Have you ever spent an irrational amount of time pondering what your platform would be if you were First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS)? No, just me? I’ve always been interested in the causes our nation’s First Ladies have chosen to champion with their unparalleled influence.
Jackie Kennedy promoted the arts. Lady Bird Johnson focused on nature and highway beautification. Rosalynn Carter brought awareness to mental health issues. And who can forget Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign? Then, there was the unwavering commitment of both Barbara and Laura Bush to youth literacy. Michelle Obama tackled childhood obesity and Melania Trump is bringing attention to cyber bullying.
While I’m not likely to ever be First Lady of our country, I am First Lady over the home and people God has given me. I set the agenda, the tone and focus of our family and wield unparalleled influence over those God has placed in my care.
Every intentional First Lady (whether at the White House or any other house), sets a plan to reach a goal. Otherwise, competing, lesser priorities win the day – and years. Therefore, as First Lady of my people, I am announcing my platform: Biblical literacy.
Unlike the generations before us, we are living in a scripture-free environment and therefore we must be diligent and intentional about being biblically literate. It won’t happen by osmosis as it did in previous decades when scripture was laced into the vernacular of the day. Due to biblical illiteracy, many Americans, including Christians, have chaotic views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity and the Bible itself. Not my people. Not on my watch.
While almost nine out of ten households in the U.S. (87 percent) own a Bible, more than half of Americans have read little to none of the Bible (American Bible Society). Many homes own an average of three Bibles and technology has placed the Bible at our fingertips, and yet, we aren’t reading it.
Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put it bluntly: “Americans revere the Bible – but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” Biblical literacy in America has been studied and we are receiving a failing grade in most areas.
According to Biblical literacy research:
- Less than half of all adults can name the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
- According to 82 percent of Americans, “God helps those who help themselves,” is a Bible verse (it’s not).
- Many Christians cannot name more than two or three of the twelve disciples (Matthew 10:2-4).
- A Barna poll revealed that 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife (no words, just a stare).
- A survey of high school seniors revealed that more than 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife (nope, they were rebellious cities God destroyed because of their wickedness, Genesis 19:24).
- Eight percent of those surveyed say the Bible is bigoted (perhaps they never read Galatians 3:28 and its ground-breaking-for-the-time statement, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Or the story of the Good Samaritan with the contextual knowledge that Jesus shared that parable specifically to counter the prejudice of the day and show that “loving your neighbor” means even the person of the ethnicity that has been discounted. Or God sending Jonah to Nineveh. I’ll stop there, but this could be its own post.).
- A significant number of those polled believe that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham (close, it was Jesus 2000 years before Billy Graham was born, Matthew 5-7).
Biblical literacy is not merely a fact-finding mission to win the Bible trivia prize. The Bible is the best-selling book of all-time (reason enough to study it), but it’s also the backdrop against which all current events play out. In previous generations, most people had a working knowledge of the Bible, even if they didn’t characterize themselves as religious. Since Biblical literacy is eroding at a staggering rate, our kids will be at an intellectual disadvantage as they try to live in a world they don’t understand.
G. Shane Morris writing for Breakpoint.com said, “Between the fourth and twentieth centuries, basically no movement, reform, revival, conflict, work or art, symphony, or solitary piece of literature in the West came about independent of this grand dialogue with biblical faith. To appropriate a phrase from Flannery O’Connor, Western civilization is ‘Christ-haunted,’ for good or ill. If you don’t understand the Bible, you can’t understand the West.”
The Bible is tightly woven into the fabric of our country, but more importantly, it’s written on the tablet of the human heart. Understanding art, great literature and our country’s founding documents are certainly reason enough to want to be biblically literate. But of even more significance, the Bible tells us what it means to be human. It tells us that God created us in His own image and we walk this Earth as His image bearers. Oh, and that He loves us. He loves us more than we can comprehend.
Given my position of influence in my family, I simply cannot allow my children leave our home without at least a working knowledge of the Bible. Our culture is ready for them with its own message, and I want my children to be prepared, not swallowed up by the focus du jour.
My fellow First Ladies, set your intention for the land and people you’ve been given. Spend time pondering your platform and what you want your children to take from their time with you. Just like the First Ladies of the White House, we too have term limits. Use the term you have been elected to serve to make a difference for your family and future generations.
Dear Lord, please open up Your Word to my children to see all that You reveal. May they be BOWLED OVER at your goodness. I pray they would be stopped in their tracks every time they come across the word “lovingkindness” as it is a description used only for You.
Lord, excite them when the confusion of You calling Yourself “I Am” becomes not only clear, but the only thing that makes perfect sense. Lord, may my children be comforted by the Psalms and receive wisdom from Proverbs all of their days.
Lord, I pray they see that Jesus didn’t just arrive at a manger, but that He was always with You and always Your plan. Please show them your immeasurable, exceeding abundance.
May my children love John 17 as much (or even more) than I do. Lord, I pray their ears would be tuned to hear Your trumpets should You not tarry. I pray that they would see the Bible as more than piecemeal scriptures and instead, the greatest love story ever written – and written to them.