As anyone familiar with this blog will know, I study the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. It is my academic passion, which both of my graduate degrees illustrate. I am an ordained minister and I often work with both youth and children in my present ecclesial setting. This means that I get opportunities to look at all sorts of different curriculum. Sadly, there is a glut of bad material out there. Much of it is poorly written, poorly researched, and at times oddly selected. The oddly selected serves as the focus of this post.
The story of Noah and his ark fits the bill better than most examples of an oddly selected pericope. I get it – who doesn’t love flannel graphs of a cute animal? Now multiply that cute animal by two and you have double the cute and double the fun. Don’t forget the rainbows – full on rainbows. Rainbows are so bright and vivid. They make a wonderful palate to decorate a child’s room. Kids love colors and kids love animals. This story would seem to be a match made in heaven. Not to mention that the craft and game opportunities seem endless. Think of all the themed possibilities: coloring books, sticker sets, vinyl wall images , board games, pop-up books, puzzles, plush toy collection and even play sets.
I think from a literary perspective Noah’s ark is a fascinating story, but is it kid friendly? I don’t think so! It is ultimately a story of divine judgment – a very brutal end to many people. Somewhere in this sanitized kids’ version the idea of execution as a form of judgment is completely lost. This loss likely comes from solely focusing on the rainbows and animals. I personally think it is an inappropriate story to share with small children, because to not stress the intent of this rain/flood would seem to miss the point of its inclusion within the narrative.
I know many will protest that I am suggesting that we remove this beloved story from the children’s Sunday school canon, but there are so many other stories that aren’t in there (what’s one more). This canon is all ready very selective about the stories that it includes. I have never heard the stories of Dinah, Gomer, or even what happens between Noah and his kids in this sort of context. They are not there, because they have been deemed inappropriate for small children. Why not slap a PG13 sticker on those stories and call it a day? But above all, please, no more Noah’s ark themed nurseries!
Below are images taken from The Bible for Children. Wheaton, Il.; Tyndale Publishing House, 1990. 12-13. This illustration was done by Don Gabriel in 1989. (I shot them using my iPhone, so the quality is not as good as a normal scan). This may be one of the most graphic images I have ever seen aimed at Children (although the artist may not have intended it), but it nails the judgment of passage better than anything I have ever seen. Notice that on the 2nd image, the people banging on the ark. I personally would not want small children to see these images.