Sheila Walsh boldly announces that that “the Bible is my best friend” and can be the best friend of every child. As a pastor and professor, who has written several books on various biblical texts, I have a strong respect for scripture. It has been a lamp unto my feet and a light on my path.
Walsh’s “Bible Storybook” arrived by US Mail in the midst of a Nor’easter sweeping across Cape Cod. My grandchildren, age four and six, were with me as the letter carrier came to the door, and when I opened the parcel, they wanted me to read with them. They were entranced by the pictures of half-naked Adam and Eve, animals coming out of the ark, and Samson fighting with a lion. Then I began to read…and discovered quickly that I needed to edit and revise.
No doubt this wasn’t Sheila Walsh’s intent, but I felt I needed to take liberties with the text for two reasons – taken literally, some biblical stories can be frightening to children; they present an image of an angry and somewhat arbitrary deity, whose love is extolled but can’t always been counted on and often the stories are violent. Second, as a progressive Christian, I find the literal reading of scripture, characteristic of Walsh’s text, problematic. Stories of literal floods, divine punishment, original sin, and so forth, don’t fit into my theology. Nor do I want my children to be indoctrinated in this theological perspective. Walsh does a good job to make these stories palatable, but still these stories present problems theologically and behaviorally.
Still, I believe that context is everything and, accordingly, Walsh’s book is a delightful addition to the libraries of conservative Christian parents. No doubt, later in life, many of these children will see these stories as “myths,” that is containing truth about the human condition, but not essentially factual. Nevertheless, these texts will give children a broad spectrum understanding of scripture. For that, certain parents will be grateful.
Despite my issues with Walsh’s book, I recommend it to my conservative Christian friends. It is also an inspiration for me to tell the bible stories to my grandchildren in ways that are truthful, if not textually literal. As a cradle Baptist, raised in a conservative church and educated in the spirit of the “B-I-B-L-E, that’s the book for me,” I am grateful for the biblical education I received as a child. It has given me a strong biblical foundation for my progressive theology.
The bible has been a good friend, and though I have struggled in our relationship, our friendship has enriched my life and inspired me to critique the text to more fully respond to God’s word and wisdom in my life.