No problem in the religious education of children in our Western culture is so omnipresent as this one: What shall we do about the Bible?
— from Today’s Children and Yesterday’s Heritage by Sophia Lyon Fahs
What shall we do about the Bible? The question comes up as frequently among Unitarian Universalist parents today as it did in 1952 when Fahs wrote these words. These days, most UUs are fairly clear about why they need to be familiar with Jewish and Christian sacred texts. But parents may question when such study is appropriate and how to go about it.
I’m a fan of the approach Fahs took when creating the story collection From Long Ago and Many Lands (second edition), still available from the UUA Bookstore. Bible stories are included, but so are stories from other traditions which speak to universal themes and questions posed by people and cultures throughout the ages. Fahs wrote, “To treat the history of [humankind's] religious experiences as though it were contained in one sacred book about one religiously superior people is to foster narrowness and intolerance at a time when breadth of appreciations are sorely needed. Indeed, the values of one’s own religious heritage can never be understood or fairly appreciated until one is able to compare [one's] own with others.” The stories that form the core of the UUA curriculum series Tapestry of Faith are selected using this approach.
That said, some families still feel it is important to have a collection of Bible stories. The Children’s Illustrated Bible by Selina Hastings (DK Publishing, 2005) is the far and away favorite of UU religious educators; DK published another collection, The Bible Illustrated Story by Story, in 2012. Another recommended by several religious educators is Desmond Tutu’s Children of God Storybook Bible: Deluxe Edition (2011). This edition comes with a CD and has beautiful illustrations. The publicity explains: “…to create the first truly global Bible for children, the artists have been invited to portray the stories with the style and richness of their own culture.”
The UUA Bookstore offers resources for adults who may wish to explore further. Try the pamphlet “UU Views on the Bible” and John Buehrens’ book, Understanding the Bible: An Introduction for Skeptics, Seekers, and Religious Liberals.
The full text of Fahs’ seminal work is available online here.