Friday, 5 November 2010
This cartoon, I think almost accidentally, gets exactly to the heart of how to make faith a living thing for children - stimulate their imaginations. I've been reading Gerard Jones' Killing Monsters: why children need fantasy, superheroes, and make-believe violence, and the author stresses over and over that children use stories to work through issues of power and aggression and to have mastery over these concepts. By identifying with Superman, a powerless child feels powerful and confident - by working through feelings of anger, rage, or hatred in make-believe, a child learns that they control these feelings, rather than are controlled by them.
The story of Moses is the story of the weak and powerless triumphing over both more powerful people and the powerful forces of nature. Moses is enslaved and afraid when God first speaks to him - "how on Earth is Pharaoh going to listen to ME?" If we are doing our job, children will identify with him. They will feel his fear in the face of Pharaoh. They will fear his hope against hope when Pharaoh gives in. They will feel his panic at the shore of the Red Sea - all these people in your charge, and Pharaoh's Army behind you! All these lives for you to save! It is at this moment that Moses, with God's help, tears off his Clark Kent persona and becomes Superman - if we are doing our job, this moment is as thrilling as any in a comic book or a TV show, any in a fairy tale or Disney movie. The third-act reveal, the deus ex machina, is a cliche for a reason - it works. Just when everything seems lost, a hidden power is unleashed and the hero is triumphant.
Let your kids enjoy the chase scenes, the special effects, the more Hollywood-esque aspects of the Bible. That's what makes it thrilling. That's what makes kids identify with it. That's what makes it meaningful to them.
In this cartoon, the pastor looks unimpressed. He should be jumping for joy - he's gotten through to that kid, and that kid has claimed the stories of the faith as his own. That's a victory! It's what we're here for!