Friday, March 12, 2010

Cain and (Un)Abel

Here's my first controversial post. You ready? Not sure I am but here we go. Judge accordingly.

Today's trip to my favorite thrift store produced a plastic Navy boat and two children's books. We're not to the controversial part yet although the Navy boat could certainly produce some heartburn when my husband gets a load of it tonight. It's about one of the books. At the risk of exploiting my utter reprehensible lack of religious knowledge I have to tell you how taken aback I was at the one I chose called, Bible Stories for Bedtime. This book was specifically designed for ages 3-7 and basically breaks down complicated biblical verses into "See Jane Run" type paragraphs. It's got pictures and short sentences. It leaves out confusing details and gives only pertinent information. The thing is, you guys, because I never really studied the bible myself
(I was far too busy making mud pies for a pretend orphanage when I was little - Does that count?), I had no idea how scary it was and how violent it can be.

Here we were today at lunch - one heathen adult and two innocent lambs - reading some stories from the Bible over grilled cheeses and quartered up grapes. Things were sunny. We were all learning. "God Creates the Earth." Light, moon, stars, land, animals. Got it. Geographically riveting. Let's keep going! Next up was the story of Adam and Eve. Even I knew there could be some risque moments here but Eve was modestly sketched with some appropriately placed foliage and baby deer so I figured the coast was clear. I was right. Things were going swimmingly until after I put Abby down. I promised Grayson I'd read a few more stories right before his nap. He was stoked. I was psyched. We're all a bunch of literary dorks around here and look forward to a good read.

So Abby is in her crib and Grayson and I are lazing on the couch, ready to pick up where we left off with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I have enough background knowledge of the topic to know this too could get a little PG-13 but I'm going to trust the authors who have done a great job keeping it G rated up until now. We meet the serpent. He's slithery and bad. Grayson's eyes widen. Eve takes a bite of the naughty apple. Grayson holds his hand to his mouth in awe. Eve shares it with Adam. "Oh no!" Grayson shakes his head. He seems to understand the bad juju a bite from this apple will bring. Then I read the words in print: "God said to Adam: You ate from the tree. I made you from dust. So you will turn back into dust." Grayson goes pale. Paler than his usual lunar pinkness. But he seems okay when I tell him God let them live out their life complete with kids, two goldfish, and a mortgage before they had to make good on their promise to turn back into dust. Whew, dodged that big "death is the end of this whole living thing you're getting used to" bullet. That was a close one.

Then we get to the next page entitled...and I quote, "Cain Murders His Brother."

You can't be freaking serious. I'm not reading this to my three year old who almost had a coronary when he pictured Adam and Eve turning into dust particles. Murder? You want me to say that word to my three year old?

Not one to give up easily, I perused the rest of the paragraph to see if I could change some things without compromising the content or validity of the story. "Later, Cain killed Abel while he was walking in the field. What have you done, Cain? God said. Listen, Abel's blood is crying to me from the ground. You murdered Abel. You will always live under a curse."

Not exactly The Pokey Little Puppy, is it?

Grayson, hungry for more nice stories of abundant sky and floppy eared animals urges me on to tell him more. I cave and we totally skip over Cain and that poor guy Abel.

"Noah Builds the Ark" is next and again, I have enough background understanding of this one to know we should be safe. I quickly read ahead to myself searching for more violent red flags, "The land was full of people." Good, not so scary. We can handle this. "God looked at the world he had made." Nice. It must've been so green back then. "The people were wicked." Oops, down that dark alley we go. "God said, "I am sorry I made these people." Wow. This bible stuff is such a downer, who knew? I dive in, however, and give it my best Disney makeover and this is what Grayson heard: "God looked at the world he made. There were a lot of people there. God said he was cool with most of them but some were not very nice." Okay, that wasn't so tough. I should totally teach Sunday school.

I continue to read forward in my head: "God saw one very good man named Noah. He told Noah, "I am going to wipe out the people I have made. They will die with all things on earth. Only you are living right. You and your family will be saved. The rest of the people will drown."

Oooooh-kay, I think we're just about done here.

Seriously, at this rate, I might as well plunk him down for a nice long soak in front of Jaws or Silence of the Lambs. At least there he would learn to appreciate incredible cinematography and superb role playing. RIP Mr. Roy Scheider . You were tired and you wanted to go home...

Call me what you will, but my little guy can wait for words like "kill, die and murder," especially when in the realm of learning about God and creation. I'm quite sure the ripe age of three is not the developmental milestone capable of shouldering all the horror that comes with words like that. I'm also sure we will reconvene about these Bible stories when he's ready. Not when he still has to read Max & Ruby twelve times before going to bed because he's afraid to sleep alone in his room at night. I'll take my chances that I'm bringing up children with values and spiritual appreciation without the exact verbage from these biblical verses. I made it thirty some years without reading them and I am good. They have only gone a couple of years without hearing these specific stories and are also good. I highly doubt God minds how they grow to know him. Just as long as they do.


Anonymous said...

Erin, your blog is the best; What a good laugh on a rainy day. I can just picture you choking and rearranging these stories! So funny. but brutal! Thanks for writing! It made my day! - Nams

pajama mom said...

i agree - i peeked in on childrens' time one sunday and my kids were learning about "stoning" - yeah.

Brian said...

We too have a childrens bible that we read ONCE and never went back. My littles were 7 and 9 at the time and I still thought it was ridiculous! Shouldn't a Childrens bible be sugar coated?

Andy said...

The question is why the hell did he make poor Noah build the damn boat?! You're God. You can flood the planet but you can't create Noah and the animals a friggin' boat?! I want a new God. ;)

We have a good book called "Little One, We Knew You'd Come". No death and destruction in that one.

pajama mom said...

g loves "we were there" by eve bunting. just read it this weekend (again) and thought of your post. :)

One Sided Momma said...

andy - don't even get me started! i'm still all bent out of shape that he wanted to DROWN out all the wickeds while poor Noah subsisted on sugar cane for months in the middle of the ocean.

and to pj too -thank you both for the title of a much better childrens' book. we're going to see if we can find them at the library this week. meanwhile i'll be searching for cliff notes so i can stay at ahead. :)

Cristie Ritz King said...

I got nothin'. My kid spent homework time singing "Were you there" a song from church that includes the phrases, "nailed him to a tree, and laid him in a tomb". We have no children's bibles because I had the same traumatizing situation when F was little. I should have warned you. Sorry but I think I blacked it out.;)
PS-if that's your "controversy" you gotta get more angry.;)

Abby said...

Max & Ruby rocks! Found this site ( for Max and Ruby backpacks, Max and Ruby DVDs, Max and Ruby toys.

One Sided Momma said...

thanks for the max & ruby link, abby! we appreciate very much.