Monday, September 14, 2009

A Young Child's Bible

Even though we are not religious, I always planned to introduce Anna to the Bible and other stories from great religions of the world. Since I am a lot more familiar with the Bible (vs. Koran or Eastern religions), I decided to start here. She went to a church-based school for the first 6 months of her preschool life, so she was “somewhat” familiar with some of the stories and sometimes came up with funny and unexpected questions. Now I decided to take her religious education into my own hands, since it’s important for me that she understands where her parents stand on this topic. So before we started reading, I had a talk with Anna. I told her that very many people in our country believe that events described in these stories actually took place. We respect their views, but in our family we happen to believe that they are very old fairy tales containing great lessons for mankind. Anna perked up when she heard “fairy tales”, and we plunged into Creation story. She listened to it without a single question and wanted to listen to the next story which happened to be Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. First of all, she was shocked by the fact that God didn’t create Eve together with Adam. She asked why he created couples for everyone, but not for Adam. She said, He will have no friends! Then she was really frightened by the anger of God when Eve and Adam ate a fruit of knowledge of good and evil (I won’t go into my personal bafflement over the whole story here). She said, Why would God be so angry with anyone? I tried to explain that it’s not just that Adam and Eve didn’t listen. They listened, but then they broke their promise, and it’s worse than not listening. Then she asked if God forgave them. I said, Umm… he gave them a second chance.

Next day we read Noah’s story, and Anna’s dislike became even stronger. I guess God of Old Testament really comes across to young children (who don’t go to church) as an extremely strict parent who constantly tests and punishes, even people who “listen”. The story of Abraham and Isaac was the last straw. The author diplomatically said that God “wanted Abraham to give Isaac to him”. Anna wanted to know what it means. I explained that God wanted Abraham to kill his son to prove that he is loyal to God. I admit that it’s hard even for an adult to take, and that was the end of Bible stories for Anna. She told me to take this book away, that she doesn’t want to read any more scary fairy tales and that God is really scary. Somehow she missed on “merciful” message in these stories completely – maybe we will try a different version of Bible stories a bit later (closer to Christmas) and start with a more cheerful (at least in parts) New Testament.


Annette said...

Wow. As I read her reactions, I'm really surprised. In many years of teaching, I haven't experienced that type of reaction...though many questions!

Before totally taking the book away so as not to leave her with a bad taste (instead of just returning to it later at Christmas or whenever), consider the story of Daniel, and how God protected him with the lions. David is another great one...though he repeatedly "messed up" he loved God, and God blessed him greatly. And of course there is the greatest part...of how God sent Jesus to earth, and as a man how he gave his own life so that others could experience heaven. It was all part of God's (and that includes Jesus) plan from the beginning. It can't be earned, but is a gift from God if we accept it.

Do you think the Bible you are using does not word the stories in a friendly enough way for a toddler? It sounds like she's going to ask tough questions regardless, but it's just a thought.

whisperingwhispers said...

I am not going to urge you to contiue as I respect your views. But may I suggest a different approach? Because I work with children that come from unchurched homes, I use a book called "My ABC Verses" by Susan Hunt. I believe this is more what you and your husband would want to be teaching Anna. The stories are light and more relative to life, while holding a simple verse from the Bible that allows the child to know that this is how God wishes all people to treat others, and themselves. Rather then trying to share stories that you may not be able to answer all her questions for look for the virtues that can come from the bible, she discover the rest when she is ready.

Ticia said...

Okay, so I know you don't believe in the Bible, so take all of this with a grain of salt, but just to try and give you my take on those stories, since I do believe that.

Adam and Eve- it's much like when your kid disobeys, even if they're sorry there are still consequences, and it's not much of free will if there's no chance to mess up. So, we give our kids a little bit of slack to let them learn. You notice, God didn't kill them, even though he said that was going to happen.
Noah- he did save the ones who were faithful, I do agree it sucks if you weren't the 6 chosen, so that part is hard to understand, and one to still think through.
Abraham and Isaac- I agree it's weird, the best explanation I heard was that Abraham truly believed God would give him Isaac back, and that's why he was willing to.

Hopefully that helps you explain better if you want to continue with it more. I highly recommend the Beginner's Bible, she'd probably love the toddler version, it's shorter and probably would be less disturbing to her (all of my kids love it and argue over who gets to have it).

So, not trying to say you must continue the Bible stories, just trying to help figure it out from my limited knowledge. We plan to introduce what other people believe in a few years once we get seriously into studying history and other people. Right now we're sticking close to home.

Autumn said...

Natalie, I have the Susan Hunt book mentioned above and would be happy to let you borrow it when we see you in a few weekends. I agree with the poster that it might be a better place to start, as it contains "moral stories" that would probably be more agreeable to Anna, yet are still firmly rooted in the Bible.

The Old Testament is sometimes very difficult even for adults to understand, let alone a 2 year old! If you're still looking for a children's Bible to share with Anna, The Jesus Storybook Bible is excellent, IMO. It tells each story of the Bible in a context that is easy to understand:

Annette said...

I loved hearing what others had to say! I so appreciate that you gave the Bible a try with Anna. I agree that the Old Testament is tough, and it seems that Anna is sensitive. A hard combination!

Infant Bibliophile said...

I was really interested to read this (and the comments). I would love to find some sort of multifaith toddler book, but I doubt it exists (I guess that would be way too much information to cover). A series would be great, though. One world religion per book.