**Happy New Year from the Princesses!**
I’m 90% out of the closet but I’ve chosen to keep my Paganism from a few family members for the sake of familial harmony. I love these members of my family dearly, and they are wonderful, generous people. Just, unfortunately, not okay with religious diversity. Normally this is easy to shuffle around and doesn’t cause too much strain. But there has been a gift given over Christmas that has caused me a strange problem, and I don’t know what to do about it. Can you help me?
One of the family members gave the girls a children’s Bible for Christmas. That’s not the problem. It’s a beautifully illustrated book, and in theory I have no problem with this. I would like for both of my children to be familiar with Bible stories as they are culturally ubiquitous and an important part of our Western literary heritage. I’ve read the Bible multiple times. It’s an extremely important book, even for those of us who are not Christian.
Our eldest (7-years-old) has asked me to read it to her at night for her bedtime stories. The irony of her Pagan parent reading the Bible to her at night isn’t lost on me. But, as I said, I want her to know these stories, and she may choose to be a Christian when she grows up (which will be just fine with me, provided she can remain open-minded about other people’s right to practice their own religion).
But as I sat down with her to read Genesis, I found it a challenge to navigate our discussion of the narrative. Usually as we read books together, we stop every now and then and talk about what the characters are doing–particularly the mistakes they make and the consequences of their actions. These Bible stories were edited for content and retold in a way that assumes Jehovah is perfect (as is commonly believed in the Christian faith), so there was little to no attempt at justifying h/His actions. They were also stripped down for consumption by children, and it left the retelling to some rather bald story facts. Last night we read:
- The creation (no problems)
- Adam and Eve (who are punished by Jehovah for overcoming ignorance. I’ve mentioned my frustration with this story before, but I think at the moment that depth of interpretation is over the head of my elder, so I’m not currently stewing over it)
- Noah’s ark (in which Jehovah gets angry at the world for misbehaving and kills everybody but one family)
- The tower of Babel (in which people work together to accomplish great things, and then Jehovah gets mad at them for overachieving and stops them from communicating effectively, splintering the world into factions)
- Abraham and Sarah having children late in life (no problems)
- The marriage of Isaac and Rebekah (no problems)
- Jacob and Esau (in which Rebekah helps Jacob, the hero of the story, trick his blind father into giving him his brother Esau’s inheritance. I remember getting mad at this story back in middle school when I first heard it.)
- Jacob’s dream (in which Jacob’s trickery and theft is condoned by Jehovah in a dream)
We ended there for the night as we’d run out of reading time. I’m not saying that these stories have no redeeming values or aren’t important. In their full form, they have more nuance as well. But I had a really hard time dealing with them as presented. If they were stories from any other source, I would’ve pointed out multiple times how the character of Jehovah was wrong for using violence to problem-solve, reacting over jealousy, interfering with progress and encouraging children to trick their parents and cheat their family members for personal gain.
As a Pagan, when I tell Pagan stories, we can talk about ethical mistakes the gods make and what they might have done better. But the Christian Bible is told from the idea that everything g/God does is correct. With the majority of my family Christian (including my husband), I don’t want to insult their religion or treat it with disrespect. On the other hand, I don’t want my children to hear these stories and think these are behaviors they should emulate or revere.
I’m at a loss. I don’t want to discourage reading, and the elder would notice if I made the book disappear. I’ll happily take suggestions from anyone, but I would love a Christian weigh-in on this. Would you be insulted if I talked about Jehovah’s negative behaviors and why we shouldn’t behave as h/He does in these stories? Other ideas for how I can be honest about my beliefs and values and not insult others peoples’?
+ Featured Image: from Adam and Eve are Driven Out of Eden by Gustave Doré