Ripping into the Bible
Ardiente, Maggie, The Humanist
ON THE MORNING of December 7, 2007, Christopher Campbell walked into his English Honors class at Parker High School, prepared to tear out pages of the Bible.
Earlier that week his teacher had taped aphorisms by Ralph Waldo Emerson on the blackboard. Students were to select an aphorism of their choice, explain what they thought Emerson's words meant, and relate it to a personal experience, accompanied with a visual aid.
Campbell picked, "So far as a man thinks, he is free," and spent the next few nights composing a rough draft in preparation for his speech.
On the day of his presentation, Campbell stood up in front of the class and said:
What Ralph Waldo Emerson meant when he said, "So far as a man thinks, he is free," was that our only freedom, what we call our "free will" is our ability to think. This particular saying is likened to me because I no longer rely on such things as faith and feeling as sources of knowledge. We must all grow up and lose our faith in the Easter Bunny, Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and eventually Jesus, because such things are fairy tales and while maybe appropriate for children, they cease to be rational when one reaches a certain age. Things like faith, mysticism, and feeling restrict one from productive, rational thought, and if we are not thinking, we are not free. Our only means of acquiring knowledge should be through rationale and logic. Ayn Rand personifies her vision of man's existence in her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. Rand says that the pursuit of our own happiness should be our goal in life and that morality does not come from others. The Bible says the poor man is rich for his kindness and humility toward mankind, and his rewards shall be great in the kingdom of heaven. Right. And I'm the King of England. The Bible is not rational to me, so why would I want to waste my life studying it, trying to seek some "moral enlightenment" from its pages? Now what I'm about to do next, some of your tiny little brains might not be able to comprehend, so viewer discretion is advised.
Campbell then lifted a copy of the Bible in his hand as he spoke:
This book has halted the intellectual advancement of humankind for centuries. But now I am free from its grasp, so I am free to do this. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word became kindling. (At this point, Campbell starts to tear the pages.) This book is not holy. It was written by a bunch of old, smelly Mesopotamians with sand in their [expletive]. Now, will anyone come up here with me to testify, and kick Jesus out of your heart? (No response from the students.) Well, I guess I'm surrounded by a bunch of superstitious, simple-minded ignoramuses.
Campbell sat down. Only three students clapped. The teacher gave him a B.
"My tearing of the Bible was symbolism for breaking out of the barrier of mysticism. It personified my stance as a thinking, rational human being. I see it as anyone who reads the Bible as a factual document of history is not really thinking," Campbell said in an email interview with the Humanist. For privacy reasons, Campbell had previously declined interviews with local newspapers.
But what began as a simple demonstration of free will resulted in a school-wide controversy. Word quickly spread throughout Parker about the incident. Barbara Dougal, an assistant principal, brought him to her office later that day and told him several students had voiced concerns about his presentation, and that appropriate discipline needed to be taken.
He was taken to in-school suspension and then sent home. A meeting with his parents was scheduled. The assistant principal, a police officer assigned to the high school and a social services worker attended, Campbell says, and he was barraged with questions unrelated to the actual incident: What do you do when you get angry? …