Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Appropriate for Children?

This weekend, I did something I've wanted to do for a long time; I visited a Christian book store for the first time since my deconversion.  I had been inside a few as a doubter, but this would be the first time as a full-fledged atheist. 

Besides having worked in one, I spent a good deal of my twenties inundated in that world, whether it was listening to the music or reading the books that came from it, or even leading retreats and giving talks in front of groups using material sold in those kinds of places.  At the time, the whole marketed Christian culture was at once a little disturbing and also comforting in that it made my belief feel legitimized and at least...well...known and experienced in the same way as others.  Christian stores sold stuff that sort of spread a McDonald's and Wal-Mart generic-ness through American evangelical Christianity.  No matter where you would go for a convention or a concert, even several states away, you'd see someone in a Jars of Clay t-shirt or carrying the Christian bestseller that you had read, and even in addition to the common beliefs you held, you felt like you were among your own people.  For lack of a better way of explaining it, it was comforting being around people who knew the same stuff.

One of the red flags that waved in my face for years about Christianity was the way Bibles for Children were packaged.  I knew the material inside.  I could see the frills on the outside.  The two would never match up.  Eventually, this would be one of the things I would have to take off of the "shelf" in my mind, and look at it, straight on and no excuses.

I have a lot to say about this issue and will write more about it in the next post, but for now I just want to post some pictures of the covers of Bibles for children that I found in the store.  The photos of text are ones that I took on the inside of the cover below with the cartoon drawing of Jesus with some little children on it.  Farther below, you can see a close-up that shows that this version is "easy-to-read."  Maybe, but it's not easy for me to swallow anymore.  I could have posted links to these texts or copied and pasted them here, but I wanted to make the point that these verses are really in these versions of the Bible.

I wonder what you all think of this.  Of course, there's a lot that could be said about marketing, materialization, the whole princess nightmare that has leaked into all facets of girlhood.  Also, believers could argue about versions of the Bible and which are accurate translations and paraphrases (NIV, KJV, NKJV, ESV, The Message, The Living Bible, etc.).  But in this case, I'm really more interested in what people think about the juxtaposition of these covers and the material found inside.  The passages I show here are only a few examples.  I could have spent a lot of time in that store taking more.  I could only stomach a few minutes.
















10 comments:

  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing this. These children's bibles are really creepy to me. Like you, I'm now an atheist. We had a children's bible in the house when we were kids. But, my mother came from a Jewish family, so it was only the Old Testament. Did I miss the instructions about having sex with animals, neighbors wives, and bleeding women? Or is that in the New Testament?

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    1. These passages are all from the book of Leviticus in the Christian Old Testament, or, as you point out, the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh--I had to look up the spelling). There's some disturbing stuff in the New Testament of the Christian Bible as well. I'll go more into why I chose these specific verses in my next post.

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  2. Sooooooooo... basically these are Bibles written in contemporary English? I'm kinda surprised the "standard" versions aren't written this way.

    You're right, though, some of this packaging is really bizarre. Are these meant to be both Testaments, or just the New Testament? (Although I imagine the Old Testament battles and plagues and death and destruction would look pretty awesome in a manga Bible...)

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    1. Yes, Rich, these mostly are just the standard English translations/paraphrases (there are many) repackaged to look child-friendly. The ones pictured, and indeed most children's Bibles published, are the entire text--both Testaments. Revelation, for example, is so full of Stephen King worthy stuff, that even a New Testament only packaged this way would still be pretty freaky to me.

      Yes, I have to admit, the Manga one looks pretty cool--and fitting for the violence!

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  3. The manga Bible looks interesting, and I like how Jesus was drawn!

    That aside, there's something inherently disturbing about marketing Bibles and Bible stories to children. Tales such as the great flood and the ark, Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son, Job's torment, etc. send all kinds of toxic messages to children, and I would never teach them to a child. Let's not forget the atrocities of the Bible -- slavery, genocide, capital punishment for trivial offenses -- and the moral lessons THOSE send to kids.

    Yeek.

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    1. Ahab, it's so interesting to me that there seems to be a fog over this issue in the minds of parents who would never allow young children to play violent video games or have books with sexual content (especially off-the-wall stuff mentioned in the OT) on their child's bookshelf.

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  4. I laughed out loud when I saw the Manga Bible. That really struck my funny bone. As a very religious teen who attended DAILY scripture study for the duration of my high school years, I found it disturbing that I was not permitted to watch an "R" rated movie but had the bible been made into a movie it would have likely been "X" rated. I was aware of this as a 15 year old.

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    1. Julie, we are birds of a feather. While "R" rated movies weren't forbidden in my church culture (except in stricter families), the content of the Bible struck me as...well...awful even as a youngster trying to put it all together.

      From these comments, I can tell that the manga Bible is a hit with my blogger buddies! I'm so glad I snapped a pic of that one. They're really covering their bases with the marketing of these things.

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  5. Hi, old pal! As you well know, I've been an atheist since I walked away from the baptismal service that I was supposed to complete at age 13. Your post reminded me of the old vinyl records from way back that repackaged bible stories for kids and totally creeped me out. Do you remember those? I never understood why nobody else was really creeped out by about people sneaking into camps and slaughtering everybody or a short haired blind guy who pulled down the pillars during some big party, or, the one that always really scared the crap outta me: why some vengeful, old man in the sky ended up flooding out civilization. My grandmother gave me oodles of those stories that I listened to not because of their religiosity, but because they scared the heck outta me which I kind of enjoyed.

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    1. Hello, dearest! Oh, to be out at 13. Kudos! I would love to chat about that sometime...as you mentioned in your text message, it would be so great to spend actual time together, not just the digital variety. Alas. Yes, the records. Oh, I had all kinds of cray-cray shit on cassette, too. Don't have sex with animals. Really? Didn't need that one. Kids made fun of a prophet for being bald, so god sent a bear to kill them? Nice. Le sigh.

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