What? Who could hate Walt Disney? And then she’d add, Have you ever watched children’s faces when they watch his movies? They usually are not having a good time. They are sitting on the edge of the couch, anxious and afraid. Sorry Walt Disney fans, but to some extent, this is true. My little sister used traverse our backyards to her friend Debbie’s house, where they would listen to a record of Bambi, and every day for at least a week, she returned home awash in tears, gulping, Bambi’s mother died, because, I assume, every day she thought the outcome would be different.
Yesterday a friend posted a video of her four-year old daughter explaining the story of Easter using Resurrection Eggs, an illustrative teaching tool of which I was unaware until yesterday. Evidently, you fill an egg carton with a dozen brightly colored plastic eggs, each containing an item that represents a part of the Easter story. Facing the camera, my friend’s daughter dutifully held up a nail. This, she said, is what the bad guys used. Then touching the point with her finger, she solemnly added, Ouch. She cracked open each egg and held up several items in succession: a piece of saltine for the bread at the Last Supper, a piece of string for the rope used to bind Jesus’ wrists, a bit of sponge for the sponge soaked in rancid wine, a piece of a rose bush for the crown of thorns, a stone for the boulder in front of the tomb. Finally she cracked open the last egg which was empty—BECAUSE, she proclaimed triumphantly and loudly, HE WASN’T THERE!
During my weekly call to Mom, I mentioned this video because it had some very funny bits: the sponge had been soaked in beer and the thorn was to make sure he was dead!, said with much emphasis on the word “dead.” The rope was because back then they didn’t have these (here she mimed handcuffs). Mom didn’t laugh. Very quietly she said, How old is your friend’s daughter? I replied, four. Then she said, Isn’t that a little young to hear such a graphic story? Of course, she’s right. In our cleverness we have completely overlooked whether or not what we are doing is appropriate.
In 2004, Mel Gibson directed The Passion of Christ. At the time, I worked for the Paulist Fathers. One of the priests wrote an article for his parish newsletter explaining why he had no intention of seeing the film. The beauty of the Bible, he said, is that it is elegantly understated; it doesn’t say, for example, Christ writhed on the cross, moaning in pain. This quiet recitation allows everyone to bring to it his own experiences, making the story personal. The priest was also afraid that once Christ’s suffering was committed to film, that would be the image we would forever carry with us. (Having never seen the film, I can’t know if that is true, though I tend to doubt it.) Nevertheless, there is such a thing as being too graphic. I just finished reading a novel that seemed to delight in shocking me with evermore depravity. Perhaps this is the world we live in today: ISIS beheads or burns captives alive and, inured to brutality, we write debased books and tell the Crucifixion story to four-year olds instead of letting them believe in Easter Bunnies.
Thanks for the attitude adjustment, Mom. Children should be children for a little while. The beer on the sponge isn’t really funny.
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