No, I’m not referring to fairy tales, though that’s a whole topic by itself. In the course of my life as a PK (pastor’s kid) and musician, I’ve spent a lot of time in church. Many of the non-liturgical churches I’ve visited have a designated time in the service for children. Often the children collect an offering (who can resist handing an extra bill or two to a cute child?) and then gather at the front of the church to hear a story. The story can be told by anyone, though it’s usually NOT the pastor, but some other adult or teenager (male or female), and the content can be taken from the Bible, personal experience, or nearly anything, really. Most of the time, the storyteller will finish with some sort of moral (“Jesus loves you,” “obey your parents,” “don’t lie,” etc.) and it has recently occurred to me that the truth of what a congregation believes often lies in the children’s story.
For example, I recently took some piano students to perform the service music at a church, and while the main service featured a lot of talk about faith and grace, when it came time for the children’s story, the moral was pretty close to this, “Jesus is in heaven. Satan gets you down. Jesus gives you the tools so you can pick yourself back up and do all the things you need to do to get to heaven.” I found this amusing, because for all of the anti-legalistic talk and focus on emotional connection, when it gets down to what they want their kids to know, it’s all about behaving the “right” way so God will like them enough to save them. This might actually be a good thing in some ways, since the church endorsed separation of word and deed (say the right words and you will be forgiven, regardless of what your actions are) just makes for lots of self-congratulatory hypocrites. What I mainly take away from this is how thin the veneer of religion on society can be at times–here are a group of people saturated in religious life, but they still know that the important thing to tell their kids is that behavior matters.
(I probably should think about this some more so I have a better summary of what I really think about it, but if I waited for clarity and perfection, I’d never write anything.)