(ABP) — News is still buzzing with talk of the Hunger Games and its spectacular opening weekend. With three kids in my house who have read the book, we too were anticipating the opening. I took one of my girls to see the movie on Saturday.
like many parents, I’ve been concerned about the themes the book develops: a futuristic, fascist society forcing impoverished kids to battle to the death in gladiator-like combat for the pleasure of the wealthy, privileged few.
Equally concerning has been the unabashed marketing of the books and the movie to kids. the book series is labeled “Young Adult,” and the movie bears a PG-13 rating (parents strongly cautioned some material is inappropriate for children under 13.) Yet, I observed families at the movie with kids age 7 or 8.
the Hunger Games is a good movie and a good story. It also has some negative aspects, such as violence. It’s not a movie I took my child to without a plan for how to talk about what we saw. I’d recommend that step for any parents who allow their children to see it: see it with them, and be prepared to help them process the things they see.
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as parents hoping to disciple our children, we have to practice the skill of seeing what is in the world, even if it is difficult to talk about. even the Bible is populated with stories that we’d prefer to keep from our kids: rapes, murders, incest and more. We can’t sanitize every story or we risk losing vital elements of their meaning.
When’s the last time you heard or saw the end of the David and Goliath story (when David takes Goliath’s sword and cuts off Goliath’s head) presented to kids — or adults? It’s fine to leave that part out, especially for young children.
but our faith is built around Jesus, who was arrested, beaten, bloodied, sent on a torturous procession bearing the weight of the instrument of his death and then nailed to a cross to await his death by blood loss and asphyxiation. It isn’t just the story; it’s the details that matter.
and the manner in which we share details can help facilitate our children’s path to discipleship, or it can inhibit it. Parents should use their discretion as the best experts on their own kids, but here are some of my general suggestions:
1. Vocabulary matters. To stick with the Easter example, we can’t be afraid to use the word “death.” Jesus didn’t pass away and he didn’t go to sleep. He was really beat up and he really died for three whole days. Without that, there’s no real power in Easter.
2. Repetition with kids is not just a short-term thing. Kids learn by repeating not just in an individual lesson in a classroom, but by revisiting some stories from the Bible over and over through the years and adding new elements each time. let your talk about parts of the Bible grow over time as kids develop more understanding. For example, we can talk about Rahab as a woman who gave protection to God’s people even though she was not someone who obeyed God herself. Kids can learn when they are older that she was actually a prostitute.
3. Stick with the truth. Potiphar’s wife didn’t ask Joseph to be her boyfriend, she tried to lure him to her bed and then accused him of rape. Solomon’s wisdom led him to offer to cut a baby in half so that two women could share it. some things aren’t pretty. You’re going to get asked hard questions. as Peter would say, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15.) Joseph obeyed God by running away. Solomon found out the real mother of that baby and was able to save it. and Jesus didn’t stay dead. the truth will set you free.
Easter teaches us that you can’t have Jesus’ resurrection without Jesus’ harsh death. Growing in faith isn’t always pretty. Tell it like it is, with gentleness and age-appropriate care, in order to grow children as disciples, well-versed in their whole faith.
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