I’m still catching up on the blogs and feeds from last week’s Children, Youth and A New Kind of Christianity conference in D.C. Looks like a great conference in general, but this particular tweet (now posted here) caught my eye:
Perhaps peacemaking means NOT telling violent Bible stories to children (Noah’s Ark, Red Sea crossing, etc.) (@carlgregg)
Bliss has a few different versions of Noah’s Ark floating around the house (ha. no pun intended) One, a beautifully illustrated one by Jan Brett, has zero mention of God. God doesn’t tell Noah to build the ark, God doesn’t send the rainbow. God just isn’t a character. This kind of annoyed me, until we got a new version of the story. In the version she got this week, the first page has cartoons of people looking sinister, and it said “God decided to destroy the whole world.” That version has moved on from our home already, as the parents sighed “Who thought Noah’s Ark was a good story for young children?”
Admittedly, my child is on the sensitive side. Everything beyond Sesame Street has scared her – including Angry Birds, Toy Story and Peter Pan, before they even get to Neverland. So, I’m not interested in feeding her imagination with stories of God’s devastating anger before her brain can catch up.
Beyond her particular nature though, is this question: why do we teach kids the violent, even scary Bible stories before they learn about God’s enduring love? Unfortunately, the flip side is that it will seem we were hiding the Truth and God’s mercy, love and compassion were an illusion, that the man behind the curtain is really the great and terrible one. Disillusionment – according to Tripp and Bonhoeffer – might be good, but I don’t think this is what they had in mind.
Most mainliners think of these stories as metaphor rather than direct history – which doesn’t necessarily serve us well when teaching them to children who are too young for metaphor. My child is old enough (well, mostly) to understand that hitting, biting, and pushing hurt people and hurting people makes them and us feel bad. I want church, faith, God to help children move beyond that basic level of morality to complexities of peace making, of seeking God, of building the reign of Christ.
I just don’t think starting out with violence is the way to go.