One of my biggest pet peeves about Christian education today is that we're fictionalizing the Word of God. And then we wonder why people who've grown up in our ministries aren't sure if the Bible is completely true or not. (Barna cites study after study where even churched Christians don't accept that all of the Bible is true.) I think it's time we step back to see if perhaps we're reaping things we've sown into kids' worldviews.
This Sunday, one of the 2-year-olds in my class brought me a book to read. He had several to choose from: Disney books, Sesame Street books, etc. The one he brought me was on Jonah. The only thing was that it was the "Alice in Bibleland storybooks series." No kidding! It exists! Alice (a fictional character) learns about real-life people that God interacted with. How is this 2-year-old supposed to know that Alice is fictional and Jonah isn't?
Add to that the lingo we use related to the Bible. We tell kids Bible "stories." We ask them which "character" in the Bible they most relate to. People, these aren't characters...they are real people who lived in history and had real things happen to them! We would never say "I'm going to tell you the story of Winston Churchill. He's an important character in the story of World War II." No! We'd say "Winston Churchill was an important man who lived during World War II." What happened to him was real--not a story like Big Bird going to a farm and learning about manners.
What's to be done? I can tell you that from a publishing perspective, we're trying to clean up the way we refer to these real people and real historical accounts. But what else can be done? I remember long ago that a children's minister told me she wouldn't allow all the cartoon characters in her facility because it blurred the lines between fact and fiction. In my class, I've stopped calling it "storytime" and the "story rug," and instead call it "Bible time" and the "Bible time rug." Little things, but I think they may add up to cementing truth for our little ones.
What do you think? What can we do to help our children see that the Word of God is not a bunch of characters in stories...but it's the amazing retelling of God's movement with real people in real time--just like with us?