The Bible – Rated R?

The Bible – Rated R? August 17, 2007

I thought I’d share another old post (below), in light of Hong Kong’s Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA) issuing the following press release in May of this year:

The Bible is a religious text which is part of civilisation. It has been passed
on from generation to generation. TELA considers that such longstanding
religious texts or literature have not violated standards of morality, decency
and propriety generally accepted by reasonable members of the community.
Therefore, TELA will not submit the Bible to the Obscene Articles Tribunal for

When discussing the books of Joshua, Judges and 1-2 Samuel in class, I have on occasion asked my students who they would get to direct the stories. My own suggestion is to have Mel Gibson direct Joshua, which has a Braveheart epic sort of feel to it, while Judges is definitely more up Quentin Tarantino’s alley. Both books would clearly deserve an ‘R’ rating. My assignment for that part of the semester is to have students reflect on the difference between reading these stories as adults and their exposure to them as children. Many details they don’t remember from their childhood are mentioned, without fail including that they were not told as children that Goliath was decapitated by David.

Should Bibles have parental advisory labels affixed to the cover? Would we really want out children to put what they learn from these parts of the Bible into practice? (On a related note, I came across an entertaining spoof site, The Society of Christians for the Restoration of Old Testament Morality, that some readers may find amusing, as well as thought-provoking satire). Earlier this year I heard someone tell a story in church about how, as a child, they had been inspired by the story of David and Goliath to fling a stone at a large bully’s forehead! The interesting thing is that it is hard to see why this wouldn’t be a perfectly appropriate application of the story!

Although one can find plenty of books presenting liberal Christian values for adults, it is hard to know what to give one’s children to read. Presumably there is an age or stage of development before which distinguishing between historical/factual and symbolic/metaphorical stories will not be helpful, but when and how does one start making the distinction? For those of us who want to expose our children to the Bible and the Christian tradition in a way that does not set them up to lose their faith when they learn about history and science, what resources are available? As I find such materials I will mention them here, and in the mean time I would appreciate comments and suggestions from readers who may have things they can recommend.

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  • The Mouse Avenger

    How come nobody has commented on this post yet? It’s really intriguing…

    Maybe, I’ll start contributing to the comments section with a question! ^_^

    Presumably there is an age or stage of development before which distinguishing between historical/factual and symbolic/metaphorical stories will not be helpful…

    If you don’t mind me asking, which stories in the Bible are you describing as being in need of distinguishing? Surely not parables, poetry, proverbs, or anything like that–for those were obviously meant to be symbolic/metaphorical, & not taken literally. In that case, I suppose you’re talking about all the historical accounts & narratives that are also included in the Bible?

    • I think that even the ones that seem clear to us may not seem to be in one category or the other for young children, who may not grasp the distinction.

    • Jen (*.*)

      Like the proverbs advocating child abuse that thousands of *adult* Christians take extremely literally?

  • Jen (*.*)

    I had to read the Bible through many times as a child. I would NOT do that to my kids (if I had any). There are too many themes and stories that are just plain violent and disturbing.

    The most dangerous way of reading the Bible, IMHO, is with lack of context or appreciation for human fallibility. I missed out on these as a kid because we didn’t have commentary or explanations. I had to rely on story books that, for the most part, praised one person and denigrated the other.

    For example, Joseph is the “good” guy in the coat of many colors story, and his brothers are the “bad/evil” guys. Now I see Joseph as a cocky brat who knew he was daddy’s favorite. Who knows what his brothers had to put up with? Their dad, of course, was the “good” guy in the story of Jacob and Esau, even though he deceived his dad to get his birthright. (That whole family was pretty screwed up…) Then there is Vashti, who I always saw as the “bad” woman because she didn’t obey her husband (Esther was the “good” woman of the story). Now I think of Vashti as a brave lady who had a lot of respect for herself.

    The above three examples also demonstrate fundie black and white thinking, which is also very dangerous because it shuts down reasoning skills and proper interpretation. That’s how it affected me as a child anyway.