29 October 2009

Further adventures in first communion preparations.

We are continuing on through the deeply crappy "We Discover God's Paths" series of books for Younger's first communion/first confession, and I want my money back. So far the book is working to prepare younger for her first confession without once mentioning 'sin'. I would have thought some idea of sin would be kinda, sorta important for first confession, but those farther up the chain and wiser than me have decided it isn't necessary.

This week's lesson came close to mentioning sin, but not as sin, just as a Bad Thing To Do. And what was the sin they almost mentioned, you may ask? Why, failing to protect the environment.

Life is beautiful, but it is also fragile. And God has entrusted to us the care of the precious life that fills the universe. Are you doing your part to look after it? Write about or draw something you could do to care for the world around you.

Then the book goes into a mini biography of St Francis, focusing on his care for the animals. She asked me what she should draw. I told her to draw a picture of herself driving an SUV over an endangered species.

I'm not normally so anti environment. I have written in the past that I believe it is important for us to look after the planet God has entrusted to our care. We know from our own experience that there are tyrants and there are benevolent leaders (at least in theory there are benevolent leaders. I've never seen any but I'm willing to admit the possibility) and I don't believe we are meant to be creation's tyrants.

But what got me piqued about this passage in the book were a few things. Firstly, this is the first thing they mention that one should do. Failing to take care of the planet is the first, worst thing one can do.

Every era has its obsessions and failings. Every era seems to draw on one sin or another, and priests and preachers have thundered from their pulpits and street corners about one of the sins over all others at one time or another throughout history. One era condemns lust, while another condemns gluttony, and yet another time sees pride in every nook and cranny, and so it goes. In our time it has become the environment, as though the worst thing anyone could ever do, the most damaging thing one can to one's own soul, is to mix newspapers with pop bottles in the recycling.

Secondly, the writers of this book have just dumbed it down so far. They are trying to write at the level of children. But here's the problem: you can only dumb something down so much before you get to mere stupidity. Kids aren't stupid. People who try and write down to a child's level invariably fall below it. As a writer you don't try and lower yourself down to a child's level, you try and raise yourself up to it. Kids are capable of so much more than the officials in our era believe them to be, but they have to be asked, or required, or demanded to be. Dumbing things down just makes a bunch of idiots in the long run.

Lastly, the passage above expresses some fine sentiments, but it is mere sentiment. The book goes on about feelings and such, as though feelings are the most important reality there is. Feelings are important, but they are not the be all and end all of our existence. In time we must all learn to set aside our feelings to get the job on hand done. Part of maturing is to inure oneself against one's feelings, to develop a thick skin, as they used to say. Furthermore, this feeling nonsense is leading the kids to believe that God is some kind of warm and fuzzy bunny in the sky, ready to affirm all our feelings and sensibilities with a big, fluffy hug.

They tried something like this on me when I was getting catechised in school. I managed to avoid it through a few things. One was my mother, who used her old catechisms on me when she saw how bad the ones the school and church were using were, and the other were a few nuns who were still of the old school variety. But of my entire class, schooled and raised on this sort of nonsense, I know of only two or three who still occasionally go to church, including myself. That is the fruit of this sort of teaching.

I'm getting rid of these stupid books.

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