Tuesday, May 26, 2009
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!