Friday, March 8, 2013

Godly guilt gifts: story Bibles for kids that can't read

Every church I have ever been a member of prides itself on giving presents to kids for their accomplishments.

It could be for a plethora (who doesn't love the word "plethora") of events: baptism, kindergarten graduation, finishing Sword drill, potty training. Well, maybe the parents get the prize for the last one.

But what always makes me laugh is that when some baby or toddler is "dedicated to the Lord," the baby always gets a present. The best part is that almost always, the present is some kind of storybook Bible.

"Didn't you promise the whole church to read me my Bible?"
Who started this tradition, Thomas Nelson himself or whoever had the misfortune of being named Zondervan?

For starters, the baby will have no recollection of the event or their gift, outside of being able to look back at the photos and videos of the all different relatives in the audience.

Their only "memory" will be from the shaky, grainy video Aunt Linda took with her cell phone and the photos Uncle Bob shot, including the one of his face because he had his new camera turned the wrong way and the one with his finger in front of the lens.

Secondly, the baby can't read. Well, unless the baby is one of those kids from the "Your Baby Can Read" commercials. If that's the case, hopefully you've already bought them some kind of Bible.

Shame on you if you paid big money to get some flash card system to teach your tiny infant to recognize words and didn't think about getting them a Bible!

But if the baby is like most babies, it can't read, so what good is the storybook? This is a godly guilt gift (or the dreaded G3) for the parents disguised as a present for their child.

"Here you go parents. Of course, we assume you are already daily reading God's word to your 3-month-old, but here's a gift for them, you know, just in case. It is now your responsibility to read this heavily edited, mushy, Disney version of the Bible to your baby every night. Why at night? Because that's when good parents read to their children."

I have two older boys, so they aren't really into anything that sounds mushy. Any story that sounds like it might at some point involve a princess is not welcome at bedtime reading. Unless the princess is named Peach and she's been captured by a giant fire-breathing ... um ... turtle ... lizard ... dragon(?) named Bowser.

I feel like I'm going to have to write my own Bible storybook for them. It would have stories like Ehud the left-handed assassin, Jael the stay-at-home mom/slayer of evil army generals, and, of course, Elisha and the hockey stick wielding bears. (That sounds like it could work as a movie title. Does anyone have a "connection," so we can make this happen?)

So, the parents get a gender-appropriate colored gift bag with said Fairy Tale Bible inside it and then the congregation is asked to pledge to help the parents raise their child in a Christlike way.

It sounds almost like an official ceremony with yea's and verily's. The legalese gets to the point where some college guy is freaking out.

He's this close to yelling, "I object" and apologizing to the parents for not being ready for the responsibility to help them train their child "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." He's mumbling under his breath, "I can't even pick a major at college and I suppose to help raise someone else's kids?"

The ceremony ends, the Bible is sent home with the parents. Then the pastor waits to see if his plan has worked.

How does he know if the guilt has been tripped? He sees the Bible in the diaper bag, so the baby can be counted as having brought their Bible to church. Boom.

How does the pastor know if the guilt trip really worked? When the baby is older, they have their very own carrying case to bring the gift Bible to church with them.

That's a G3 win. Or G-cubed. Maybe a 3G? How about Gggwinning?

Using a made up ceremony to guilt parents into reading the Bible to their children is all kinds of gggwinning, at least for the pastor and that man named LifeWay.

Does your church give out Bibles to preliterate children? What other godly guilt gifts have you seen during church services?

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