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2006.07.13

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Thomas J. Wilson

Well. . .and here is why I get myself in trouble and would NOT fit in at a church. . .

Maybe the problem is not that we tell the stories as fairy stories. .maybe that is how they work BEST.

When you look at the concept of myth. . .or the purpose of a fairy story (and here is something that authors like Robert Bly and Joseph Campbell speak to FAR more authoritatively and eloquently than I ever will) what youa re seeing is a story that teaches a TRUTH. . .a moral or ethical truth, but is not necessarily something that is intended to be taken as historical or literal truth. If one looks at the Bible in that light, a collection of myths, fables, fairy stories, etc. . .what you have is a collection of stories that STILL teach about the nature of God. . .that STILL examine the nature of the human experience, but that one can understand that certain details of the story are culturally relelvant.

For example. . .If one looks at the story of David and Goliath, or Joshua and Jericho from a mythological standpoint, you have these wonderful stories of God helping the underdog. . .of God keeping his promises, of the value of obedience even though we don;t understand the reason why. . etc etc.

If you try to examine those same stories from a literal/historical standpoint, you have many much more difficult questions: Why did God command Jonah to commit Genocide? How fair was it to take the land from the canaanites when it was the fault of the sons of Israel that they had to leave the "promised land" in the first place? Why were the Israelites at war with the Philistines? Did David Kill Goliath with the sling stone, or did he kill him when he beheaded him? Why the differences in the stories? If he was already dead, then why behead him? etc etc.

My point is this. . .if a reader attempts to definitively prove that the events and information and details of the bible are literally and historically correct and accurate. . .then to examine the bible in that way s to stand on question after question after question.

If, rather, we approach the Bible as a collection of myths. . stories which may or may not be rooted in historical fact, but that teach an overarching truth, then these details become merely different interpretations of the myths.

Do not underestimate the power of myth, fairy stories, and metaphor. many of them have been around alot longer than the bible, and even longer than written language.

duane

Thomas, I don't think your questions are the kind that churches should be afraid to answer...unfortunately, all too often, they are. I think it's a valid discussion and one that needs attention from Christians.

However, for the purposes of our discussion here, we might not want to open that can of worms (or bag of cats, as my South American professor says!). The question at hand is: for those who DO believe that the Bible is historical fact how do we present it to children? The crusades are part of history, but no elementary school curriculum in the universe would have a unit on the crusades. But in Sunday school kids jump right in to that kind of stuff.

I think your questions about scripture reflect the complex nature of history--which, incidentally, is part of the reason I think the OT stories are more historical than mythological (fairy tales are never as complex and messy as the OT)--and it is that complexity that makes me wonder how to present it to children appropriately and faithfully. Good stuff.

Thomas J. Wilson

Gotcha. . .and from that perspective, I think that I would agree that the stories of Jesus are MUCH more appropriate for the G-rated audience. . .up until the passion of the Christ sort of stuff.

Yeah, I think to focus on the good works of Jesus, using him as an example of kindness, love, and community. I think from that approach you can't go wrong. The OT has it's highlights, but there is, asyou point out, a much seeedier side of the OT than there iin the Gospels.

I think that it is also good to note that the early Christians frequently only had the oral tradition about the life of Jesus. They handed these stories down form generation to generation. I would encourage you to tell them what is important to YOU. Tell them the stories that are poingiant to you and Elisa. . .the stories that help you to live your lives with meaning.

barry

barry writes:

Man, it seems like every time I write you these days I'm taking the role of cranky old peepee. Ah, but friends don't let friends think sloppy.

> Why does the spiritual training of young children always start with Old
> Testament Bible stories? I know the "right" answers.

The best of which is, "it doesn't." Quick -- sing some songs from kids' Sunday school or vbs: "Jesus Loves the Little Children," "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know," "Zacchaeus." Of course, one only speaks from one's experience (though one doesn't have to -- more on that later), but my religious education was filled with New Testament stuff: the feeding of the 5000, the prodigal son, the nativity, blind Bartimaeus, on and on.

> But is that really what is best for kids? The stories in the Old Testament
> are filled with confusing and terrifying truths that are too complex for
> children to grasp.

To the contrary: they're too complex for the children's parents' radar. The kids get it pretty well. Have you ever read "The Uses of Enchantment," by Bruno Bettelheim? Seminal work. I can't recommend it more strongly, precisely because it hits on some of the issues you mention here. The old stories, Biblical or not, are far more fearless than modern kid-safe parents want. And the messages to children are absolutely golden: evil is real; it can be faced; you are outmatched; stand firm and steadfast, and supernatural forces will be by your side.

> For example, Noah filled a boat with animals (yay!--kids love that)
> because God decided to kill every person on the earth besides
> Noah's family (we gloss over that part).

Who's "we?" Certainly I remember being told the Noah story and the whole kicker of it was that God was angry and saddened by the whole race of men and decided to wipe them out and start over, beginning with Noah the righteous and his family. That was the whole deal. (To be fair, we didn't cover the drunk-and-naked part.) That's what makes the rainbow promise stick in the child's mind -- it's a promise that God won't do the same thing again.

> God saved Daniel from the lion's den (yay--animals again!)

Oratory alert! Are you really saying the intended response to this story is delight at the cuddly lions? Which Sunday school were you in, exactly?
But again, not everyone's religious upbringing glossed over these things.

> I am merely questioning the prominence of Old Testament
> stories in our early childhood Christian education methods

Astonishing! Old Testament stories are the *only* things that Jesus and the disciples heard as kids. Surely such foundational tales are suitable for our own. At the very least, they are, even now, at the heart of our culture.

> First, as alluded to in my title, treating Bible stories in the same
> manner as fairy tales (as vehicles for moral lessons) can be
> misleading as kids get older. We eventually expect them to
> understand that the brothers Grimm wrote fictitious stories
> to teach moral lessons, but the Bible is true history upon
> which we base our faith.

Interestingly, by the way, C. S. Lewis didn't accept Christ until Tolkien convinced him that Christianity *was* a myth.

> one could argue that Jesus should be central and primary in our
> faith-orientation as children. But it seems that we are more likely
> to find Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, or David in a
> Sunday school lesson.

Hm. I'd like to see the numbers on that. As I mentioned, that's not my experience at all. Perhaps that reflects the overall pattern, but I'm not prepared to buy even that. Numbers, please.

The reason I say that is that confirmation bias works even better with memories than it does with facts, and it works pretty adeptly with facts. I fear that we are trained early and well in the art of attacking not our foes but our most convenient cartoons of them. It's all around us; it's unavoidable in 20th/21st-century America. It seems that often in your pensees about church you might be answering a church that doesn't quite fit the actual experience that many of us know.

All of which is, in turn, *my* impression. I'll make inquiries about the Sunday-school curriculum at TBC over the past year, and see what the facts show. What an interesting project! And of course it doesn't speak at all to your thoughts about massaging the stories so that they have a nice moral and skip over at least some of the goriest and unpleasantest stuff. Point taken. But after all, when do we teach kids about the Holocaust in any detail? (And how would it be if, at the age of seven, one encountered one's first impressions of knowledge about the Holocaust with Habakkuk under one's belt? Surely that's how Cotton Mather would have had it!)

> One last thought to consider might be the most heretical.

Bravery alert! Again with being an old peepee, but people of our bent, independent thinkers, creatives, and especially emergent sympathizers, need to be vigilant against romanticizing ourselves.

> I wonder about the theological complications that arise later in
> life from Old Testament stories (tweaked for children) that all
> seem to say "God will protect you" or "God will save you." ...
> Later in life, when it becomes apparent that
> God does NOT save you from every lion's den or help you slay
> every giant, one must make a choice: stick with your faith and
> figure out why this apparent inconsistency is ok, or leave your
> faith behind, rejecting it as false and fantastical.

But the third option is to, as most of us do, grow in the faith. Just as the earliest impressions of one's parents -- constant providers, authoritative in every way, centered on oneself, filling every conceivable need -- get severely revised as one grows older, one's impressions of God and the way he deals with humans must be revised as well.

Some don't navigate that territory well, on either count. Only the briefest glance through the lyrics of Sting, for instance, reveals a disillusionment about religion that must have its basis in some deep illusion, for we are only as disillusioned as we were illusioned to begin with.

So we do have a responsibility as parents, as our kids go through Erikson's and Piaget's stages, to bring their minds and their faiths along with their bodies -- to take them from the very necessary do-as-I-say stage to the what-do-you-think-about-it stage, from the Jesus-loves-me-this-I-know stage to the Lamentations-is-there-for-a-reason stage.

My own parents were wonderful about all that. The older I get, the more I see it. When I was 20, my dad handed me the keys after a party, saying he'd had too much to drink and could I drive. They've come to us for advice on various things in recent years. How empowering and wise, and probably very difficult! They were similarly understanding with our various faith journeys: Paul's into a Tillichian liberalism, Rich's into a balanced conservatism, mine into whatever you call it where I am now.

> Maybe I'm thinking too much (and I'm sure there are some of you
> who think I am).

But if you're thinking about God, and your thinking doesn't lead you to your knees, then you're thinking too little!

(Can you believe it's been a decade since that line was first spoken?)

> OT stories are more historical than mythological (fairy tales
> are never as complex and messy as the OT)

... so I take it you've never read the original Brothers Grimm? Hair-raising!

duane

I guess I should clarify something...my oldest child is 4. That's a lot different than 7 or 8, and makes a huge difference in when and how I want to introduce certain concepts and images. For example, the other day I read a version of Jack and the Beanstalk to Cason out of "Stinky Cheese Man." She had never seen a picture of a giant or heard about one. But now, she asks nightly in fear if there are any giants in the house, or if they could get in. So, this image from a somewhat innocuous and silly version of Jack and the Beanstalk has introduced yet another thing for her to fear. Obviously, I realize that children MUST learn to deal with these emotions of fear, and learn to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and Elisa and I work very hard to help her do just that. But when we tell her God loves her, that is not fantasy. When we tell her that God made it rain for 40 days to kill everyone in the world because they were evil, that is not fantasy. So, should we tell the story? Should we "re-package" the story? Should we wait until she is 6 or 7 or 8? That is the heart of my inquiry, and, as usual, Barry brings a lot of my inconsistencies to light.

My Central questions:
1) When is it appropriate to begin teaching scary and difficult concepts to children.
2) Rabbi Kushner's classic question, "why do bad things happen to good people?" comes later in life, but I want to do my best to equip my children to answer it when they become adults.

My comments on your comments:

>>my religious education was filled with New
>>Testament stuff

My religious education was filled with New Testament stuff, too. Don't over-generalize my generalizations. I was addressing the apparent "prominence" of Old Testament stuff. Pick up any children's story Bible and you'll find more OT than NT. But, admittedly, I can't speak for every church everywhere.

>>And the messages to children are absolutely
>>golden: evil is real; it can be faced; you
>>are outmatched; stand firm and steadfast,
>>and supernatural forces will be by your
>>side.

This is part of my problem, because it is not always true. Bad things happen to good people. The reason we stand firm against evil is because it is the right thing to do, even if we don't get rescued. A 4-year-old can't comprehend that. A 7-year-old might be able to. Honest question: do churches/teachers really address that truthfully? If so, at what age?

>>I remember being told the Noah story and
>>the whole kicker of it was that God was
>>angry and saddened by the whole race of men
>>and decided to wipe them out and start
>>over, beginning with Noah the righteous and
>>his family.

Good point, perhaps. But are you seriously saying that the church has NOT done to these stories what Disney did to Grimm's? Perhaps not quite, but at some level you must admit that modern-day American middle-class suburban parents are much more sensitive to issues of violence, evil, or just "being mean," and a lot of this filters into Sunday school lessons. My questions are: 1) If I tell the stories authentically, do I want my children to be afraid of God like the giant or the big bad wolf? and 2) if I "repackage" them, what happens when the kids (or adults) finally realize that they weren't told the "whole story?"

>>Astonishing! Old Testament stories are the
>>*only* things that Jesus and the disciples
>>heard as kids.

Raising Christian children is a bit different than raising Jewish ones. What I mean to say is that the NT paints a slightly different picture of God than does the OT. (Admittedly, we (Christians) may have over-emphasized the "Jesus is your friend" idea coupled with "God loves you." Perhaps we need a bit more "stay in line or God might smite you" kind of fear.) You HAVE to admit that the Old Testament stories at the very least paint a contrasting picture to the grace of Jesus in the NT...if that weren't the case, we wouldn't have needed the grace of God in Jesus. No matter what, the Christian scriptures must be seen as a whole, and as I was taught in my "seminary education," the OT must be read in light of the NT. If that's the case, we need to understand the NT first. Right?

>>I'll make inquiries about the Sunday-school
>>curriculum at TBC over the past year, and
>>see what the facts show.

If you do this, check specifically the preschool curricula, as this is my primary issue right now. As I mentioned, a 7-year-old is much better able to understand issues of death, good & evil, etc., and therefore I don't have a problem with discussing these issues in the context of OT stories. But what is the essential foundation for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds in Christian education?

>>But after all, when do we teach kids about
>>the Holocaust in any detail?

Exactly. Surely God wiping out humanity (Noah's ark) is more difficult to understand than the "man-created" Holocaust. Perhaps what makes the Holocaust so difficult, though, is the idea that God ALLOWED it to happen in the first place. Again, think like a parent of a 4-year-old, and address these questions again.

>>But the third option is to, as most of us
>>do, grow in the faith.

That is what I meant by the first option. As kids grow, they travel through various stages of understanding, and we must help them address their faith on the appropriate level. On the one hand, I think we underestimate most kids' ability to comprehend incredibly abstract and complex ideas. On the other, I think we may introduce difficult-to-explain concepts too early, which forces us to "repackage" them in a preschool-friendly version.

>>So we do have a responsibility as parents,
>>as our kids go through Erikson's and
>>Piaget's stages, to bring their minds and
>>their faiths along with their bodies -- to
>>take them from the very necessary
>>do-as-I-say stage to the
>>what-do-you-think-about-it stage, from the
>>Jesus-loves-me-this-I-know stage to the
>>Lamentations-is-there-for-a-reason stage.

First of all, Alfie Kohn raises some very important questions about Erikson, Piaget, and your "very necessary do-as-I-say" stage in his controversial book, "Punished by Rewards." What bearing does this have on Christian education? Perhaps little. But I think that if we do a better job of addressing children as small humans, rather than exercises in operant conditioning, we would re-think some of our Ch. ed. approaches, as well. Just a thought.

>>But if you're thinking about God, and your
>>thinking doesn't lead you to your knees,
>>then you're thinking too little!

Ah, memories. I was just thinking about Skip the other day. :-)

>>... so I take it you've never read the
>>original Brothers Grimm? Hair-raising!

Funny...take a look at the reviews of any Brothers Grimm collection on Amazon. There are SO many parents who are appalled by the gore, violence, evil, etc. Even in Mother Goose, too! I didn't mean that the Disney versions were authoritative. I certainly understand that the originals were quite complex. I was alluding to the one issue that the OT has that the Grimm tales do not: historical context. The political, social, and historical settings of the OT stories add a layer of complexity not found in those tales...which is why I believe the OT is history rather than mythology. But that's probably another issue.

So, Barry, I appreciate you sorting out my "sloppy thinking." When I set out to write a post to my blog, I don't approach it the same way I do when I write musicological research papers for grad school, so there are obviously some holes, unsubstantiated generalizations, etc. The bottom line, though, is that these issues are real for me and I want some honest, thought-proviking conversation from an old peepee like you!! Thanks!

Thomas J. Wilson

Barry,

I appreciate how your comments are consistent with your beliefs. . .basically what I hear you saying is that there is no harm in exposing children to the reality of the scariness of spiritual separation from God. It is SUPPOSED to be a scary thing to disobey God, and a WONDERFUL thing to obey him. . .again, if I am wrong is what i am hearing from you, please correct me.

I will however, respond to what I beleive you are saying. . .I think that the bible, the OT especially, but to some extent the NT, uses FEAR to control behavior. Fear of punishment, fear of eternal damnation, fear of the walls falling down, the fear of dying in a flood, the fear of fire from heaven if you touch the Ark of the Covenant when you are not supposed to, whatever. I am significantly disturbed by this, and have been for quite some time (maybe this is why I remain unaffiliated). I have seen SO much damage done with the fear that is impressed upon people from an early age. . .so much shame and fear. . .that some people are NEVER able to balance that as it sounds like you and others have. . .to be able to recognize the concept of grace and mercy of God.

Like I said, I appreciate what you are saying from a consistency standpoint. . .I DO think that the purpose of the stories of things like Ussah and the Ark, Nadab and Abihu, Elijah on Mt. Carmel, Elisha and the bears, were to scare the shit out of people so that they would not consider being disobedient. I am not sure that is a good thing, and while it may be a good basis for behavioral modification, but not the best basis for a relationship. . .and that IS the goal, isn;t it? a relationship with God?

Please understand, however, from my POV the bible is not the work of God, but the work of men trying to understand God. So I look at it from that paradigm. . .I persoanlly think that an all powerful, all wise God, would have better ways to help people to get to know him that to scare them with boogeyman stories.

Barry

> I guess I should clarify something...my oldest child is 4.
> That's a lot different than 7 or 8, and makes a huge
> difference in when and how I want to introduce certain
> concepts and images.

True enough; I was thinking more about older kids. But there's something revealing here:


> For example, the other day I read a
> version of Jack and the Beanstalk to Cason out of "Stinky
> Cheese Man." She had never seen a picture of a giant or
> heard about one. But now, she asks nightly in fear if
> there are any giants in the house, or if they could get
> in. So, this image from a somewhat innocuous and silly
> version of Jack and the Beanstalk has introduced yet
> another thing for her to fear.

As you mention, children must "learn to deal with emotions of fear, and learn to distinguish between fantasy and reality." But we're nonetheless tempted to view Cason's reaction as an unintended consequence of the Jack and the Beanstalk story. What if, though, the invisible hand of the culture, in its ancient wisdom, wants exactly that reaction, knows that Cason has neuron pathways in her brain that she's forging right now? Certainly Bruno Bettelheim would think so.


> When
> we tell her that God made it rain for 40 days to kill
> everyone in the world because they were evil, that is not
> fantasy. So, should we tell the story? Should we
> "re-package" the story? Should we wait until she is 6 or 7
> or 8? That is the heart of my inquiry....

And it's one that's worth thinking about. As we do, though, we may go forward in the confidence that children need us only for what they need us for. We're finding out more and more how resilient children are, and how good we are when we're young at gathering what we need and rejecting what we don't.

By the way, have you asked your parents how *they* treated all these questions? Seems like you turned out OK: whether that's because of or in spite of their Bible story policy, it will be instructive, no? I'd be interested to discover what they have to say, and I'll ask my own parents as well.

> >>my religious education was filled with New
> >>Testament stuff
>
> My religious education was filled with New Testament
> stuff, too. Don't over-generalize my generalizations. I
> was addressing the apparent "prominence" of Old Testament
> stuff. Pick up any children's story Bible and you'll find
> more OT than NT.

I'll buy that; and I think it's for reasons you've already mentioned. First, there's more OT than NT in any Bible. Second, the book of Romans isn't quite as conducive to picture-books as, say, Genesis. Only four books of the NT are histories, after all, the rest being principles and teachings -- although I do remember hearing about Onesimus, and going through vivid and memorable lessons on Ephesians 6, "the armor of God."


> >>And the messages to children are absolutely
> >>golden: evil is real; it can be faced; you
> >>are outmatched; stand firm and steadfast,
> >>and supernatural forces will be by your
> >>side.
>
> This is part of my problem, because it is not always true.
> Bad things happen to good people. The reason we stand firm
> against evil is because it is the right thing to do, even
> if we don't get rescued.

It's not *always* true, but it's *ultimately* true. The finale to "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" isn't to be taken as a guide to the everyday facing of evil -- it's to be taken as a picture of our ultimate salvation. Similarly, God places these events in the history of his people to instruct them as to their salvation. The medievals thought that the whole reason God allowed Joseph to be betrayed into Egypt was so that God could then deliver them through the Red Sea, and the only reason he did *that* was so that we would have a clear picture of the Messianic salvation that was to come. Maybe they're nuts, but on the other hand they do have a point.

Where that leaves us with 4-year-olds I don't know. Maybe it's simply that the OT stories that are the familiar standbys in most religious education serve to say one thing well: God saves. The other details can be refined as we get older.


> Honest question: do
> churches/teachers really address that truthfully? If so,
> at what age?

The honest answer is probably that they do and don't to various degrees, based on where you are -- at TBC, it may even vary depending on where you are in the building. A better question is, how can we begin to address them more truthfully and usefully? Or is our current addressing of them truthful and useful enough?

> are you seriously saying that the
> church has NOT done to these stories what Disney did to
> Grimm's? Perhaps not quite, but at some level you must
> admit that modern-day American middle-class suburban
> parents are much more sensitive to issues of violence,
> evil, or just "being mean," and a lot of this filters into
> Sunday school lessons.

Heh -- not a word of disagreement there. As I said, we managed to skip right over the drunk-and-naked episode. I'll see if I can get Shawn Bridges to add it to her Noah mural.


> My questions are: 1) If I tell the
> stories authentically, do I want my children to be afraid
> of God like the giant or the big bad wolf? and 2) if I
> "repackage" them, what happens when the kids (or adults)
> finally realize that they weren't told the "whole story?"

And my question to you is, were *you* told these stories authentically? What was the editorial balance, and what happened as you grew? My guess is that you got the standard stuff -- with what may now seem a surprising amount of death and gore -- and that you refined as you were capable.


> the NT paints a
> slightly different picture of God than does the OT.
> (Admittedly, we (Christians) may have over-emphasized the
> "Jesus is your friend" idea coupled with "God loves you."
> Perhaps we need a bit more "stay in line or God might
> smite you" kind of fear.) You HAVE to admit that the Old
> Testament stories at the very least paint a contrasting
> picture to the grace of Jesus in the NT.

Hm. What if we only told our kids the bowdlerized hits you mentioned -- the triumphal Daniel stories, the David-and-Goliath -- from the OT, and only told them the NT stories like the one where the Bad Steward gets thrown into the outer darkness, and the people cry "Lord! Lord!" but he says "I never knew you," and the goats get cast into hell, and so on? The fact is that Jesus spoke more of hell than of heaven. It shows only our biases that we tend to discount the outlandish grace of the OT (Jonah? Haggai?) in comparing it with the NT.


> >>But after all, when do we teach kids about
> >>the Holocaust in any detail?
>
> Exactly. Surely God wiping out humanity (Noah's ark) is
> more difficult to understand than the "man-created"
> Holocaust. Perhaps what makes the Holocaust so difficult,
> though, is the idea that God ALLOWED it to happen in the
> first place. Again, think like a parent of a 4-year-old,
> and address these questions again.

Well, I think we fundamentally agree on all this, which is why I brought up our teachings on the Holocaust (or the Crusades, or any other historic horror) to begin with. You give the kid what the kid can handle, knowing that their education doesn't end there.


> On the one hand, I think we underestimate most
> kids' ability to comprehend incredibly abstract and
> complex ideas. On the other, I think we may introduce
> difficult-to-explain concepts too early, which forces us
> to "repackage" them in a preschool-friendly version.

I got to deal with Hannah and Trey more than an uncle usually does when they were 2 and 3 and 4, and I never bowdlerized the stories I told them. Mom was horrified when I started them on the Ring Cycle -- the giants killing each other, Brunnhilde rebelling against her father and then getting condemned to a fiery prison, Alberich forswearing love in order to forge the Ring of Power and enslave the Nibelungs. But the kids loved it, and begged for more. It answered something that they needed at that point. Both Wagner and Bettelheim know that the great stories of our civilization speak their messages to us eloquently, whether Biblical or mythical, historical or fantasy -- for myth and religion and history and fantasy are used by a culture as that culture wishes.


> Alfie Kohn raises some very important
> questions about Erikson, Piaget, and your "very necessary
> do-as-I-say" stage in his controversial book, "Punished by
> Rewards."

Excellent! I'm a big Alfie Kohn fan, much to the exasperation of others in my family. When Trey learned how to ride a bike, and others said, "That's great, Trey!," I channeled AK and said, "Was it fun?"

I think that Kohn, though, still recognizes that a child of 3 isn't at the same cognitive or social place as a child of 7 or of 16 or an adult of 50. I agree with him about gold stars and candies and all that bit, and we could all stand to learn from him, especially in Christian education.

Dianna

I'm a firm believer that you can't understand until your in the same shoes. So I'm not exactly in those shoes because I don't have kids. But I do love that you raise the question because it's important their our kids we're teaching, the future.

All of this reminds of a time I was babysitting in college. I was with this little girl who had literally just turned five. I said oh come on if you don't go to bed now you'll turn into grape jelly. And the moment after I said it she started crying, and said I don't want to turn into grape jelly.

Or how in the beginning of kindergarten Amber said, "Ms. Culbreth are you married?" I said, "No, not yet" and Amber said, "why not?" I responded by saying, "I haven't found him yet." And Amber said, "well where is he hiding?" And I laughed and said, "I wish I knew."

I could tell you more stories, and I'm sure you have many of your own. You know kids are literally. In the case of the little girl who didn't want to be grape jelly. When I said it I knew that she was 5 years old and about to go in to kindergarten. But I didn't yet know that kids typically don't understand that everything isn't literally until 5 1/2 years old or 6 years old. For some reason with my kindergartners I see it happen about November or later.

Of course every kid is different. But I distinctly remember after the "I don't want to be grape jelly" incident knowing that I had to be more causious about how I said things, because of how they were being interpted.

I think the statement is true in all stages of life. There are things that I respond to differently now then I did when I was younger.

I would say that our job as a parent or a teacher is to decide for them what they are ready to hear or to decide how to phrase certain things based on the how they will interpt things and if they are devolpmental ready.

I also don't think that when you do this your lying to your kids or changing the truth. You have a better sense of what is developmentally appropriate for your kids. This is true for what movies you let them see, when they grow up more and you decide they are ready to stay home for an hour by themself, and it's true for what stories of the Bible you focus on first and how you explain them.

Oh my other comment was going to be--you said do we actually teach are kids that we do things not because God will take care of us, but because it's the right thing to do even if bad things sill happen. Yes, I do think we teach our kids this. In simple ways like we pick up trash even though it wasn't ours, but we should it's the right thing to do and in complex ways in having faith in God even when bad things happen.

Cason and Jack are in good hands.
Dianna

So I guess I'm saying, trust your sense of what is appropriate at the right time. All the other things will fall in place and be addressed at the right time.

elisa

Barry,

Don't you mean "poopoo head?"

:-)

e.

Mark

My response isn't meant to be "advice" but more reflection on my experience related to these topics.

I have a pretty good memory of my own childhood experiences. Before I can remember going to church, I remember knowing in a spiritual sense that God is good, loving, etc and of my actually knowing God somehow. Being around one great grandmother helped reinforce this because of both what she said about God and how she lived and interacted with God and others.

When my family did go to church, we went only once in awhile and mainly to Sunday School and not often to worship services. Most of the Sunday School lessons were from Old Testament where teachers read passages and showed us those paintings that must've been drawn in 50's. There seemed to be two main effective (may or may not be intended) take home lessons. The most prominent implied lesson was that we should behave well, ie. be good little boys or girls, or God might be mad at us (this wasn't one of those "hellfire" type places but more about following social norms). The other main implied lesson was that God might make your life better with more livestock (material possessions) or other good things if you behaved well.

While teachers, ministers, and others seemed to know a lot about God, almost nobody in church seemed to actually know God or at least have more than just a passing relationship. Over the years I became more formally churched and supposedly learned a lot about God. However, as I learned more church teachings and "right" answers, I lost the essence of who God is. One major effect of all this was that I not very well spiritually prepared for "grown up" life. Many years later after reading books by Dallas Willard and others, I finally found the same treasured God from my childhood.

One question for either young or old is how could both Old or New Testament be approached to help lead to knowing God better and to facilitate growing up spiritually? The current methods seem to have limited effectiveness not only based on my experiences but from observing what's happened to others spiritual lives. How could crucial truths from all parts of Bible be integrated with time tested practices? My experience was that I was only taught very rudimentary rote prayers that eventually led to "quiet time" instruction. However, there was really no explanation as to why those were advocated or much evidence that they helped those teaching them grow very much themselves.

What I wish I'd have had more of as a child was more discussion with adults on what the Bible truths meant to them in their lives as part of information presentation. I'd also have liked to have at least had a chance to learn about and try out some classical disciplines. (This isn't a classical Christian discipline, but I know of one toddler who was really into baby yoga. I figure if a toddler can get something out of baby yoga then they might get something out of at least some other Christian disiplines beyond rote prayers.) Maybe I'm just strange and this wouldn't help most people, but I think it would've helped me to have at least tried.

john

Duane,
My wife and I ran the children's church at our old fellowship for the better part of 10 years. So in my mind, that experience give me exactly zero expertise to share with you - but here goes ;)

I think kids are smarter than we give them credit for. We've always told old testament stories - and the TRUTH about them - (the fact that Noah took 2 of everything, but 7 of some). While we simplify the application, we try not to convey incomplete facts. "Mary didn't ride a donkey into Bethlehem according to scripture. It doesn't say how she travelled."

We don't adress whether these stories actually happened or are "myth". That doesn't change the story or the application.

We try to keep it simple. Daniel = "be brave". Ruth = "take care of your family". Joseph = "sometimes bad things happen".

We use the "good guy" to teach the moral lesson - not the "bad guy". In other words, "Daniel was brave and pleased God" instead of "Daniel's accusers were liars and were eaten by lions". We focus on what people did right - not what they did wrong. Hopefully, it's not teaching based on fear.

But, we're not adverse to a bit of healthy fear - reverence. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. If kids are fearful, it's another opportunity to teach. It's a chance for us to calm their fears.

I think a "Jesus-only" diet isn't necessarily bad, but it may become a bit monotonous for little kids. Unless you get into disecting his teachings (which they're not really ready for), you only have so many stories to tell. There are 365 bedtimes every year, so you'll have to get uber-creative if that's your plan.

Since my oldest is only 16, I'm not exactly sure the long-term results of our method, but so far she hasn't donned a pony-tail and joined the moonies.

Thomas J. Wilson

John Said:

"We don't adress whether these stories actually happened or are "myth". That doesn't change the story or the application."

Thank you. .you GET it. This is my point precisely. . .the value of the story can be brought out in the retelling, without staying rooted in the seedier parts of the stories:

"We use the "good guy" to teach the moral lesson - not the "bad guy". In other words, "Daniel was brave and pleased God" instead of "Daniel's accusers were liars and were eaten by lions". We focus on what people did right - not what they did wrong. Hopefully, it's not teaching based on fear."

again, it is all about presentation. . .What are the universal truths that can be found in these stories? How best can we bring these out? What is the value of pointing out the seedier parts of the story.

It all comes down to being honest--keep in mind, when these stories were handed down generation after generation, prior to their writing, the parents of palestine may not have had the healthiest concept of parenting, and that may very well be why the emphasis of fear and bloodshed is there...(this is not to question the inspiration at all--just acknowledging that human effort DID play a part in the writing of these stories) For better or worse, it is no longer socially acceptable to focus so much on these things in OUR culture.

So, gloss over the nastier parts? Hmmm. . I wouldn;t necessarily say that, but there IS a value to the stories without focusing on negative--Elijah on Mt. Carmel IS a story of one man facing impossible odds without fear as long as God is on His side--rather than the story of a fickle religious constitutency and the butchery of a mass of rival religious leaders.

Chito

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