Lindsay has a post up about it at Lindsay’s Logic.
Those of us who grew up in church have many fond and nostalgic memories of the Bible stories we were taught. We remember David and Goliath, Sampson and Delilah, Noah’s Ark, Jesus and the Feeding of the Five Thousand, Baby Moses in the Bulrushes, Zacchaeus the Wee Little Man, and many others. The problem is, we often have the same fond memories of many other childhood stories like Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Jack and the Beanstalk, and The Emperor’s New Clothes. Both sets of stories were short, entertaining, and had some moral lesson. They were often surprising or funny. They had kings and miracles. Their heroes did great and marvelous deeds. Unfortunately, we may not have understood that one set of stories was completely made up while the other is entirely true historically.
Now, many of us grew up and learned the difference between truth and fairy tales. We know that the Bible is true. We take it seriously now. But some children grow up and are told (often in school or in college) that the Bible is just a collection of myths. At best, it was a collection of tales passed down for many years and full of wishful thinking and primitive beliefs (or so they are told). And if those people haven’t learned better – if they have not been shown the historical evidence for the truth of the Bible – they often fall prey to this faulty view.
To help prevent this from happening, it is important to teach the Biblical account, not Bible stories. They aren’t “stories,” they’re true. There are several very serious problems with teaching the Biblical account as stories.
This is the one that rang true for me:
3. The Biblical account is not given its proper historical context
A big part of helping children (and others) to understand the historical nature of the Biblical account is including discussion of its historical context. Don’t just emphasize the moral lesson, talk about it as history. When children are taught about George Washington, Nero, Florence Nightingale, Genghis Khan, or any other historical figure, we talk about when they lived, their culture, their motivation, their language. In short, we put them in historical perspective and we talk about them as real people with real lives. Why don’t we do that with Biblical figures?
How often do you hear someone talk about what year the Flood happened? Whether dinosaurs were on the ark? Who Cain married? Why Eve didn’t freak out when a snake talked to her? Where the Garden of Eden was (there’s no way of knowing that, by the way)? Have you ever wondered why Jonathan didn’t hate David? Where the different races came from? Why God instituted animal sacrifice? Why Jesus came when He did? Why the particular 66 books of the Bible are Scripture and other ancient texts aren’t? These and many others are questions that today’s young people wrestle with. And they often are not getting answers.
If we neglect to talk about the Biblical account in realistic terms, we aren’t preparing our youth to answer the questions they will undoubtedly have. If they go long enough with unanswered questions, if they can’t figure out how what the Bible says can possibly make sense, many will start to wonder if it is really true. While we may not be able to answer every question definitively, we can at least have a serious discussion and offer reasonable possibilities for consideration. Without such reasonable discussion, why should they find it reasonable to believe it?
I never went to Sunday school, and that might explain why I never had this problem of outgrowing Christianity the way that kids outgrow fairy tales. Maybe it comes down to who is teaching in the Sunday school? Are the Sunday school teachers being selected because they are rational people with STEM degrees, STEM careers and some sort of practical outlook on life? Or are they very emotional, irrational, and desire-driven? Seems to me that we ought to be placing people who are more interested in the good old divisiveness of truth and facts in the Sunday school, and keeping out the people who are more interested in feelings and community stuff. I’ll never understand why the church seems to lack respect for practicality, and want to put in all these impractical touch-feely people to teach the young instead.
I remember when I was a teen, I served as a volunteer camp counselor with an older Catholic woman who was just starting her second year of college. She was raised in a very devout, sheltered Catholic family, and would not even say swear words like the s-word. She had this Sunday school, fairy tale view of Christianity. And she liked to tell me that God was a “she” and that Hell wasn’t real. After all, if religion is just about making up stories that make you feel good, then you can change it to be whatever you like best. She studied English in college and got into all kinds of radical feminism, anti-war, Marxism, and gay rights material. After a couple of graduate degrees that drove her further to the secular left, she eventually got a job teaching the young in a Catholic school. But her descent into secularism and leftism started with this super-nice, polite, fairy tale view of religion-as-niceness, rather than being about history and fact. She just had never been taught to make connections between the Bible and the real world, so her feelings were constantly allowed to override the truth claims of the Bible.
I think the bottom line is that the more we make Christianity about feelings, the more young people will leave it when they hit college and find out how the world works (not really) from their never-worked-in-the-private-sector liberal arts professors.
I was on vacation last week, and after bingeing on video games for 3 days (hello, Darkest Dungeon), I decided to spend the rest of my time studying JQuery, AngularJS and Bootstrap. I did this learning at the kitchen table, with training videos playing on the laptop, and me entering commands in the NetBeans IDE and seeing what the output was in the browser via the Chrome NetBeans Connector. At times, I would stop the video lecture, call my parents over and show them things that I was trying that were “off the beaten path” to find out how the components really worked. I also messaged JoeCoder with questions, since he is a client-side programmer, and I am primarily a server-side programmer. I was even able to put JQuery to work right away in my ad-blocker (uBlock Origin) which uses JQuery expressions to select elements to block. The point is that I was learning, and learning means being free to experiment and try things out. But always, it is about practice, not feelings. No one cares how you feel about code, they only care what you can use it to accomplish in the real world. The point of it is that teaching is not meant to make you feel good, or make students like you, or make people in think that you are really spiritual after all the drunken sex you had in college, hooking up with atheist guys. The point of teaching is to convey useful, accurate knowledge that can then be put into practice immediately to achieve good results. Sunday school should be more like learning how to program, not about singing, coloring, having fun, feeling good.