Last night a Toronto public school board finalized a ban on the distribution of Gideon Bibles to fifth graders. (There were threats of violence from various Christian objectors, but that’s a topic for another day.) The decision was based on possible human rights violations (I’m not sure of the details), but another serious argument was apparently ignored, namely that the Bible just isn’t suitable for fifth graders.
I can almost see Christians steaming from the ears at such a suggestion, but I think it warrants consideration. There is a lot of gruesome violence in the Bible, including the mass slaughter and rape of women and children. If you don’t want to expose your children to this type of violence, you should probably put your Bibles on the top shelf.
The irony is that it is Christian groups who are often at the forefront of protests against violent video games and other media (see here and here, for instance) even as they grant their young children unfettered access to the scriptures.
Of course, there are some churches that are willing to let their objection of violence slide when it allows them to recruit new members (if there is one thing I’ve learned from my experience as a Christian, it’s that most churches’ long-held doctrines and traditions become unusually flexible the moment the congregation starts to shrink). In 2007, The New York Times ran a story about churches using the violent Halo video game to attract young people. Nothing like a little violence to turn people onto Jesus! (Apparently the “WWJD” mantra was conveniently forgotten here.)
Although I’m an atheist, I have no objections to my child reading the Bible. Indeed, to be well educated about religion, he should read it. (I would even consider pointing him to the Qur’an, but after having read it myself I’m not sure I can bring myself to make such a recommendation.)
However, just as with the violent video games, my child’s going to have to wait until he’s a little older.