Don’t Burn The Books
Bad Students’ Listen
Although as kid I was a poor student with a well nurtured dislike of reading, I was always captivated by a good story. Some of my best memories consist of sitting on the living room carpet listening to my mom read the Christmas Carol, the Chronicles of Narnia, and many other books. Stories have a way of connecting my soul with the world that the classroom can never achieve. Narrative is powerful!
Giving my 15 plus years of working with kids, I’m increasingly finding that all kids love a good tale. Stories often provide kids with the philosophical glasses that they need to understand the blurry world spinning around them. For a child, the story of God sparing the sinful city of Nineveh or of Jesus raising Lazarus (John 11; Jonah 4 ) from the dead makes much more sense than Romans 8:28. If we simply tell a child, that God works all things for good, they may picture God like an auto worker robotically smelting their lives together on an assembly line or simply go back to daydreaming about Thomas the Tank Engine. But if we connect kids to the story of how Jesus wept and cared for his friend Lazarus even when everyone else assumed the worst, we engage young hearts and help them concretely ascribe translucent thoughts to reality.
The Bible is the Story
Thankfully when we communicate through stories, we can remain 100% consistent with the Bible because God’s Word is a story, the truest of all stories. Yes, it has several theological letters, poems, and lists of rules, but the thrust of the Bible is centered on one story, the gospel. It starts with creation. It documents the fall of Adam and Eve into sin. And then the book chronicles how God truly redeems his people through Jesus, coming, living, dying, and ascending into heaven. All of the Mosaic Law, the poems, and the Pauline letters are linked back to the story of God redeeming humanity. For the Christian, all theology and philosophy come from the gospel story.
Because the gospel is a true story through which we view the world (or metanarrative) many parents are scared to let other stories influence their children. If our kids read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or the Chronicles of Narnia, they will become pot smoking, tattoo wearing Goths. Ahhh.
Deep breath. Stories don’t ruin our kids. They simply give our kids and avenue for expressing their hearts. If they love Jesus, they are going to find the gospel awe inspiring. If they don’t, they are going to think The Da Vinci Code is oh so true! Banning books, video games, and music will not preserve or ensure a child’s faith. But helping them understand the stories that pop up on their pages and screens in light of the gospel will be universally helpful!
Five Tips For Evaluating A Kid’s Media
When it comes time to analyze the next cool book, movie, game, music single, or T.V. show here are a few helpful things to remember:
1. The Bible trumps all. The Bible claims to be true and based upon real events (Luke 1:1-4; I Peter 1:16-21). It is not a fairytale. Other stories that challenge the Bible by definition cannot be true. We can be confident that the gospel story is always the most truthful and makes the best sense of the world. Don’t fear the Da Vinci Code; examine it and you’ll find that Paul not Dan Brown speaks the truth.
2. Exposure is not always a good thing. Any narrative written, acted, or sung that directly contradicts the word of God by causing a kid to participate in or love sin should be avoided (Eph. 5:3-6). For example, a book that contains pornographic images, or a song that encourages a child punch their enemy should be banned.
3. Make the most of stories with non-Christian worldviews that are not explicitly sinful. If our children read the Giver help them compare the book back to the Bible. Did the book line up with the Biblical story of Jesus? What do the characters hope in? Does the world of book really represent how our world operates?
4. Realize your limitations. Whether it’s the kid next door, or Tom Brady on Sports Center, or their teacher, someone will reach your child with a life story that contradicts the Bible. After all, my older brother and I snuck off to a friend’s house to watch King Kong against our parents’ wishes. Stories that oppose God are easily accessible. But, we can help all of our children place the stories they encounter in the gospel context
5. Embrace a good story. We do not have to be afraid of fiction and storytelling. Christ told many stories during his ministry. We need to be careful to protect our children from the world. But as stated above, stories provide children with tools necessary to grabs deep philosophical and theological terms. If we limit stories, we threaten our kids’ mental and spiritual health