Several years ago, a kind-hearted non-member person in my family bought a Veggie Tales video to keep at their house for when we came to visit on Sundays. While I know many people are fans of this video series, I am not. And although I deeply appreciated my relative’s kind gesture, this particular episode did little to increase my veggie love. An adaptation of the story of David and Bathsheba, King George and the Ducky can be summarized as such:
King George (Larry the Cucumber) is the monarch of an unspecified country, which is currently enmeshed in the Pie Wars. But King George cares only about baths with his rubber ducky, and has decided that the most important person in the world is himself. When he becomes obsessed with Thomas’s (played by Junior Asparagus) rubber ducky, King George must learn a lesson about selfishness … Bathsheba is represented by a rubber duck (!!!), thus replacing the sin of adultery with the less difficult crime of theft. But the essence of the story remains intact: the King covets something (sigh) belonging to his neighbor and takes it for his own; the selfish act is condemned by a prophet (Pa Grape) who points out the pain it has caused, and the King, feeling remorse, repents.
At the time, I was a little perplexed. With all the Bible stories to choose from, why pick David and Bathsheba for a child’s video? The whole thing rubbed me the wrong way on several levels and I also laughed just imagining my kids becoming young adults and being confused as they studied the scriptures more deeply. (“Wait a minute, Mom, I thought this was about duckies!”) Over the years I have wondered about the appropriateness of various scripture stories for kids: the rape of Dinah and the ensuing revenge, Nephi cutting off Laban’s head, Paul’s teachings on women in church, Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 to name but a few.
Recently, as I was reading the introduction to Professor Christine Hayes’ Yale Open Course, an Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), I was struck by her assertion that
… the Bible’s not for children. I have a 12-year-old and an 8-year-old. I won’t let them read it. I won’t let them read it. Those “Bible Stories for Children” books, they scare me. They really scare me. It’s not suitable for children. The subject matter in the Bible is very adult, particularly in the narrative texts. There are episodes of treachery and incest and murder and rape. And the Bible is not for naive optimists. It’s hard-hitting stuff. And it speaks to those who are courageous enough to acknowledge that life is rife with pain and conflict, just as it’s filled with compassion and joy. It’s not for children in another sense. Like any literary masterpiece, the Bible is characterized by a sophistication of structure and style and an artistry of theme and metaphor, and believe me, that’s lost on adult readers quite often. It makes its readers work. The Bible doesn’t moralize, or rarely, rarely moralizes. It explores moral issues and situations, puts people in moral issues and situations. The conclusions have to be drawn by the reader. There are also all kinds of paradoxes and subtle puns and ironies … [these] are some of the things that will be drawn to your attention. You’ll really begin to appreciate them in time.
Interesting food for thought. Have church leaders provided caveats for content and maturity? What is your own approach to teaching children the scriptures?