnecessary.  But that’s not what I’m going to talk about here.  Um, literally.

Nope, today it’s all about Biblical literalism.  Now, I’m sure this is going to land me in hot water with more than a few people.  But I’m laying it on the line.  I suppose it’s on my mind because I had to teach a bunch of 5- and 6-year-olds a literal interpretation of Job.

While I take Job very seriously, I don’t take it as strictly factual information.  It’s a great story, but there are a lot of problems with it.  Allow me to list some of them:

-God makes a bet with Satan
-God gives Satan free rein in this guy’s life for the sole purpose of finding out whether he will stay faithful
-Job gets better than a fairytale ending

I don’t know about you, but I’m not fully at ease with the idea that the Creator of the Universe likes to play games with our souls.  If indeed God loves us, that’s not much of a way to show it.  Speaking only for myself here, I don’t do that to my kids.  I have no reason to think that God treats us worse than we treat our own children, especially since Jesus says just the opposite.  I’m inclined to trust Jesus on this one.

My next problem is the idea that bad things are just the work of the Devil.  That’s quite a stretch.  And again, that sounds like Cosmic Forces playing games with tiny little humans as pawns.  That really doesn’t sound much like the God featured in the rest of the Bible, nor the one we encourage people to trust.  We arrest humans who do that to their kids.  Just sayin’.

Finally, that better-than-it-was ending is just kind of…crap.  It reads like a tack-on, something someone threw in there so that we wouldn’t get all depressed reading about poor Job.  It’s also pretty misleading.  God lets Satan screw with us to prove a point, then makes it all better by replacing everything?  Yeah.  Right.

Now, that’s all based on a literal, historical reading of the text.  It’s what one gets with the idea that Job was a real person and every event laid out in the book is factual exactly as it is written.  In other words, it’s the belief that God did indeed make a bet with Satan over the soul of a human being.  I think there are much better readings, which leave it as poetry, allegory, and a sort of morality play.  When taken as a whole, rather than individual fact bites, it’s clear that there is a larger purpose to the story.

I always leave discussions on Biblical literalism feeling at least a small amount of rage under the surface.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard the words, “It’s literal unless it’s obvious it’s not or the text says it’s not.”  Well, that sure clears things up.  What one person believes to be “obvious” may not be to someone else.  A good deal of that is left to interpretation.  This is, of course, why some people take the Bible’s account of creation strictly at face value, and others see it as more poetic and nuanced.

This problem occurs in several well-known Bible stories: Adam and Eve, Noah, and Jonah, to name a few.  I think that one reason people feel so attached to literalism is that there is this fear that if we can’t believe in the Ark, we won’t believe in Jesus.  This is not at all true.  But what happens is that there are incredible stretches of the imagination in order to plug the holes left by literal interpretation.

For example, Noah takes two of every animal (and seven pairs of some) on the Ark.  Does that include polar bears, raccoons, and kangaroos, none of which are native to the Ancient Near East?  If Noah included those exotic animals, how did they get there?  How did they migrate their entire populations to the regions in which they now dwell?  Did those species arise later?  If so, then why is evolution false, or did God just magic them out of thin air?  The phrase “doesn’t bear close inspection” does not apply here.  Inquiring minds want to know: How does this all fit together?  To say it isn’t important brushes aside very real problems that must be addressed if one insists on taking everything as historical fact.

If, on the other hand, we take those stories not as absolute truth that must be defended but as insights into the nature of our relationship with God, we can have a much more generous approach to the text.  Instead of asking, “Well, what about…?” we can ask, “What does this mean?”  We can lay aside petty concerns about fact versus fiction in favor of developing understanding of God’s character and ours.  It doesn’t matter if the story happened just as the text suggests, because we’re concentrating on the key points—God wants us to trust and follow, even when it’s scary or strange, and that marvelous things happen when we do.

So getting back to Job, it seems as though a more responsible way to read the text is not to insist on literal interpretation, but to concentrate on meaning.  Some good things to come out of the text:

-Just because we experience bad things, it doesn’t mean we displeased God
-We don’t understand everything God does, but we can trust that God cares for us
-Eventually, all things will be made right (even if not in this lifetime)

Now, those are lessons I can get behind.

Misplaced Trust

Can we really trust the Bible today?  That’s a question a lot of people ask.  Depending on who’s posing the question, it has different meanings.

Some people ask it because they view the Bible as an outdated book with no meaning in the contemporary world.  It’s less of a question and more of a mockery of those who still read the Good Book.

Sometimes, it’s asked out of a genuine desire to know.  Underneath is a plea: “I desperately want something I can count on, something reliable in this unpredictable world.”

For still others, they see the way things actually work as being radically different from the way they’ve been taught to believe.  They see a disconnect between the real world and the insulated bubble of the church, and want to know what to keep and what to reject.

I’m sure there are other motives behind the question.  I don’t want to try to psychoanalyze the emotional and spiritual baggage adhering to such a query, because I think that it’s the wrong question.

The answer to, “Is the Bible the inerrant Word of God?” only matters if you think there is a right answer.  It only matters if you read the Bible as a legal document, a list of Life Rules to be trotted out like a reference book or an owner’s manual.  It only matters if you believe there is one ultimate translation and interpretation for every word of the sacred text.  It only matters if your goal is achieving doctrinal purity and perfection.  It only matters if you view the Bible as your personal tool for living your own life.

Imagine that we didn’t even need to ask such a question.  What would that kind of faith look like?  What would a faith look like if we stopped idolizing our denominational interpretations of Scripture and instead began really reading what it says in there?

Would we develop more compassion?  Would we seek justice in all things?  Would we stop politicizing faith?  Would different denominations be able to come together without tearing one another apart?

I don’t think it matters whether the Bible is “inerrant.”  That’s a man-made term, and meaningless.  That one word has led to countless debates over the discrepancies in the Bible, differences in the text that can’t be ignored.  If we waste time arguing over accuracy, it leads us down the rabbit hole of either denying or excusing the clear contradictions (yes, there are some), or throwing everything out because if you can’t believe one thing, you can’t believe anything it says in the Bible.  None of those are healthy approaches to reading the Bible.

But if we instead see the Bible as exactly what I called it at the beginning—the Good Book—it becomes something different.

A living document.

A covenant between ourselves and G-d.

A call to action.

A whisper of comfort in time of need.

A storybook of wonder to read to wide-eyed children.

A history of G-d’s love for people.

We can only see Scripture through our (limited) human perspective.  Different interpretations of the Bible have brought little but denominational strife.  Instead of worrying about whether the Bible is trustworthy, let’s trust that G-d is trustworthy.  All else will fall into place.

Owner’s Manual

Why is it that when we read the Bible, we seem to look at it as though we’re reading a textbook?  I don’t just mean all the things that sound irrelevant or even completely dull (long lists of people who “begat” other people, anyone?).  I mean that all we ever do is view it as some sort of how-to manual, as if we’re trying to fix the kitchen sink or learn to speak unnaturally formal French or put together a piece of cheap furniture.

There are some really wild stories in the Bible.  What’s in there rivals some of the greatest action films and puts love stories to shame.  Yet we read even those tales in terms of what we can get out of it.

This week, the devotion I follow has been using the text of 1 Kings 18.  If you’re not familiar with that story, I suggest you read it.  Here’s a convenient link.  This has to be one of the best Bible stories, hands down.  Evil king? Check.  Badass prophet of G-d? Check.  Showdown with a bunch of false prophets? Check.  Awesome power of G-d demonstrated? Yup, that too.  I mean, it does not get any better.  Seriously, I can just imagine the field day the special effects techs could have with this one in film version.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.  After Elijah completely makes fun of the Prophets of Baal, he tells them to call on Baal to ignite their altar.  Their method of summoning their god is to beat themselves and cut themselves in order to draw attention to themselves.  When I read the devotion on that Scripture, I was about six different kinds of horrified by the direction the writer took.

I mean, you’d think that there would be some mention of idolatry, maybe a comparison to the ways we hold up false gods today, such as money or power.  Maybe some parallel about the ways in which we try to draw attention to ourselves in our idolatry.  Heck, I could even have seen something about the ways in which we may be practicing subtle idolatry.  But, sadly, that’s not the way the devotion writer saw this text.

That particular day, the writer decided to take it in a very strange direction.  I think it may be the most bizarre literal use of Scripture I’ve ever seen.  The writer used this Scripture to berate teenagers who cut/self-harm.  Yeah, no kidding.

Instead of a fantastic story of G-d’s power, the false nature of idolatry, and the courage to stand up for what you believe in, this person chose to use Scripture to condemn and wound.  The writer clearly has no experience with actual teenagers (or, at least, teenagers with serious things in their lives).  He essentially left it that teens who cut are just attention-seeking.  That would have been bad enough, but there were several people who posted sickening replies to the devotion.  Among them were the parent who tried to “help” her son by using that Scripture to remind him of the sinful, selfish nature of his self-harm and the healthcare worker who apparently believes mental illness is a “cry for attention.”  It reminded me of a conversation I had with a fellow nursing student about 15 years ago.  She said she didn’t like working with kids who have eating disorders.  She said she wanted to go to them with a candy bar, shove it in their faces, and say, “Eat this!”  Wow, so much heartfelt empathy there.

The above is a classic example of finding Scriptures and making them conform to our beliefs.  It reduces the Bible to nothing more than a rulebook, wherein every story has a neat, snappy moral lesson and every human behavior has a corresponding Bible verse.  There is no love or compassion in showing a troubled, desperate adolescent a Scripture about idolatry and saying, “See this? G-d’s gonna strike you dead for your false way of getting His attention.”  There is no grace in crushing people’s spirits with condescending pseudo-understanding.

The whole thing came across as though the devotion writer didn’t actually read or study the story, didn’t try to understand the historical context, and didn’t even see the truly great things right before his eyes.  He was too wrapped up in his own “Aha!  This sounds like something I read on a Fundamentalist web site once!” moment to notice his superior tone.

We need to be very careful that our reading of Scripture doesn’t lead us away from extending grace, mercy, and compassion for others.

The Right Answer

Last night, sitting at the dinner table, my husband and I discovered that we both used to hate those stupid multiple choice questions on English Lit exams.  You know the kind I’m talking about, the ones that asked things like, “What is the major theme of this book?”  Then you have four or five options, at least three of which seem like they could apply.

The funny thing is, we disliked those questions for opposite reasons.  My husband is a big-picture thinker.  He doesn’t like to pin things down to just one way of looking at a situation or problem.  In his opinion, trying to find one single theme in a story is pointless, since different people would come to equally valid conclusions.  I hated those questions because I always thought that if there were a right answer, it ought to be obvious.  I want clear, precise direction, no ambiguity allowed.

I suppose that’s why I always liked math and science, even though I’m significantly better at language and communication.  Math has right answers.  If you add two and two, you get four.  It’s basic, simple, and numbers can be plugged into a formula.  There is no room for lying.  Even in exceptional cases, such as imaginary numbers, there is still a clear method for understanding how to work with them.  Science isn’t quite as black-and-white, but it’s close.  If we don’t actually know everything, there is at least the potential that everything is knowable.  New discoveries are made all the time, replacing old notions.  It’s comforting, somehow, to believe that somewhere out there, the Scientists are Finding Things Out.

Our discovery that our polar opposite personalities converge in this way came about while discussing (what else?) the Bible.  I had mentioned that when my Sunday school students played Jeopardy! in class, I had a hard time with one of the questions.  In theory, it should have been easy.  The kids were answering Bible trivia for 5-10-year-olds.  I know the Bible pretty well at this stage of my life.  As expected, most of the questions were simple, factual information about what’s actually written in the text., such as which Disciple denied Jesus.  The one that gave me trouble was, “What is the theme of Jonah?”

The answer my students gave, and which turned out to be correct, was “Listen to G-d.”  I suppose that’s true enough, at least in some sense.  I mean, who wants to get eaten by a fish?  At the same time, at least three other themes occurred to me: It’s never too late to repent; sometimes life isn’t fair and things don’t turn out as we expect; and G-d, not we, is in charge of the whole repentance/forgiveness department.  From other things people have written about Jonah, I gather that there are even more layers to the story than that.

As we played the game, I felt my annoyance level rising.  It was like being back in high school English class.  I never did well on those theme-related questions, because I invariably saw something different in the text from my teachers (and fellow students).  This often left me embarrassed.  I had the same sense of shame that my students could come up with a pat answer about Jonah, but I could not.  (Not that any of the other adults were aware of my predicament, as I managed to keep my mouth shut.)

This isn’t unusual for me at church.  I think there are multiple good answers, and sometimes none at all, to the question of themes within Scripture.  Unfortunately, too few people are interested in exploring more than a single right answer.  Sunday after Sunday, we’re drawn into the concrete world of “correct” interpretation.  But how can we possibly make sense of it all when branches of Christianity, denominations, and even individual churches disagree on the right meaning of Scripture?  How can we be certain that the important message of Jonah is that we must listen to G-d, when someone else says that it’s really a message of compassion for sinners?  And if, as I suspect, both are equally valid, then what do we do with that–how does it change how we live?

It can be so easy to just sit in the pews every week, waiting for the pastor to give us the answers.  I used to be like that.  Not that it didn’t affect my life during the week; I’ve never been a Sunday morning Christian.  But I used to believe that the pastor could supply the answers and I could then put them to work in my life.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that kind of faith to be flat and dull.  As much as I rebel against a big-picture, nebulous, abstract approach to the Bible, I know it makes more sense.  I can let go of the shame in finding alternate meanings, embracing it with my whole heart.  I can see the richness of the multiple themes in Jonah and rejoice that G-d has given us something so beautiful.

Where do you want to expand your views of the Bible?

Fear-Based Education

Although this isn’t making news beyond the evangelical sphere, I thought I’d share.  Please take a moment to read the article I’ve linked before you read the rest of this post.

First, in case you’ve never heard of the book in question (I had, but in a different context), you should know that this book is a) not the first of its kind; and b) not as scary as Baptist Press makes it sound.  It’s actually a pretty cute story, and it has a sequel in which the two kings add to their family.  However, all that is beside the point.

I happen to live in New York, where same-sex marriage is now legal.  It has been legal in Massachusetts for some time now.  (It’s also legal in Canada, the land where people seem to freak out a lot less about this stuff.)  The growing fear among conservative evangelicals is that our children will be “indoctrinated” to believe that same-sex unions are “normal.”

I have news for you: In New York, it now is normal, being legal and all.  I have more news: Right now, your children are in class with kids who have two mommies or two daddies.  I happen to personally know three such families, all of whom have children in the public school system.  It’s not going to happen, it already is.

For other kids, same-sex unions among family and friends are part of their reality.  My children have two aunts who love them very much, and a host of other GLBT folks in their lives.  For them, this is not strange.  Knowing real, flesh-and-blood humans creates an opportunity to talk with our kids (yes, even at ages 6 and 8 ) about these things.  And it has come up, not in class, but because they can read for themselves.  They read signs, see newspaper headlines in the store, and come across bumper stickers.  We have had to explain all sorts of things to our kids, and we always try to take a loving approach to the subject.

This whole thing is parallel to the brouhaha in California over the “gayification” of public education.  There is this fear that somehow, all the history books are suddenly going to turn everyone gay.  I’m not aware of campaigns to list the Founding Fathers as having had a wild orgy on the night they signed the Declaration of Independence.  All that is happening is that the contributions of gay Americans will have a place in the books (for example, Harvey Milk) and that important events in the history of the Gay Rights Movement will be included (such as the Stonewall riots).  Historical facts, people, not a lengthy course on Every Gay Person Who Ever Lived and How They Are More Awesome than You.

Public education is not conservative Christian education.  Nor should it be.  If you would like to teach your child those values, please feel free to do so—in your own home.  If your child’s teacher reads a book to which you object, please talk with your child about your family’s beliefs.  Or, better yet, send your child to private school or homeschool.  If those are not options, then revisit option 1.  But don’t expect the everyone to cater to your specific reading of the Bible in a public classroom.