Few religious stories are as accessible to western culture as David and Goliath. This ancient story resonates with our appetite for the underdog and our penchant for seeing the mighty fall. As one blogger has said, “The term David & Goliath is mentioned so much that like “Catch-22″ many don’t even know the original reference.” Hoosiers, Erin Brokovitch, Valley of Elah, A Few Good Men, and a Simpson’s episode called “Bart’s Dream,” are a couple examples of this religious-turned-cultural story.
But as my 3 ½ year old son pointed out last week, it’s more than a story about upsets. David and Goliath are featured prominently on the cover of his The Beginner’s Bible, and so of course it’s a favorite. According to the picture, when David uses rocks to kill Goliath we’re supposed to raise our hands, laugh, and thank God. But my son made a deeper connection, asking, “Is David being mean to Goliath?”
How do you answer that one? If this were the playground, or school, church or a friend’s house the answer is obvious. But this is the Bible! Is it ok to be mean in the Bible if you are one of the good guys? Jesus wasn’t mean; why can David be? What do you do when your heroes don’t live up to your own rules? And what do you do as a parent when your children’s stories (from Bible, gaming, movies, etc…) don’t share your values?
A new film based on this story is in the works, fashioned after the ultraviolent 300 and The Bourne Identity, the film backers seem to suggest it’s not just ok to be mean, it’s downright cool. But my son doesn’t need another religiously supported message telling him violence is cool; especially if this movie (titled Goliath) in any way portrays the bad guys as Muslim or Arab-esque. Almost guaranteed to be missing from Goliath is the Bible’s own critique of David’s use of force: too violent to build God’s house!
Nor can the “violence is cool” message be squared with Jesus own message: Love your enemies, pray for those who hurt you, return evil with good, forgive those who harm you, pick up your cross. All actions he likely didn’t think you could pull off while grabbing your five stones from the creek. One of Jesus’ best friends said that “when he was insulted, he didn’t insult in return, when he was threatened he didn’t threaten.” That to me sounds like the kind of healthy, courageous, and emotionally successful kids I hope to raise! But how do you parent to pull that off?
How do you pull that off when church and culture offer a steady stream of violence as means to an end? How do you raise a peacemaker with our current mis-definitions of courage (willingness to kill and be killed) and masculinity?
Police brutality, cyber bullying, assassinations, wars and rumors of wars, returning soldiers suffering from PTSD and death by suicide, all convince me our children need to know Jesus promise “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Seriously, I’d love to hear from you on this one. How would you (or did you!) answer your child when asked if David was being mean? Will you take your children to see the “religious” movie Goliath? Can children learn Jesus is “the prince of peace” while simultaneously learning David is cool? How do you raise a peacemaker at age 3? 13? 23?
Let me know your thoughts. I’m all ears!
Originally posted on Marty’s Houston Chronicle Belief blog, where I blog as “The Peace Pastor.” houstonbelief.com