Alleged Public School Bible Class "Ten Commandments Fable" Raises Concern
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 11:47:43 AM EST
Today I received an email concerning a strange short story- which may have been satire but it was impossible to tell for sure -that, it was suggested, had been presented, in a history and literature of the Old Testament class, to South Carolina public school students. As the party who emailed it to me wrote, "Many of you will be glad to hear that religion is once again being taught in our public schools. Bible courses have been approved in Texas, Georgia, and other states of the union. But is the following material a proper writing assignment for a History and Literature of the Old Testament course in South Carolina? Wouldn't our young students be confused upon hearing this material  read aloud in class? Perhaps we should rethink the idea of teaching religion in these schools. All conservative Christians should printout and read this two-page short story and decide for themselves. The name of the author has been omitted. Students should be protected from harassment no matter the cause.". Inside is the story in question...
"Johan Lehrer, a very good man, was brought up in the 1920s in a modest little community in Southwest Germany where he attended a school which displayed a copy of the Ten Commandments on the classroom wall. As a youth, Johan, a very good boy, had, in his innocence, violated the 2nd Commandment prohibition against graven images by making a wood carving of God, depicting him as a wise looking bearded old man. He was later mortified when he found out that he had done such a terrible wrong. To make matters worse, Johan, a very good young man, later experimented with an eastern religion when he was in college, and in this process violated the 1st Commandment prohibition against putting other gods ahead of the most important god. Johan later realized his mistake, straightening his life out by returning to the God of his parents and of his country.

     In the 1930s, Johan became a teacher in that very room where the copy of the Ten Commandments was still posted on that same wall. He had vowed to live a very good and moral life. This was proving to be difficult, as there was bad behavior all around him, including the actions of his shrewish wife Hedda, who was becoming increasingly intolerant of some Germans, the ones who she felt lacked proper racial purity. In fact, during one of her verbal tirades against those she deemed tainted by blood, Johan, a very good man, suddenly blurted out, "Gottam dem! Hedda! Listen to yourself!" thus violating the 3rd Commandment prohibition against taking the Lord's name in vain.

     Again, Johan had commited another terrible wrong, and fell into some despair. Johan would have been even more exasperated with Hedda had he known she was conducting an illicit affair with the local SS commander, Heinz Fleischer, who also had attended school as a child in that classroom which had that copy of the Ten Commandments posted on the wall. It was this same Heinz, along with two other soldiers, who cornered Johan in his toolshed one fateful Sunday afternoon. This needs some explaining.

     Across the street from Johan, in a handsome dwelling, lived his neighbor Wilhelm. Despite himself, Johan, a very good man, wished he lived in such a fine structure as Wilhelm's, thus violating the 10th Commandment prohibition against coveting anything that is thy neighbor's. Wilhelm was a history professor at the local university, and was considered to be an intellectual. Some of his ideas, such as fair treatment for everyone, were controversial, and he was considered by many to be an enemy of the state.

     Wilhelm knew this put him in danger, so he had arranged for himself and his family to flee the country. Unfortunately, the logistics of their escape did not allow them to bring along their housekeeper, Marica, whose existence was also threatened. She was known as a "wanderer," a group of people who were becoming increasingly persecuted.

      Wilhelm had earlier told Johan of his plans to leave, and asked help in protecting Marica -- just for a few days -- until Wilhelm had time to arrange for her to also escape. Johan agreed, telling no one of this conversation except his parents, who he felt he could trust.

     After Wilhelm and his family had successfuly fled the country, Johan, without Hedda's knowledge, had hidden the lovely Marica in the toolshed behind his house, where he was only too happy to bring her food, water, and encouragement.

     So it was on a Sunday afternoon, three days after Wilhelm's departure, that Heinz and the two soldiers burst into Johan's toolshed to find Johan and Marica together. During the subsequent questioning, it became apparent to Johan that his own parents had turned him in. This caused Johan, a very good man, to curse his parents under his breath, thus violating the 5th Commandment admonishment to honor thy father and mother.

     Johan vainly tried to protect Marica by falsely claiming that she had refused the opportunity to leave because she loved her Fuhrer too much and couldn't bear to part from Germany. During this telling, Johan, a very good man, violated the 9th Commandment prohibition against bearing false witness aainst thy neighbor by sticking to a previously agreed upon story, portraying Wilhelm as an unpatriotic lout of little moral worth, and further denounce him as a man who had never loved his country.

    The situation was getting desperate. Johan wasn't overly concerned for himself, but Marica would surely be deported to one of the camps and perhaps cease to exist. Johan had been getting very attached to her. Catching one of his captors in an unguarded moment, Johan acted quickly and boldly, wrestling a rifle away from one of the unfortunate young Nazi wariors. During the ensuing commotion, he unavoidedly shot and killed the other soldier.

     Thus, Johan, a very good man, had, with one swift action, violated two more Commandments; the 4th by not keeping the sabbath day holy, and the 6th, which forbids killing. He then further contaminated the sabbath by sending Heinz sprawling from a well-place rifle butt smashed against the SS commander's jaw. Despite these unholy activities, Johan and Marica somehow managed to make an improbable escape.

    They made their way into the surrounding countryside, and, with great difficulity, were able to avoid being captured. Invariably, only a short time later, they fell in love. This caused Johan, a very good man, to violate the 7th Commandment, which prohibited adultery.

     Johan and Marica suffered through much hardship as they made their way south towards the Swiss border. At times, Johan, a very good man, was forced to steal food or warm clothing, thus violating the 8th Commandment prohibition against theft. This may have been wrong, but he had to take into consideration Marica's survival.

     Johan and Marica were spotted by an army patrol just before reaching the border. In the ensuing chase, Marica managed to escape to safety, but Johan was shot and seriously wounded only a few yards short of neutral territory. This was, perhaps, divine retribution for his moral failures, but, then again, it could be possible that he was just unlucky to have been at the wrong place at the wrong time. None of this really mattered to Johan at that point, because he was now lying helpless on his back in the wet snow,

     When the young Nazi approached, revolver in hand, Johan's eyes focused only on the soldier's belt buckle. It contained the last image Johan would ever see. A fierce eagle was embedded in the center, wings spread wide, grasping a Nazi swastika in the left talon. Semicircled just above, engraved in large letters, were these words: GOTT MIT UNS (God with us).

                            * * *

     Johan, a very good man, who violated every one of the Ten Commandments, is currently in hell, writhing in agony for every split second of eternity.

    Marica went on to live a long and productive life as a relief worker for the International Red Cross. Her afterlife is yet to be determined.

    Heinz, the former SS Commander, managed to escape to the United States. As a manufacturer of industrial chemicals, he was able to accumulate great wealth. He sent for Johan's troublesome widow, Hedda, and they lived a stormy, but profitable, life together.

    Unlike Johan, a very good man, they did not go to hell. They gave their lives to Jesus (at a Billy Graham rally) a scant two hours before both were killed in an automoble accident. They are now residing in heaven. Heinz is double-blessed by having led a wealthy life, and then afterwards having the privilege of spending an eternity with Hedda.

Display:'s just another of those stupid "urban legend" SPAM letters of the fundie variety. You can see scads of these at

by razajac on Mon Feb 18, 2008 at 02:40:25 AM EST
And I thought it was quite blackly funny but also instructional. Was it a hoax ? Was it true ?  Who wrote the story ? Does the answer even matter ?

I actually don't think the answer to either question has much bearing, if any, on the questions raised. The general point, above all, really illustrates how difficult it can be to teach about the Bible (and especially in a class devoted exclusively to the Bible) or any other religious text, for that matter,  in a non-sectarian manner. That point is rather relevant to the sort of issues Talk To Action addresses ; it was one of the central problems considered in Supreme Court decisions that led to the current Lemon Test.

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Feb 18, 2008 at 03:44:06 PM EST

WWW Talk To Action

Progressives Are Taking Up Religious Freedom Day
In the heat of our political moment, we sometimes don't see how our future connects deeply to our past. But the Christian Right does......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Freedom vs. Fear: Restricting Religious Liberty Isn't The Answer To Terrorism
Last week, a community meeting was held in Spotsylvania County, Va., to discuss plans by a group of Muslims who want to relocate and......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Christian Right Electoral Hegemony, Rising in the States
This is a revised, updated and retitled post I did on the long term trend of significant political progress of the Christian Right and......
By Frederick Clarkson (5 comments)
Who's Been Naughty, Who's Been Nice?: The AFA Explains It All For You
If you're like me, you've been sitting around anxiously awaiting the release of the American Family Association's "Naughty or Nice" list of retailers for......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
U.S. Department Of Judeo-Christian Values?: Kasich Proposes New Religious Propaganda Arm
According to some polls, the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination is Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who believes that ancient Egyptians built......
By Rob Boston (5 comments)
Scripture Stories: Religious Right Claims About The `Aitken Bible' Don't Hold Up
Tomorrow several conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives plan to hold a public reading of the Aitken Bible on the East Front......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
The Tallest Statue in the Nation of an Individual
Many a day I drove on I 45 past the statue of Sam Houston.  The monument to the statesman is the largest in the......
By wilkyjr (1 comment)
Honoring Everyone Who Served: A Veterans Day Reflection
In 1952, a private group sought permission from government officials to erect a large cross atop Mt. Soledad near San Diego. They did it......
By Rob Boston (5 comments)
One Million Maniacs?: AFA Attacks Magazine For Highlighting Family Headed By Same-Sex Couple
I have a daughter named Claire who is 21 years old and working her first job in journalism since graduating from college. I'm awfully......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
What Catholic Neo-Confederates Don't Want You To Know About Secession
During the summer of 2013 I wrote several posts about Catholic Neo-Confederates. My purpose was to explain the activities of libertarians such as Tom......
By Frank Cocozzelli (10 comments)
Sex And Common Sense: Texas Public School Reconsiders `Chastity' Speaker
A self-appointed expert on sex and relationships won't speak at an El Paso, Texas, high school - for now.Jason Evert runs an outfit called......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Two Trials that Impacted American Religion
Silent movie, Birth of a Nation, became the first blockbuster screen phenomena.  Civil Rights groups deplored the production and sought to ban it.  It......
By wilkyjr (3 comments)
The Francis Trajectory.
The recent dust-up over the meeting between Pope Francis and culture warrior Kim Davis has caused the Pontiff's stock to fall somewhat among liberals.......
By Frank Cocozzelli (11 comments)
Taking Care Of Business: Religious Right Group Plans `Religious Liberty' Ratings For Companies
My inbox this morning contained a press release from the American Family Association (AFA). The Tupelo, Miss.-based Religious Right group has exciting news: It......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Quest for Utopia
Surfing through old videos on youtube I found some interesting tapes of H. L. Hunt.  Certainly one of the original founders of the modern......
By wilkyjr (6 comments)

Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (2 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (1 comment)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (0 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (2 comments)
Evangelicals Seduced By Ayn Rand Worship Crypto-Satanism, Suggest Scholars
[update: also see my closely related stories, "Crypto-Cultists" and "Cranks": The Video Paul Ryan Hoped Would Go Away, and The Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand/Satanism Connection Made Simple] "I give people Ayn Rand with trappings" -......
Bruce Wilson (10 comments)
Ted Cruz Anointed By Pastor Who Says Jesus Opposed Minimum Wage, and Constitution Based on the Bible
In the video below, from a July 19-20th, 2013 pastor's rally at a Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, Tea Party potentate Ted Cruz is blessed by religious right leader David Barton, who claims......
Bruce Wilson (1 comment)
Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (2 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (2 comments)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (3 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (4 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (5 comments)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.