COMMUNITARIANS AND OTHERS CONNECTED TO THE BLP
Dennis L. Cuddy, Ph.D.
About half of the original advisory board of the Bible Literacy Project (BLP) are self-proclaimed communitarians. Communitarians believe individuals' needs and rights should be de-emphasized or balanced against the interests of the community or society as a whole.
Since any effort to include a broad range of Biblical perspectives on the BLP's advisory board would not result in half of the perspectives being, for example, Presbyterian, it is only logical that half of the BLP's board being communitarians isn't by accident either. Moreover, communitarian advisory board members Jean Bethke Elshtain and Mary Ann Glendon along with communitarian board of directors member David Blankenhorn all signed "The Responsive Communitarian Platform," which states: "There is little sense in gun registration. What we need to significantly enhance public safety is domestic disarmament....We join with those who read the Second Amendment the way it was written, as a communitarian clause calling for community militias, not individual gun slingers." In other words, these communitarians believe that you as an individual have no Second Amendment right to have a firearm!
Another communitarian on the BLP's advisory board is Marc Gellman. And in his June 29, 2005, NEWSWEEK column about the upcoming July 4 celebration, he said "let us celebrate not the documents (e.g., Declaration of Independence) of our freedom," but rather "It is the communitarian decision of freedom I will celebrate this weekend."
Of course, Americans decided to want freedom before writing documents proclaiming it. However, Gellman's reference to this decision as "communitarian" misrepresents the fact that Americans' decisions were made as independent "individuals." A document such as the Declaration of Independence proclaims that "individuals" are given their rights by a Creator God. And the U.S. Constitution proclaims our rights as "individuals" to have freedom of religion, speech, etc., and the rights of privacy, property, etc. These freedoms and rights are not communitarian "group" rights typical of socialist or communist countries.
Now, you might say that just because these BLP board members are communitarians, that does not mean what the BLP and its textbook, THE BIBLE AND ITS INFLUENCE, teach contains any communitarian perspective. But a closer look shows that on page 70 of the Teacher's Edition of the BLP textbook, Michael Walzer's EXODUS AND REVOLUTION is said to "provide a good summary" of a particular lesson. Who is Walzer? According to wikipedia, "Walzer is usually identified as one of the leading proponents of the 'Communitarian' position in political theory." And in Bernard Avishai's book review (THE NATION, April 1985) of Walzer's EXODUS AND REVOLUTION, he noted that Walzer said the Biblical account of the flight from Egypt "inspired such defenders of Lenin as Lincoln Steffens." Moreover, Steffens' 1926 defense of Leninism called "Moses in Red" is referenced on page 65 of the BLP's textbook! Why does the BLP want to include anything connecting a defense of Leninism and Exodus in THE HOLY BIBLE?
But the problem isn't just with the communitarian philosophy on the BLP boards, but rather why does the BLP choose the people it does include as contributors to its project? For example, Robert Alter is identified as a contributor and endorser. And in John Updike's review of Alter's THE FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES in THE NEW YORKER (November 1, 2004), Updike points out that Alter believes the King James version of THE HOLY BIBLE has "a shaky sense of Hebrew." The King James version of Genesis says "And the earth was without form, and void," but Alter's version says "the earth was then welter and waste." The King James version states "Let my people go," but Alter says "Send off my people." And Updike also relates that regarding Moses' followers being urged to destroy opposing nations "Under the ban," Alter wrote: "There is, thankfully, no archeological evidence that this program of annihilation was ever implemented."
In case you think Updike is isolated in his remarks about Alter, Robert Fulford in THE NATIONAL POST (June 6, 2000) recounts a lecture Alter gave in Toronto. Fulford wrote regarding Alter's lecture that Alter "is not a believer in any traditional sense" in the Hebrew Bible. Someone asked Alter if a certain action was truly inspired by God, and Alter said that was a matter of personal belief. Fulford also wrote: "David, a shepherd boy with a talent for music and poetry, turns himself into (as Alter puts it) the first Machiavellian prince in literature." And Fulford explained that "Alter considers the Goliath story an inserted piece of folklore."
Finally, I would suggest that the BLP read John 8:32, which proclaims: "The truth shall make you free." In several previous articles, I have identified specific errors contained in the BLP's textbook, THE BIBLE AND ITS INFLUENCE. However, if one looks at the BLP's website, one will see under "Correcting misconceptions" that the BLP still claims there are "no" errors in its textbook's first edition. If the BLP does not start obeying the teachings of THE HOLY BIBLE and tell the "truth" about its errors, I would suggest all those school districts using the BLP's textbook "free" themselves from it!
© 2007 Dennis Cuddy - All Rights Reserved
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Dennis Laurence Cuddy, historian and political analyst, received a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (major in American History, minor in political science). Dr. Cuddy has taught at the university level, has been a political and economic risk analyst for an international consulting firm, and has been a Senior Associate with the U.S. Department of Education.
Cuddy has also testified before members of Congress on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice. Dr. Cuddy has authored or edited twenty books and booklets, and has written hundreds of articles appearing in newspapers around the nation, including The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He has been a guest on numerous radio talk shows in various parts of the country, such as ABC Radio in New York City, and he has also been a guest on the national television programs USA Today and CBS's Nightwatch.
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