Monday, April 04, 2016

Fantastic Mr God.

I'm pretty cheesed off with kiddie bibles.

Here we have a collection of moving, enticing, profound stories. But somehow, every interpretation for children (well, let's be honest, quite a lot of the interpretations PERIOD) makes the whole thing pedestrian, dull and manipulative.

Serpents in paradise. Noah and his ark. Jonah and the Whale. Tent pegs hammered through temples. Wives turning into salt. Vixens who cut men's hair and thus emasculate them. Magically profound parables that apply to any era, defying and slitherly superceding any amount of sermonising. Apocalyptic brushstrokes of terror and wonder. Fantastic!

And there's the word that interests me. Fantasy. We enlightened Western Christians need to stop fearing it.

People fantasise. They need to let their imaginations run free reign and they need to be exposed to stories without instructions. Perhaps this is how we grow up. We live in reality, we take refuge in fantasy and slowly we learn to distinguish, play and work between the two.

If you take a pretty amoral, factually dubious story and domesticate it in order to instruct a child - or anyone - in correct doctrine or character development, you do them a huge disservice. Let the kid spring off from the story and find her own way!

For example, take Cain and Abel, those famous first brothers in Genesis. Cain kills Abel because the Lord looks favourably on Abel's sacrifice and not on Cain's.

Every sermon about or analysis of this (until Brueggemann's, which I read gratefully last year) that I can remember suggested Cain's offering to God was mean and paltry. It revealed his inferior moral character and faith. That's why The Lord didn't like it. Neat. What a bad guy Cain was!

But look at the text. There is no such indication. God simply favoured one over the other. Inexplicably. What an unjust God!

It's safer to attribute predicatable moral rules to God, but this story and the 'Lord' it attempts to reveal lie beyond our moral schemes. They frustrate our attempts to rule and understand the world.

God is fantastic as well as good. Deal with it. Figure the damn thing out. And let your children do the same.

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