The Tennessee legislature, which once earned fame for banning the teaching of evolution, is at it again. It has passed and sent to the governor a bill making the Bible the state’s official book.
Mind you, this is not about an establishment of religion. Back in 1925, when William Jennings Bryan defended Genesis’ account of creation at the Scopes trial in Dayton, the Bible was a science book. Now, according to the new bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steve Southerland (R-Morristown), “The Holy Bible is a history book.” And no doubt will be made part of the state’s public school history curriculum. Right.
In case you missed it, earlier this session the Tennessee legislature also voted to make the Barrett M82 the official state rifle. So it appears that Barack Obama had a good bead on the situation back in 2008 when he talked about what those small-town folks were clinging to. Actually, the entire quote looks pretty prescient today.
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Should anyone be surprised that Donald Trump won the Tennessee primary handily a month ago?
But I digress. At the moment I’m curious which particular Bible is considered to be Tennessee’s book. Some professors no doubt would identify the Hebrew Tanach and the Greek New Testament as most authentic, but to paraphrase the probably apocryphal remark made by Texas Gov. Ma Ferguson back in 1925 or so, “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it ought to be good enough for the children of Tennessee.”
Most likely the King James version is what Sen. Southerland and his fellow Solons have in mind. Wisely, however, they appear to have left it at just “the Bible,” which makes it like “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and the national motto. Whatever being is your God, whatever text is your Bible, you get to choose. Even in Tennessee.