Saturday, October 29, 2005

Colouring Books

Today I had some time to pass till my favourite kids’ consignment store opened (who opens at 10:30??), so I browsed in the “Christian” bookstore next door. The sign over the door reads: When we serve you, we serve Him. Yikes.

I did this once before, two years ago, when I was looking for some material for firstday school. We were doing a unit on the teachings of Jesus, especially the parables, and I thought I could pick up a colouring book or two with some pictures in it. The little kids could colour them while the older kids talked about the story. For the sake of this unit, I put aside my distaste of all things uberChristian and ventured into this store.

But I ended up leaving empty-handed that day. Sure, I found many colouring books. They started with Adam and Eve, progressed through violent and theologically irrelevant ancient history, a few prophets spouting damnation sermons, then onto Jesus’ birth, cut to the Last Supper, kill him on the cross, raise him on the third day, on to the apostles and apocalypse, finished.

I did a double-take and flipped back again to check. But it was true -- the life and teachings of Jesus were missing.

I thought perhaps it was a mistake in the first colouring book. But I checked them all. Only one had a single picture of the prodigal son story. None of the others had anything else.

I called over the store clerk and explained how the children’s colour books had left out the teachings of Jesus. She took a deep breath that seemed to say “Who are you to tell us, the Christian bookstore, what belongs in Christian colouring books?” Then she gave me a convoluted theological justification that basically said the teachings of Jesus were not all that important to “real” Christianity. I didn’t argue with her. I mean, what could I say to that? I just asked softly, “Do you have anything about the teachings of Jesus at all in this store?”

She directed me to another section of books – flashy titles, all paperbacks, all written by male American ministers in suits and ties whose photos were on the back cover. Nothing kids could colour, but I flipped through some of them anyway, curious now, reading snippets here and there.

One explained that Jesus taught that only people who were saved were actually children of God, that everyone else was not, especially people of other religions.

Another described how Jesus’ teachings forbade cremation, another that his teachings mean that a child of faith cannot go out for Halloween, another that Jesus taught that God does not forgive sinners of certain kinds of sins.

I don’t know how long I stood there unmoving, barely even breathing. I don’t remember leaving.

Today, the store is in a new location and under new ownership. I am no longer looking for colouring books because our firstday school has long since moved on to other units. But as I walked between the rows, I zeroed in on the colouring books anyway. As if they were somehow a barometer of how truth was prospering in these parts.

Nothing had changed. There was still a scar in these books where his life used to be, as if the pages had been torn out.

As if the authors had been in such a mad rush to get him up on that cross that they didn’t want to waste time listening.


At 10:18 AM, Blogger Marjorie said...

Thanks for your kind comment over at friendly kwakersaur scripture study. It brought me over here to take a look.

This was a fantastic post. You cut to the heart of the problem in an interesting, unexpected way. Your last two paragraphs were especially profound. Thank you.


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