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One of my friends pointed out a need for a book that doesn't seem to exist yet.

The audience: Minority-religion (pagans, Unitarian Universalists, devout hodge-podgers) parents and children.

The need: Children are impressionable, and Christianity, in particular, wants to leave an impression. How to introduce kids to the ideas of Christianity without forcing them to make a decision about it? Children of minority religion households need to innoculate their children against the predatory forms of Christianity by informing them of those ideas, without 1) selling those ideas to the child or 2) necessarily forcing the child away from the better elements of Christianity.



The Metaphor: Many religions are at heart magical constructs (see "Practical Magic" for some background on this.) Christian mass has many of the elements of a wiccan circle-casting, just with some different focuses. So, run with that. Everybody's seen/read Harry Potter, they know what a wizard is, and Rowling's magic is pretty harmless...but it's an introduction to the concept of magic, and magic is as central to Christianity as it is to any pagan path.

Chapters are brief mind-excercises and dialogues. Such as:
- Magic (imagine you're a wizard--what do you look like? What do you use for tools--a book? A wand? A talking cat? What sort of spells do you want to cast? Do you think you want to cast a spell to get some money or toys? Or to get rid of a bad cold, or to make it not hurt when you cut yourself? Or to talk to a ghost, or a tree? How could you talk to a tree, anyway? Could you talk to the sky, or the clouds, or ghosts? Are there any spells that you would never cast, or wouldn't want someone to cast on you?) (This is a generic concept that we can use to lead into prayer, commandments, God, and the metaphor for the entire "class")
- Big spirits, little spirits (How about that spell that lets you talk with trees, or the rain. Let's make that spell now. What's the tree going to say? What's the rain going to say? Could the whole entire world have a spirit? Let's make a spell to talk to that...that's a very big spirit, isn't it? Sometimes people give names to those big spirits...")
- God(s) (Do you remember when we were talking about a spell to talk to the spirit in the rain? What do you think it sounds like? How about the spirit of the thunder? How about the spirit of the whole world? Or the solar system? or the sun? *role-play casting the Spell of Talking to Whole Solar Systems.* The solar system is pretty much everything, right? Oh, it's not/yeah, it is. Do you want to talk to the spirit of everything? Can you? Some people, they're kind of like wizards, already do talk to spirits like this. How does that sound to you? Is that silly? Would you want to?)
Spells (part two, Prayer). Can you lift the couch? How about the refrigerator? Can you lift it with some help? That's a little easier. Wands out, class. Pretend it's the summer, and you really really want it to cool down because it's hot and the plants are dead and you can't eat ice cream because it melts too fast. How do we ask for help to make it rain?...)

The idea is to lead kids to a dialogue with religious ideas, while keeping them safely couched in "wizard-talk." That should get kids to the basic ideas of religion and spirituality.

After that, introduce Christians as a sort of wizard, who tries to talk to the spirit of everything. Maybe they can, maybe they can't, but they want to, and some of them think they can. They have big spirits and small spirits they talk to. Here are their rules. What happens to them when they break a rule?

The Most Important Part: DO NOT make fun of anyone. Period. Just ask a LOT of questions. If talking to a spirit is silly, well, do you ever dream, or see something in your imagination? If you can't REALLY cast a spell, well, if you were hungry and cast a Spell of Getting a Hamburger, and mom got you a hamburger for dinner, did the spell work? &ct.

Anyway, just some ideas I'm kicking aroudn...

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
paka
Aug. 5th, 2008 05:51 pm (UTC)
As someone who's never been Christian, yet spent childhood in a heavily Christian area, my opinion is really mixed and might not be useful, but...

I feel that any child will be confronted with Christianity, so I do like the idea of broaching the topic of what Christians believe before someone tries to convert the kids.

I also feel that tolerance isn't a problem - we're all expected to try and see good in Christianity regardless of how angry we actually feel, we all have to live with the tacit assumption that we are Christians and think it's a wonderful religion, and we're all expected to acknowledge that not all Christians are like the people who persecute us and our families, even though that acknowledgement may not be returned.

So, I don't feel like teaching kids to tolerate Christians and Christianity is an issue, but I do feel it is an issue to teach kids that tolerance in a way that does not foster resentment.

I don't know whether approaching this from a magical perspective is helpful however. I think it might be more useful to include Christianity into the same general argument as Wicca, Asatru, Candomble, and so on; these people believe different from you, and that's not a bad thing.

The three big differences between Christianity and any other spiritual path out there, that I feel need to be discussed with small children are;

1. Just because some Christians feel that anyone who doesn't worship their god is damned to their eternal hell, doesn't make it the case - and not all Christians think the world works like that.

2. Just because some Christians feel they have to convert you doesn't mean all of them think you need conversion, and it's okay to make up your mind about that.

3. Just because Christians are in the majority doesn't make them right, and it doesn't make them wrong either. It's just a thing.
chrisloy
Aug. 6th, 2008 01:13 pm (UTC)
Mind if I quote part of this comment? I want my friendslist to discuss it. Been thinking about parenting and religion a LOT lately.
paka
Aug. 6th, 2008 05:56 pm (UTC)
Sure! Though, I didn't think it was all that great.
cherry_minx
Aug. 5th, 2008 11:28 pm (UTC)
Actually, my husband and I have discussed putting together a multi-religion colouring book. So, we'll do that, and you write that book, and we'll go for a simultaneous release *grins*
eris_star
Aug. 6th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
Actually, I was more hoping for a more atheist-friendly book. I may be pagan, but I'm more of a near-agnostic, quiet sort of pagan. My kids are pretty unfamiliar with spells and pagan stuff too, but I'm a lot less concerned about other pagans trying to convert them.
spottylogic
Aug. 6th, 2008 03:12 am (UTC)
I wasn't so much going for pagan-friendly as for an easy-to-grasp metaphor for religious thinking in general, but, good point...
eris_star
Aug. 6th, 2008 05:07 am (UTC)
The best analogy I could come up with for "G/god" was "imaginary friend", so you see why I'm looking for a book...
unclehyena
Aug. 8th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
INTERESTING. And some good comments.

You do know that the most even handed, open minded, inoffensive book in the world will give the hard core 'Thumpers apoplexy, don't you? Part of believing that there is only one true way is seeing anyone who disagrees with you on that point alone as the enemy, because you must be the friend of the enemy.

But it is a really good concept, none the less. I like it a lot.
spottylogic
Aug. 8th, 2008 04:48 pm (UTC)
Well, this idea was targeting moderates, liberals, and athiests, and their kiddies, so they've got some intellectual tools to deal with the "thumpers."

Being a religious liberal means having lots and lots of questions, and bugger-all for answers. So when a kid (even in high school) goes up against someone that's got ALL the answers...even if they're not good answers...s/he's really kind of unarmed for the conflict. How do you deal with someone who wants to save you when you didn't know you needed to be saved? Anyway, I don't know if I can help or not...
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