Initially I wish to touch on the climate of religion in Australia. I am French, and I lived in Australia some years ago and have been back here now for twelve months. It seems to me that Australia's approach to the presence of religion is very different to the French. In Australia, religion is inclusive of the society, it's presented in a modernised format and forgiveness is proclaimed and one feels safe in it.
Moreover, Christianity in Australia is inclusive within the educational system. On the Gold Coast where I live, over 20% of the population attends a Church of some kind. In my media, Christian radio, 60% of our audience is disconnected with a Church.
Australian churches are part of and embrace the community spirit. They implanted themselves in day-to-day realities – after all the church is made up of people like us. Where people are in need, Christians become a beacon. Whether it is a spiritual gap that needs to be filled, or an emotional one, Christians are deeply implanted in the Gold Coast community.
They are taking His word out of the Book and using it to make each and every community a place of refuge and praise. Using the awesome beauty in the Scripture, it brings every individual beauty and purpose: a helpful hand, in the name of God's love.
Therefore, state school scripture classes (religious and private schools do their own thing) are supported and financed by Churches and the Scripture classes are usually delivered by members of a Christian congregation. The message delivered during Scripture is very much reflecting that Church's mission statement: things like inclusiveness, mercy, forgiveness and love.
The state school Scripture program is left to the teacher; though, teaching aids are available. They usually focus on the most commonly known stories in the Bible, Old and New Testament. Verses are read and studied. The Spiritual aspect of the lesson not only emphasises the first commandment Jesus gave but also delivers a glimpse of the comfort religion could provide in everyone's life.
What is it to be loved by God? What is Faith? What does it mean to be part of His kingdom?
As to Christian Education Publications, the lesson brings out either a positive message about God's love, or a biblical episode explaining How God touches our lives. In these elements of the Scripture, we find ethics, life style recommendations and the historical reasons for their instruction.
Bible verses are explained, a challenge is posed in how it relates to the here and now, in our everyday life.
I believe it is important we keep studying it in our state schools. When teaching our students about the Bible, we encourage them to be curious about their culture. If we can justify this knowledge in our classroom, we won't have the system questioning its purpose. Getting the students passionate about the incredibly positive and rewarding knowledge the Scripture holds, seems to me to be a key to restore the purpose of this subject.
Yes, in the education system I'm aware of, the Scripture class is voluntary and I pray every week every student can attend. But having recognised this, I believe there is a need for Scripture in the classroom. Some children are living in an environment when sometimes the Scripture class is the only place where they are taught how much they are being loved. And the Lord's love is unconditional.
Again I realise Scripture is not the only place where they are encouraged to share inner feelings, but it is certainly one place where I trust they can feel safe in doing so. It is an opportunity to say what they think and realise their unique point of views. Sometimes, the student's household environment is so very far away from God's love (and we realise those students are often the ones who choose not to attend Scripture class, or their parents withdraw them). The Scripture class allows the state school student to be reminded of His plan. "His love for us is wonderful, his faithfulness never ends." Psalm 117 : 2a (CEV)
I started with a Year 1 and 2 Scripture class as an assistant to a Scripture teacher. I never had this opportunity when I was young. As a French woman I was brought up in a Republican atheist home. There was no Scripture in French schools. I always felt something was missing.
I opened the Bible for the first time in my life while at University for a Comment assignment. I found such beauty that I took extra classes in Latin to try to get closer to the essence of the Scriptures. I am now a Christian, a follower of Jesus.
In my view the benefit of Scripture in State schools is that it opens their hearts and minds to a beautiful piece of artistic literature which may speak to their inner being in a way that no-one or nothing else can.