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4 yo: Where that story about wars? There's wars in here.
4 yo: Yeah, that story 'bout fighting and that super-beautiful sweater?
Me: You mean Joseph and his coat of many colors?
4 yo: Yeah! That was a war? They were fighting for a long time? A hundred years?
Me: Well, it wasn't a war. But the brothers and Joseph did have a fight and they sold him to those people going to Egypt.
4 yo: Oh.
(Keeps flipping through the Bible looking for “wars”)
4 yo: This is a book about wars?
Me: Well, there are wars in the Bible but that's not the point of the book. The Bible about God's love. And there are many people in the Bible, too, and since people sometimes make bad choices, there are wars in the Bible. What do you think?
4 yo: I think it's a little bit God's love and a lot of wars.
Me: Hmm, that's interesting. I think it's maybe a little bit wars and a lot of God's love.
4 yo: Okay, let's find a picture of God instead.
War is hell, but my children think it's fascinating. I'm not sure if it's because my older child is a history buff or the cultural glorification of violence that seeps in despite my efforts. The oldest grabbed a world map during homeschooling COVID quarantine weeks ago and spent hours grilling us on which countries fought during World War II and the scope of their participation. Just some light dinner conversation, that's all.
Violence looks sanitized, abstract, in the children's Bible we use (it's still good, I recommend it) though I wouldn't want anything gruesome for children who are still loosing their front teeth. But every story of war has horrific, sometimes untold, implications. We read the battle of Jericho story last week and it was cute how the smiling, cartoon priests blew their horns and the walls fell. The children's Bible conveniently left out the scene where God's people murder every man, woman, child, ox, sheep and donkey that resided therein.
Some Christians dislike the Old Testament for this reason. There's plenty of blood, and frankly much of it seems to be on God's hands. As I've written before, some violence is there as oral traditions were passed down and then established as Holy Scripture, for people of God who were suffering in exile, to remind themselves that God is powerful and in control. I don't know why the rest of it is there, just like I don't know why there's so much war, suffering and cruel violence in this world, other than the fact that we're fractured, wounded people, passing that pain along.
I'm not skipping stories in the children's Bible, since I'd rather wrestle with the discomfort than insinuating to my children that God is all lambs and rainbows. Someday when they're older, I'll tell them to lean into their discomfort of what they read in the Bible, and see in the world. We, especially people with privilege, need to really see, yet not let the horror destroy our hearts or hope.
I do believe that the Bible is a little bit wars and a lot of God's love. I hope I can help my children see that, too, and work for a world where that is so.