Having discussed the need to read the Bible, period, lets move on to some ways this book has influenced our society in America. Part of what many people decry as “Westernization” is really the outward signs of a Biblical society. The influence of a book is often considered a sign of its inherent value, and most classics claim their status under said auspices. So, a brief overview…
* The “American way”, is based on a Biblical worldview that includes the Ten Commandments, at least in the most fundamental of senses. Cannibalism, acceptable on most Pacific islands, is wrong. Killing one’s wife (legal in Saudi Arabia) is wrong. Stealing (the way of life for the millions of Chinese who produce most of the world’s pirated goods) is wrong. Even the right to private property is implied in the forbidding of covetousness (one’s neighbor’s donkey being included in the list).
* Our holidays are based on Christian precepts and events. If not directly from the Bible, they all trace back to someone or something that is Biblically based (some more obscured than others). Valentines Day, for instance, is in honor of a Christian pastor, Valentine, of Rome. The emperor Claudius had ordered a moratorium on marriages in hopes of bulking up his army; Valentine continued to marry couples and went to jail (and later beheaded). For protecting the sacredness of the marriage union as something God designed (and, through Paul’s letters, commands lustful men to do!), Valentine was later deemed a Saint, and his day still celebrates love and marriage.
* The concept of consumer rights has its roots in the Bible. The Old Testament exposits severe penalties on builders whose work did not stand up; replacing the house, payment of money, even the death penalty…all invoked depending on the circumstance and level of shoddy workmanship.
* Most culture wars are over social norms that originate in the Bible. Interestingly, the party fighting the war is usually in the minority. To take a very small example, pornography; its illegal, and the few people fight for its legalization. But who decided that viewing images which cause lust is wrong? Pornography was illegal long before the internet made it so easy to access, or before we had studies showing how influential it is in starting a criminal career. God, who can see into men’s minds and hearts, obviously knew what He was talking about when lust was called out as wrong in the Bible. Actually, if anyone knows of a culture war that ISN’T related to the Bible, I’d like to hear about it.
* The present election process is, in a way, related to the question of the Bible’s influence in society. Is it normal to elect someone who believes in the Bible (along with a good 40% of the electorate)? Obama and Clinton both claim to be church-going Christians; on the Republican side, Huckabee was a Baptist preacher. Just an interesting thought as you watch the parties this year; we’ve never had a president who didn’t at least claim to be a follower of the Bible and its teachings.
America isn’t a Christian nation, but our most basic social structures were founded on Biblical principles and precepts (not, as is popularly taught in universities today, Grecian ideals), and understanding the Bible is crucial to understanding the culture of our world today. On the front of social influence, the Bible outpaces all other classics. There are many more points on the cultural influence of the Bible than listed in this review, so if I missed anyone’s favorite example, please bring it up in the commentary section (lets see how many we can come up with).