ACCESS Ministry wants everyone to believe that they are teaching “morals” and “values”.

In this recent example on their website:

http://www.accessministries.org.au/support/sharing-ideas-inspiring-action/sharing-ideas-inspiring-action

They give an example of an activity that they do in schools.

Notice how they say that their exercise is based on the a lesson that is taught to children (here in modern day Australia) that is “inspired by biblical examples like that of Naaman’s servant girl … in 2 Kings 5: 1-14″.

Using completely bizarre bible stories as moral parables escapes scrutiny because ... why?

Using completely bizarre bible stories as moral parables to teach children is a good idea?

Now I want everyone to pause for a minute and consider what ACCESS Ministries have to do in order to use a story from 2 Kings as the basis for “moral” or “values” education for children.  I would like to suggest that this is a fine example of just how perverse it is to hand over our schools to people who have no interest in education, but every motivation to drum their religious ideology into OPC (other people’s children).

Who in their right mind, would choose to locate a story (meant to instruct children in modern Australia) about “helping others” by starting with a story of a man with leprosy, and about child who kept in slavery?  Only a person who was deeply not serious about moral education.

It is just nutty to suppose that there are not better ways to communicate these ideas to children.

While we are at it, it merits asking why anyone would regard “the bible” as a good basis children’s instruction?  After all, it is not written for children.  We have heaps of great children’s literature – and have for a long time.  For example Aesop’s fables are valued as good material to communicate moral lessons to children because they are “child like” and easy to remember, and they come with clear, and simple moral lessons, presented in ways that children can understand in their child like ways.

The bible on the other hand is none of these things.  Additionally, many of the stories require deep knowledge of history and context to have any meaning at all.

In short, you really have to go out of your way to argue that the bible is a good text for primary school children to read as a source of “moral” or “values” instruction – we have much better, and relevant ways to communicate “values” and “morals” to children, than to place them in a “biblical” context.

To illustrate this, let me explain what an ACCESS Ministries volunteer must do to make sense of 2 Kings 5 to children:

First you have to introduce the character “Naaman”, who is a general in the Syrian Army.    

Also, he does not worship the same God that the Israelites worship.  They you have to explain that Naaman has leprosy, and you have to explain what that means.  Then you have to explain the biblical understanding that God both causes, and can cure disease.  Unless you explain these things, the story really makes no sense at all.

Ok, now keep in mind that, according to ACCESS Ministries, the point of reading 2 Kings 5 to children is to encourage them to want to do good.  

So, once you have told the children about the Syrian General with leprosy, you now have to introduce the “slave girl”, who lives in Naaman’s house because she was captured in a war and given to Naamans wife as a gift.  (the girl doesn’t have a name in the story).  

You then have to make a virtue out of this girl, and explain that she is happy to help her owner, and she does this by informing him that there is a prophet in Israel who can cure his disease.

If you are confused at this point how any of this makes sense as a meaningful way to encourage children to help others … you are not alone.

It takes some doing (there is some tearing of robes) but Naaman goes off to get this cure from the prophet Elisha who is a guy who can perform miracle cures.

The prophet tells Naaman to bathe in the Jordan River, which then has to be explained as something that is humiliating.   Eventually Naaman does as he is told and lo and behold, after following the instruction to dunk himself 7 times, he is cured!

Naaman then wants to pay the prophet, however the prophet is more concerned about making sure that Naaman knows who God is – and that Naaman should stop worshiping his God, and start worshiping the right God (ie the God of Israel).  All of this stuff, the seeking of prophets, the leprosy, the slave girl, the contest over which God is the right God, is in fact what much of the bible deals with.

Its a great parable for kids, right?

It seems that people who say that children benefit from “biblical principles” are never very specific about what this means.  In this case, it apparently means that slaves should be obedient and helpful, that miracle cures are possible if it is God’s will.   It also seems important to me that children learn that these ideas are in fact “wrong” – that they characterize primitive and superstitious thinking, but are no longer valid.

If you think I’m making any of this up, have a read of 2 Kings 5:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20kings%205:1-19&version=NIV

Is the point of this exercise to help children understand how to help others?

If it is, what is the point of telling them a story about how a Syrian General was healed by following his slave girl’s advice and seeking out the instruction of a prophet to rid himself of leprosy?  None of these concepts are likely to make sense to a child – nor will the help the child understand the supposed moral of the story, which ACCESS Ministries wants us to believe is about “helping others”.   Now, if the concept of “slave girls” and “prophets” etc … were familiar and made sense to kids, perhaps this story would be good – but they don’t (thank God).

Does ACCESS tell children that these stories are “true”?  I suspect they do.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Is the bible really a good source of moral instruction, or have we handed over 30 minutes a week of our children’s education to people who have no business being around children?