Roy Exum: Don't Cheapen The Bible

Sunday, April 12, 2015 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

When I was growing up, a process I’ll admit is still lagging, I was taught “a Cadillac never squeals its tires.” I was also introduced the leanings of a man of class, Italian designer Giorgio Armani, who famously taught us, “Elegance is not about being noticed, it’s about being remembered.” 

So put me down as one who is opposed to the notion the Holy Bible should become the “official book” of the State of Tennessee. In the first place it already is, with Chattanooga and Knoxville swapping the honor back and forth as the city where the Bible is read the most in the United States. I don’t know how anyone can actually determine that, because in most instances it is a deeply personal and very spiritual habit in every state and nation where it is done with great regularity, but I guess that is what sells polls and those who create them. 

Just the same, our Tennessee state legislature is forging ahead with a bill that will make the Bible the official book of Tennessee. Other state legislatures, like Louisiana and Mississippi have tried and failed, tripping over the clumsy “church-versus-state” interpretations that bring such delightful squeals from lawyers who charge the ACLU and any defendants who want to fight in 15-minute increments. 

The ACLU isn’t what bothers me. I believe the Bible is bigger than being an “official book.” I believe it is “The Book” and for one state to adopt it and another not is bordering on the ridiculous. Who among us is going to vote against the Bible? This country was founded on it. Our laws are reflected by it. Our standards and our morals are centered by it. The Bible doesn’t need “to squeal its tires.” It’s the standard all over the world. 

Is it bigger in Tennessee than anywhere else? I don’t believe it is, not the way we act towards one another or what the news outlets confirm every day. I believe it is much larger in some African village or some hovel in Japan where all a person’s earthly belongings may not include a toothbrush but wouldn’t be without a well-worn, tattered Bible that is read and re-read every single day. 

Are you kidding me -- in Tennessee we don’t allow the Bible in our schools. You can’t display a cross in a classroom. We now have unisex bathrooms. Children are not just banned from reading the Bible, they are propagated instead with the most idiotic materials you ever saw. Our children no longer have memory work. They don’t memorize poems, much less Bible verses. 

I believe Tennessee, much like the rest of our nation, has gotten so far removed from the Bible and its Christian principles we’ll never get back to where we were, say, in the 1950s. Gary Player, one of the greatest athletes in our time, was interviewed on the Golf Channel this week as we celebrate the Masters tournament and the South African said when he first came to America in the 1950s, he couldn’t get over how kind everyone was, especially the children. 

“But that isn't the case today,” a deeply moved Michael McClure wrote in an email to me. “Gary Player said manners are not part of the fabric of our country.  He further stated that our country was built on faith, manners and hard work ... traits that are not part of (the United States) anymore. Children today, he said, don't have the manners that past generations had.” 

We know that’s the truth. Player, whose foundation has helped children the world over, including thousands in the United States, has a voice all of us should hear. Good manners matter. Where do you learn them? The Bible. 

Why is it I was staggered on Friday, when I was buying a refreshing Coca-Cola at a convenience store on East Brainerd Road, when I was struggling to get 23 more cents out of my pocket and a voice behind me said, “I got it,” handing the clerk a quarter. I turned around and there was a black guy, early 20s, with tattoos running down his neck from his chin. He looked like the gangsta thugs we see each week who are accused of murder in Chattanooga. But, no, he had warm eyes and a beautiful smile and said happily, “No, man, today it’s mine.” My Lord, I wanted to hug him. Don’t you see? He didn’t have to squeal his tires to earn, and deserve, a prominent spot in my morning prayers. 

Do you think maybe if we taught the Bible at Tyner Academy rather than try to honor it in the legislature we wouldn’t have had that shooing before school the other day, that two teenaged girls wouldn’t have gotten into a terrible “cat fight” at Brainerd, that the “worst of the worst” wouldn’t be marching in a long line to prison? We’ll never know because many of us now believe we’ve turned our backs on God’s Word. Why? It is far more important, according to our state legislature, to be politically correct. 

I cannot remember many of the poems I once memorized but I have not forgotten any of the Bible verses I was taught at home, in church, and – yes – in school. I have also long forgotten other things I was taught in the classroom, but the scenes from the Bible that are actually played out in real life today are stunning. 

Change the characters, the scenery, and the language, but the script stays the same. Know the story and you can alter the end. Be ignorant of the Bible’s wisdom and a dummy will walk into the trap every time. So help me that’s the truth. Not to get all preachy, but it is exactly like Psalm 19:8 tells us, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” 

Put me down as one who thinks the Bible is far too holy to be categorically listed with such state icons as the mocking bird, the firefly, the salamander, the river pearl, and the channel catfish.

God’s word doesn’t deserve to be ushered to the cheap seats. When the King James Version was introduced around 1600, it was entitled “The Holy Bible.” Back then “holy” meant “set apart” as well as “sacred, sanctified, hallowed.” That is far, far more than “the state book.” 

Cadillacs don’t squeal their tires, just as the Holy Bible is not just some book to be noticed, it is a life guide for the whole word to remember. Thank God I was taught that early, too. 

royexum@aol.com


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