Tuesday, December 19, 2006

In Which "Jenny" Nearly Stumps her Foster Dad

WARNING TO ALL ATHEISTS/anti-Christians: the following post contains many religious references and even a quotation from [gasp] the Bible. If that offends you...

Tough. This is my blog. God is (occasionally) spoken here.


I was sitting at the computer the other night figuring out my fantasy football rosters for the playoffs when "Jenny" walked up and blew me away.

She has taken an interest in Christianity in general and the Bible in particular. As I've outlined before, we encourage that if the kids show any interest, but this was the first time she asked a serious question about it.

She was carrying the bible we had given her as a gift...we know she reads it fairly often because we find it laying open around the house to various passages. She asked me if I could answer a question. I said "sure". She sat down on my lap, opened her bible to Exodus 32 and read a few verses:

Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them to their shame among their enemies) then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, "Whoever is on the Lord's side--come to me!" And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. And he said to them, "Thus says the Lord God of Israel: 'Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.'" So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. Then Moses said, "Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.
She then looked up at me with a furrowed brow and a concerned look and asked "how come they killed all their friends and family and then they got a blessing for it?"

Whew. Talk about a complex theological question. This is the sort of thing that, if answered wrong, could turn a kid off of Christianity for life. I have no doubt there are some who will read this that will say to themselves "that's EXACTLY the kind of thing I hate about Christianity!"

Well, I thought about it, took a deep breath and tried to explain. I told her that before Jesus came along and died for our sins, God was much more wrathful with His people. He had much more nasty ways to keep His people together than he does now, and people also thought differently back then.

I explained to her that starting with the book of Matthew you begin to see the softer, more generous side of God. He had a generous side in parts of the Old Testament too, but He also had what can only be described as a really wicked temper and wasn't afraid to show it when He needed to.

The simple answer to her question was that the people who did that didn't want to kill their own people, but did it anyway because God commanded it, and in that way showed their faith and devotion. I preempted her probable concerns about that happening here and now by pointing out that that sort of thing was part of the reason that Jesus died on the cross for us. We don't have to worry about that sort of thing anymore...at least not until we meet Him when this life is done and have to give an accounting of our conduct of this life. Then all bets are off again.

My Jewish readers (I know there are at least a couple of you) undoubtedly have a different view of how this all works, but I think this is a fair representation of the view most Christians take toward many of the nastier events of the Old Testament.

She seemed relatively satisfied with my answer, and made me promise to ask the other guys about it at my Bible study tonight, which I did. They thought I had explained it adequately, only adding that there was one other consideration. God's people had just come out of Egypt when this happened and they were a brand new nation. Many of them had already started worshipping false Gods, and the corruption was spreading even to the righteous. Something had to be done...and in those days everybody (not just the Israelites) settled matters in a way that would make most people blanche today. This was God's way of trying to keep his baby nation under control and focused on Him.

If she comes to me sometime with questions about Revelation, I think I'm just going to hide.

I normally don't write a lot about the Bible, because it normally doesn't come up a lot (so far) in our fostering experience, but this seemed a unique event in "Jenny's" growth. She really seems to be taking an interest...and her mother even came with us to church Sunday. She had been thinking about coming to our church for some time apparently, and this Sunday "Jenny" was part of the Christmas program the kids were putting on and she wanted to see it.

It would be so wonderful if we could help bring a somewhat broken family to the same kind of spiritual happiness that we've found...but I'd settle for "Jenny" just finding a way to deal with life and her family in a constructive way. For her, maybe it's Christ. The Wife and I certainly believe so. I guess we'll have to see over time if she agrees.


At 3:18 AM , Anonymous Auntie J said...

Not to long ago there was a made for TV movie on Moses and what went down after egept and i think it is something that Jenny might enjoy watching...now to just find a copy of it...and you know it was good when i sit down and dont move...

At 6:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ohhh, this has been bothering me for DAYS. (I spent 1am-2am [fever kept me awake] of Christmas morning wondering what I'd say to this.) See, a quick timeline goes: I came across your blog. I read through some of your older posts. I commented and asked a question about one of your posts. You replied, and at this point I thought "Oh, dear, what if he thinks I was insulting him?" I respond to say "thank you for answering my question, you addressed what I wanted to know!" with an extra "please don't think this was me saying you shouldn't take your kids to church; I mean, I'd only find it offensive if you forced them to join in or lie and say they believed it". Except - what if that causes offense? So I kept the blog in my "current" favourites folder, just in case. Unless you're addressing someone else, or heading off a potential-but-not-certain situation, I'd just like to say that my being NON-Christian doesn't mean I'm ANTI-Christian.
Cos I'm not. Just in case you thought so.
There's a difference between forcing beliefs on someone (like the people I've known who've literally screamed at their kids to say they believe the same thing - as though the kid giving in and lying makes it true) vs just, y'know, having beliefs (like allowing your foster kids to see what Christianity is and answering their questions about the Bible, and talking about your personal thoughts on a blog that people CHOOSE to visit and can leave at any time).

It does, of course, occur to me that if the introductory warning was NOT referring to me, then I've just wasted my time.

OH WELL. Hope you and yours had a good Christmas.

At 9:59 AM , Blogger Dan said...

anonymous, that wasn't really directed at you, nor did you waste your time.

It was directed (if it was directed at all) to all the nincompoops who keep, year after year, trying to ban Christmas in particular and Christianity in general from the public square or anywhere else where they might see it. Banning the term "Merry Christmas" from public schools, banning the Salvation Army bell-ringers from Target (I still won't shop there because of that) and so forth.

I'm sorry. I guess I should have been more precise in my backhanded snark. Actually, as an aspiring good Christian I should give up snarking altogether, but I broke down I guess.

Anyway, your first comment wasn't out of line and your second comment certainly explained your position (one I certainly don't condemn) well.

And while I'm on the subject, thanks for seemingly being one of the precious few atheists on the entire internet who I have run into who doesn't ridicule, insult, or otherwise belittle my religion (or others) and in the process make themselves look like lost, little people.


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