We had on-again off-again thunderstorms this afternoon, and at sunset this evening a rainbow arched across our neighborhood, glowing in the sideways sunlight. I was chatting with one of the boys about it while I played with a panorama app on my phone, trying to get a picture of the whole thing. “The rainbow is making me really nervous,” my son confided.
He struggles with anxiety, but I was still surprised to hear that he was becoming anxious about something as benign as a rainbow. “Why is that, sweetie?” I asked him.
“Because we learned in Sunday school that God made the rainbow as a promise never to flood the earth again.”
“That’s right. Why does that make you nervous?”
“Because if there’s a rainbow then someone might accidentally walk through it and break it. And if you break a rainbow, then God might break his promise to never flood the earth. My Sunday school teacher said so.”
I realize my kids’ Sunday school teachers might not be experts at physics, but at the very least I expected that they weren’t teaching my kids such awful theology. I hugged my son. “Oh, sweetie, your Sunday school teacher was very wrong about that,” I told him. “God will never, ever, ever, ever break a promise. No matter what we do, we can never do something to make God break one of His promises. That’s why in the story God gave Noah a rainbow — to show that we can trust God.”
He nodded and busied himself showing the rainbow to the cat, and I got on Twitter and fumed. What on earth was she thinking, telling kids God might change Their mind? Was this a joke? Did he just misunderstand? Obviously I need to step up my timeline for moving us to a different church where my kids won’t be learning such untruths. What other holes are being left in my kids’ understanding of Who God is?
What kind of holes have *I* left in teaching him about God that would allow him to believe something like this?
How am I even supposed to teach my kids how to handle their questions about God and the Bible if I can’t figure out some of this stuff myself? How do I teach them that God is like Jesus, and that the stories in the Old Testament aren’t all meant to be interpreted literally, and that God is trustworthy even if the Bible stories don’t mesh with our modern scientific definition of factuality, if I don’t even really understand it?
And then I remembered that last winter I ordered Peter Enns’s book Telling God’s Story, and it’s still sitting in one of the many, many stacks of books I like to surround myself with, still waiting to be read.
Peter Enns is the Old Testament theologian who wrote Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (you may have read Rachel Held Evans’s blog-through of the book last year) and The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, and if anyone is qualified to address the complexities and nuances of God’s story as portrayed in the Old Testament, it’s him. Telling God’s Story: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible is, from what I understand, a standalone book that explains Enns’s approach to teaching children the Bible, which can also be used as the introduction to his Bible curriculum of the same name.
As I was writing about this on Twitter last night, many other people expressed their own frustration with not knowing how to give their kids an understanding of the Bible that didn’t develop into the same crises of faith that many of us experienced as we grew up. And so, I’m inviting people to work through Telling God’s Story with me, beginning November 1. (I’m hoping to also go through Inspiration and Incarnation along with Telling God’s Story, since I started I&I over the summer and didn’t have time to get all the way through it, but I LOVED what of it I read. Join me for that, too, if you’d like!)
Writing about parenting and childrearing is not an area I’m very comfortable with, since most of the time my own parenting skills amount to a lot of flailing around; so I’m a bit nervous about diving into something like this. I’m hoping this can be a community-participation project, and I’m open to suggestions on how best to do that: host guest posts here? blog link-up? scheduled twitter chats? Please let me know in comments if you’re interested in participating in this discussion (or if you’d rather just listen – that’s great too!), and if you have a preference for opening up the conversation about this. I have so much to learn, and I certainly don’t want to dominate this conversation with just my voice. (Plus, November tends to be a pretty intense month for people, school-wise and family schedule-wise, so I doubt I’ll be able to stay on top of this by myself!)
What do you think? Are you in?
P.S. – I tried and failed to find this book in my fairly extensive local library, so I’m guessing that if you want to follow along with the book, you’ll need to purchase a copy. If this is something you’re interested in but book-buying isn’t in your budget right now, would you mind emailing me or sending me a direct message on twitter so we can work something out? I’d hate for finances to be the thing that stops you from participating in this conversation.