Thursday, September 10, 2009

Forgetting Who You Are?

Pastor's Zip's web browser opens to Google News and he'll read the headlines there. In the last day or so, one of the headlines was about a ruling in another part of the nation declaring that Bibles could not be given away on a public school campus. Naturally, I can't find that headline today (so maybe I imagined it?), but the search raised up controversial new law in Texas requiring that "Bible literacy" be incorporated in school curricula.

The controversy neglects discussion of something that, to my way of thinking, is more than a mere historical tidbit. Namely, that public schools were started in these United States for the purpose of teaching children how to read the Bible. Not simply to read, but read the Bible.

Meanwhile, in my car stereo I'm giving my first listen to the Verve CD re-issue of the classic Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Song Book album, which I acquired earlier this summer for practically nothing while trying to burn up my accumulated points with the now-closed BMG Music Club. (Oh, am I enjoying riding in Sebastian -- yes, my 2002 Golf TDI has a name -- right now!) It would be hard to say what Irving Berlin's most popular song is, but it would be hard to top "White Christmas" and "God Bless America."

The latter song is sometimes looked at curiously, for while his father had been a cantor in a Jewish synagogue, Irving Berlin himself was not a particularly religious man. He was, in fact, another immigrant product of New York's public schools (albeit only to the age of 8) and streets (where he hawked newspapers and, later as a teen, even lived). One of hundreds of thousands. Berlin's lyrics reflect the language and thinking of the "average American" of his era, which was the first two-thirds of the 20th century.

And so, listening to Ella sing (with Paul Weston's marvelous orchestra), the seventh cut begins, "Get Thee Behind Me, Satan." A song I'd never heard before. And an Irving Berlin lyric that makes no sense at all apart from a Biblically literate society.

No comments: