Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bible Stories

I am an atheist and Tim would I think describe himself as agnostic, but we were both raised in the Catholic church; Tim even attended seminary for a year before transferring to a Catholic college. As children, we each experienced many positive features of church membership, and we look for other ways to pass these on to N. though we don’t practice any religion. Some of these features include the value of liturgy and ritual, music-making, regular meditation, belonging to a community, and a commitment to social justice. We both believe that knowledge of the Bible should eventually be part of one’s cultural literacy, but we hadn’t figured out exactly how to pursue this with N.. After all, I am not aware of any secular-humanist retelling of the Bible for young children! Then, a solution fell into our laps when Tim began tutoring the 11-year-old son of a friend (a woman I think of as my local homeschool mentor) in literature. This boy is passionate about art history, so they decided to study the King James Bible, source for so much great art, and they’ve been working their way through the Old Testament since January. Some mornings while N. draws or plays, Tim reads the Bible or the scholarship he’s checked out from my university library. At one point, N. asked Tim what he was reading, so Tim started reading the Bible to him, stopping frequently to explain and discuss. In this way N. has had a preliminary introduction to some of the Bible stories in what I think is their most beautiful English form, rather than in a dumbed-down and possibly less than accurate kids’ version. And he’s seeing them as objects of study (when Tim prepares for his tutorials, N. says Tim is “practicing the Bible”) to be pondered over a life time. The King James translation in particular provides such rich language, and N. and Tim immediately started drawing on it for fun in their everyday activities. When they were clearing out a huge patch of overgrown English ivy in our yard, Tim said, “We have to smite this,” and N. responded, “Yeah, let’s smite these Philistines!” I suspect English ivy will henceforth be known as “the Philistines” in our family!

4 comments:

Lisa said...

Thanks for this post. My husband is an atheist and I lean in that direction(I'm in no way christian). We have been talking lately about reading stories from the bible to our girls, I will make sure it is the King James translation. Thanks again.

-Lisa :)

Fanny Harville said...

Lisa,
I do think that if you are going to read the bible for cultural literacy purposes, then King James is the only way to go. But beware: it is much more violent than the kiddie versions I grew up on! And the God of the Old Testament is way harsh, which only confirms my atheism...

Thanks for your comment.

sgaissert said...

I too was raised Catholic but now I see no need for religion. I do not believe God is there. He certainly is not in the Bible stories where all that smiting goes on!

Holly said...

We're also atheists, but we approach the subject of religion through its cultural value in art, literature, architecture, and music. Because we live in such a predominantly Judeo-Christian society I think it's also important to expose kids to a wide range of world religions so that they can compare and understand the relationships, similarities, and differences. Lucia has learned a lot of this through visits to African and Asian art museums, reading Norse, Greek, and Hindu mythology, even attending Wiccan rituals. There are so many ways to foster an appreciation for the positive aspects of religion even if we don't ourselves subscribe to one.