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Meditation 782
Suffer the little children to come to Sunday School
so they can be told lies

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I was searching the web for information on another piece I'm considering writing and I came across a site (ChildrenSermons.com) with a Sunday School lesson for children on Joshua and the walls of Jericho. I read it to see if there was anything worthwhile, and I was astounded by the level of deception in this one short piece.

I just want to take two passages from the lesson and point out some of the problems.

First, the teacher is supposed to make a point about faith. Here's what she is supposed to tell (and show) the children.

Joshua had a great test of faith. Would he try his own brilliant military plan, or completely trust God and obey in faith? ... Let me try something with you. Do you see this crystal glass? Here's my plan: I'm going to get this glass to sing. Yes, sing! Do you have faith that I can do it? [Listen for answers] Watch now, while I make this glass sing. [Fill the glass halfway with water. Dip your index finger in the water and gently rub a circle around the inner rim of the glass until the vibration produces a humming sound. When the humming gets louder, say "It's singing! Do you hear it?"] Never underestimate the power of faith.

There are two major issues here. The teacher says that she is going to make the glass sing. She does not say vibrate, hum, or make a musical note. She specifically says "sing." And she emphasizes the point to overcome the children's incredulity with a "Yes, sing!" What do you think the children expect? In my view, given they are in Sunday School, they might expect an angelic voice from the glass chanting "Jesus loves me this I know." If she used a word other than sing - say hum - or chime - she would not be able to make the expected impact that "Yes, sing!" might produce.

So when the glass "produces a humming sound" and she says "It's singing! Do you hear it?" - she has practiced the classic con of bait and switch. This is simply deception.

The second issue apples to faith. She suggests that Joshua's faith in God made the walls of Jericho fall. Well, that, of course is the intended lesson. She draws a parallel with that and an idea that the children's faith in her made the glass "sing." Of course the glass did not sing - and the noise it did make was nothing to do with the faith of children and everything to do with basic physics. The walls of Jericho are not guaranteed to fall down every time an army marches around them, but the glass will make a sound every time it is stroked correctly. One other issue here: she is equating faith in God to faith in a real person. These are not the same thing at all.

This whole section of the lesson is based on changing definitions - definitions of sing and of faith - and pretending the meaning is constant. It's dishonest.

Now let's go the the concluding paragraph of the lesson for something even more dishonest. Out-and-out lies.

Archaeologists (people who dig up old places) have found these ancient walls of brick, and the burned remains of the city. We can trust what the Bible says. The Bible is an accurate record of history. Nothing was taken from the city. Joshua put a curse on Jericho and no one ever rebuilt it on the same site again.

This is just full of lies. Not slippery definitions, but flat out lies. Yes, Jericho has been extensively excavated by archeologists, and it was found to have been destroyed - about 1550 BC after which it remained essentially uninhabited for about 600 years. Now depending on which Judeo-Christian chronology you use, Joshua would have destroyed Jericho either about 1200 BC or about 1400 BC. Either way, if Joshua was an historical figure, he would have encountered a Jericho long in ruins. The ruined city of 1550 BC does not support either trusting the Bible or regarding the Bible as an accurate record of history.

What about "Nothing was taken from the city"? This statement is coming from someone teaching you can trust the Bible! If you read the very next chapter - Joshua 7 - you will read about the punishment of Achor who removed valuables from the ruins. (There's a Christian teaching point here about the terrible punishment awaiting those who disobey God's instructions, but the author of this sermon appears to be too ignorant of the Bible to be aware of it.)

And as for "no one ever rebuilt it on the same site again" - we all know that Jericho actually exists today - and in spite of the fact that it was abandoned for six centuries, it is regarded as on of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world - about 11,000 years.[1][2] And, for those teaching the Bible, the fact of its subsequent existence is mentioned many times in the Old and New Testaments.

Five sentences. Five lies, two of which are shown to be lies by the Bible itself.

I wonder, why the dishonesty? Why lie to children? When the children discover they have been lied to, will they retain their faith?[3] I certainly hope not.

Notes:

  1. This is very inconvenient for those who claim archeology supports the Bible, but who also believe God created the earth 6,000 - 10,000 years ago.
  2. A good chronology and discussion of the issues around dating Jericho can be found here: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Jericho
  3. Several have written over the years about well-meaning friends, neighbors, grandparents etc who want to take their children to Sunday School. If you find your children have been indoctrinated while others have been looking after them, just go over with the children what happened in detail. Look for the deceptions, dishonesty, and lies in what they were told, and use that as leverage to get the misinformation out of their systems.