God always wins

June 23, 2009 at 8:54 am 10 comments

edwards sinnersKids “backyard bible school” this week, kind of like a mini-VBS. I have opted out of the activities. One child came home telling me about his roll in a skit, in which he plunged forward as he died, a smitten first born son of Egypt. I asked him if he thought it was a good idea to make fun of people being killed like that and asked him what the lesson of the story was. The lesson was, “God always wins.”

I guess it kind of fits in with a literalistic reading of the bible. When you take the historicity as fact, you are left with accepting the lessons at face value and seeing them all as good. Which can lead to this perspective:

“…given the huge disparity in the scale, intent, nature, and effects of these two actions (the Tenth Plague, Pharaoh’s death-labor and infanticide programs), and in light of the universal principles of moral governance, delayed judgment, and reciprocal morality, I have to conclude that God was acting well within the bounds of propriety in this action, and indeed, was ‘unreasonably’ lenient in this judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt.”

Of course there are so many theological directions to go with that stuff, even reading it as allegory. Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? What price did Pharaoh pay in all this? But mostly I am saddened that backyard bible school is focusing on this side of God, when there are much better sides to present, especially to children. Is that the message of Jesus, “God always wins?” Wouldn’t they be better off with caring for God’s down trodden, or something like that?

A view something like this:

Jesus spent his life talking about God and helping people, forgiving his disciples for the stupid things they did, telling stories, healing people, and being an amazing, selfless person. He gave up everything to go out and give. He challenged the religious institution, materialism, and people’s lack of faith. There’s a lot of stuff in the gospels, but the short of it is: Jesus was amazing and he was killed; his disciples would not defend him at his crucifixion; he knew his situation, he did not defend himself, and he died on the cross.

That’s not such bad stuff whether read as historical fact or allegory. It gets back to what you want from your religion, acquiesence to a set of beliefs and rules, or a better way of living. Seems like a sad missed opportunity, and I don’t like the feeling of working against what they are learning.

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Entry filed under: bible, evangelicalism.

The Year of Living Biblically front lines of fundamentalism

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. tysdaddy  |  June 23, 2009 at 9:24 am

    These sorts of bible stories are the fall back for many programs because they provide such great visuals . . . frogs, locusts, rivers parting, etc., so it’s no surprise these stories get taught to kids at every turn.

    Teaching about selfless living? There are very few flannel cut-outs for that one . . . it takes two feet and ambition to go beyond the comfortable and make a difference . . .

  • 2. The Jesting Fool  |  June 23, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    “God was acting well within the bounds of propriety in this action”? He was “‘unreasonably’ lenient in this judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt?

    Jesus. What’s lenient about killing people, anyways?

    You bring up a good point with this VBS thing. If kids have to be learning something about God, it should really be focused on something besides an angry, judgmental Old Testament deity.

  • 3. atimetorend  |  June 23, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    “What’s lenient about killing people, anyways?”

    It is a bizarre article. What is lenient, he says, is that even more Egyptian children weren’t justifiably killed. I think the author is generally gracious and thoughtful for someone who holds to that form of literalism, but the conclusions forced by the reading sure get crazy.

  • 4. Janus Grayden  |  June 23, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    I don’t know, in the context of the Old Testament, I feel like that lesson was pretty apt. Any time God wanted the Children of Israel to have something, there was usually a body count.

    As far as the lessons of Christianity, I thought that blocked text at the end was rather good. It’s a great summation of the legend of Jesus in the context of the time. It’s odd that, for someone who asked so many difficult, prodding questions of the religious authority of the time, his followers today seem to discourage that style of questioning.

    Jesus was quite a figure for his time, even if he wasn’t actually a historical figure. A person who challenged the status quo, even when he knew nobody would stand beside him as he went to his death for his beliefs, is admirable in any society.

  • 5. Sabio Lantz  |  June 23, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Actually, I just had the same conversation with my 8-year-old son two weeks ago. I forgot how it started — some reference to the plagues in some movie. Anyway, I told him the story and he was disgusted that a god would do such things.

    It seems your son has already internalized “Divine Command” ethical logic. He is building his reasoning chips to handle reality. Now all he needs is an impressive politician to tell him that his god is asking him to serve his nation and kill others and it will all fit nicely.

    The Japanese have a great word for such logic, “Fart Logic” — I just posted on it. It seems good to help a child see behind this before it becomes non-writable memory.

  • 6. The Woeful Budgie  |  June 24, 2009 at 12:06 am

    It gets back to what you want from your religion, acquiesence to a set of beliefs and rules, or a better way of living.

    Well, to be fair, most evangelicals take the position that the latter follows from the former (though, of course, this only applies to *their* set of beliefs and rules…but then, you knew that already, didn’t you? :) )

    Is it hard for you to hear your kids say things like that? Mine’s not yet a year and a half, but I still get all twitchy when I think of her coming home and parroting some of the stuff that our church teaches. We’ve got a lot of that “spiritual warfare” whatnot going on, with all the smug pomp and swagger (and, on the flip side, the embattled persecution complex) that goes along with it. Sounds like you handled it pretty well, though. Good on ya.

    It’s odd that, for someone who asked so many difficult, prodding questions of the religious authority of the time, his followers today seem to discourage that style of questioning.

    Yeah…personally, I blame Paul. (I’m no theologian, though, so I’m sure someone could pick that one to shreds.)

  • 7. atimetorend  |  June 24, 2009 at 8:50 am

    “…to be fair, most evangelicals take the position that the latter follows from the former…”

    That is a good point. I thought on it briefly when typing the post. Motivation is an interesting and complex issue.

    “Is it hard for you to hear your kids say things like that? Mine’s not yet a year and a half, but I still get all twitchy when I think of her coming home and parroting some of the stuff that our church teaches.”

    It does upset me sometimes, but now I’m more concerned than worried. Mostly I have to trust that they’ll do OK as long as we can discuss things at home, maintain relationship with them, and ultimately they will have to make their own decisions.

  • 8. TitforTat  |  June 25, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Mostly I have to trust that they’ll do OK as long as we can discuss things at home, maintain relationship with them, and ultimately they will have to make their own decisions.(attr)

    Could you please remind me how old your children are? I would also say that if you are not in agreement with what they are learning, and you need to discuss it at home so they dont get the wrong idea. Uh, hmmm, Oops…..I think I better bite my tongue on this one.

  • 9. atimetorend  |  June 25, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    T4T, no need to bite your tongue. Oldest, age 11. I would say we are in a transition, it doesn’t happen overnight, and we’re working things out together as we go along. Point taken though, and I don’t disagree with you.

  • 10. TitforTat  |  June 25, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    Depending on the lessons being taught and what they will absorb, time may not be on your side.

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