Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sanitizing the Bible: When Christianity isn't baby-friendly

For those who may not be aware, the Bible is not PG. Not even PG-13. There are more than enough passages to warrant a solid R rating.

I'm not just referring to the obvious stuff either, like Song of Solomon, or the massacre of the innocents. There is some very depraved and raunchy stuff in the Bible. :cough: Lot's daughers :cough:

But you don't normally think about that stuff. Or, at least, I don't. Normally, when I remember things from the Bible, I just think of the books I really enjoy, like Galatians, or Proverbs, or Ecclesiastes. (A really cool and visual verse is Ecclesiastes 10:1, "Dead flies doth cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour, so doth a little folly ruin a reputation for wisdom and honour." The unnecessary "u"s should be indication that I learned it in the Old King James version.)

But a couple of months back, our church charged us with trying to read all the way through the Bible in a year. They even gave us handy little reading charts that break it up so you read about three chapters a day, two from Old Testament and one from New. (The idea is that you have the New Testament there to help you get through some of the really slow parts in the Old Testament. Can you imagine reading nothing but Leviticus for a month? I've tried to do it in the past, and it was mentally painful.)

It's always been a goal of mine to read through the whole Bible, so I joined a small group with two other women in my congregation and we meet once a week to hold each other accountable and discuss what we thought of that week's reading. I even started looking back through the toddler-friendly collection of Bible stories I got my son as an infant, figuring he's about to the age where he can enjoy it, and relate it back to the stories they're learning in class.

It was in comparing my adult, big-girl Bible and my son's "Bible" that I realized just how much they had to leave out. And, even worse, how much more they should have left out.

For instance, just a few weeks back at Christmas, we were teaching the Christmas Story (duh) to the preschoolers I teach in Children's Church. Seems harmless, right? It's the most sweet and innocent story in the Bible. Until your hit with questions like:

"What does 'with child' mean?" Okay, that one's not too difficult. I've got a nagging certainty that every woman at our church who's not me is pregnant. So all we had to do in this case was point to the other Children's Church teacher. "It means she was like Mrs. E, she was going to have a baby."

"Why was Joseph going to divorce Mary?" That one was tougher. I decided to take the best possible approach with children, and tried to misinterpret and dodge it completely. "Because the angel hadn't come and told him yet that the baby was from the Lord."

"But, why wasn't he happy she was having a baby, even if he didn't know the baby was from God yet?" "Well, because he hadn't 'known' her yet."

"You said they were going to Bethlehem together. How could they not know each other if they were married?" "Okay kids, see, back then, they had a betrothal period, and then they got married. And Joseph and Mary weren't exactly married yet. So, he wanted them to wait until they were married to have a baby. Which is what everyone should do."

"When my parents got married, I was a flower girl in their wedding." Around this point, I announced it was snack time and tried to find a corner where I could quietly bite off my tongue to commit suicide, like Hilary Swank in "Million Dollar Baby". (SPOILER ALERT: That movie is like, 6 years old, so if you didn't know how it ended, you really can't blame it on me. Also, "Makushla" means "my daughter, my beloved".)

If you have any funny misunderstandings with kids and the Bible (or even books of other religions), please feel free to share them in the comments. I'd love to know it happens to other people, too.

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