Father Abraham, faithful David, brave Esther, preaching prophets, missionary Paul, parting waters, boasting giants, storms, battles, miracles – the Bible is loaded with amazing stories we love to teach to children. Sunday school teachers have an arsenal of lessons and characters they can offer with the graham crackers and apple juice.
The wonderful thing about the Bible is that it is very uncensored. The story of redemption is very real. But this definitely presents some difficulty when teaching the Bible to kids.
But there are a few stories that never make it on the flannel graph. For obvious reasons. Here are eight of the most awkward Bible stories to teach to children.
The Lord told Noah to build Him an arkie, arkie. The animals came by twosies, twosies. What fun! But there’s a reason we stop at this point in the story. As soon as that door closes, it becomes a scene out of Quentin Tarantino movie. “Let’s sing a song about all the cute little bunnies and puppies and EVERYONE DYING!” What a fun ditty about a floating wooden box containing a few people and animals trying to avoid the mass destruction of all living things. It was the original apocalyptic “last man on earth” story, not a floating petting zoo. And pay no attention to all the floating corpses!
And the Lord told Abraham he would be blessed with offspring greater than the sand on the shore and they would bless all the people of world and to . . . do what to all the men in his household? Can’t we annihilate some pagans or kill some cows or burn some idols or something? We’ll even take care of Sodom and Gomorrah for you! Does it have to be that? Are we sure can’t go back to Ur? I imagine that was an awkward conversation between Abraham and Sarah. “Sarah, I’m going to be out of commission for a couple weeks.”
Usually when teachers get to the second half of Genesis it’s basically “And Jacob was faithful man who died. Oh look! A coat of many colors! Then Joseph saved everyone and they all lived happily ever after, the end.” Teaching the second half of Genesis is like walking through your kids’ toy room in the dark after they played with Legos – you are bound to step on something painful. If you’re up for a challenge see if you can navigate the lies, the circumcision, the rape, the circumcision, the incest, the circumcision, the seduction, the circumcision, the adultery, the circumcision, and so on. Genesis should come with a PG-13 rating, possibly R.
If you want to win the hearts of elementary school boys this is the story to do it, complete with fat jokes, spy stuff, violence, and poop. Which is precisely why most teachers pretend it doesn’t exist. Ehud, one of Israel’s judges kills Eglon, an oppressive king “who was a very fat man” by stabbing him through his enormous belly with a short sword at which point he he lost total control of his bowels. This was literally the crap hitting the fan. Eglon was so fat that the sword completely disappeared inside his belly. (Imagine if Princess Leia had stabbed Jabba the Hutt instead of choking him.) Ehud made his escape while Eglon’s servants left the king alone thinking he was using the John. Light a match, Eglon. Light a match.
The tale of Sisera, an invading general, and Jael, an Israelite woman, is more Game of Thrones than Sunday school. Sisera is invited into Jael’s tent to hide from pursuing Israelite forces. She gives him a place to rest and something to drink and promises to keep an eye out for anyone dangerous. And then while he’s asleep she takes a tent stake and pounds it through his head into the ground. How do you explain that one to kids? “Well kids, then Jael…she…knocked him on the head and…he didn’t wake up in the morning.” You have to wonder if, when the pursuer caught up, they made any jokes like “We’ve got him pinned down now, boys!” or “We really nailed that guy!”
So peaceful, so perfect, such a beautiful moment with a shining star. The cattle are lowing, the shepherds bowing. Sweet Mary is holding her precious baby, the King of the universe, wrapped in swaddling cloths. Ah, Christmas!
“Dad, what’s a virgin?” “Well, honey, that means, um, well, OH LOOK COOKIES!”
Turns out Christmas provides an annual opportunity to have a conversation about the birds and the bees too.
Acts: a safe book, a book of the mission of God to establish his church, a book of missionary journeys and miracles. Oh, and a book of bursting bodies and entrails splattering on the ground. Luke starts off his historical account with a lovely rendition of how Judas took his own life. Nothing to see here, kids. Lets move on to tongues of fire and thousands being saved.
Apparently some people, the Judaizers, so loved the act and idea of circumcision they wanted gentile believers to get in on the fun too. How thoughtful! Let’s all get in on the fun! Paul didn’t think so. He suggested a course of action for them that was, well, it’s best to let him explain in his own words. “As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” Anyone out there want a shot at explaining that one to a room of middle schoolers? “Kids, it’s like circumcision, only way worse. And yes, there are things worse than circumcision.”