This morning (fifteen minutes ago when I wrote this, two months ago when I put it online, January 2004 in the original, so she was 12) she was lying on the floor of my office looking up at shelves.
"What's 'The Old Schoolhouse'?"
"A magazine about homeschooling by fundamentalist Christians."
"They believe the Bible is literally true and that everything they need to know is in there and they live just by the Bible."
"Does the Bible say anything about keeping your kids home from school, or about sending them to school?"
"No, but it says things they interpret to be about school, so they quote that about homeschooling. Other people find verses to use to tell kids they need to go to school."
"Will you read me the whole Bible?"
"Sure. Now? I think I have one right in here." I did. I asked if I should start with the best parts or just start at the beginning.
She ignored that, and said "Are you going to trick me and read Lord of the Rings?"
"Don't you think you would know the difference?"
"I don't know."
But she did have a literary point, if she was thinking of the Galadriel voiceover at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring.
So I read on. She said "What's 'hethem'?" and she said it to sound quite a bit like "heathen," and I explained that it was "…created he them," and did some rearrangement of words so she could get the grammar. I continued.
"So God spoke English?"
"No, he probably spoke Hebrew."
"Then shouldn't they have used the Hebrew words for 'day' and 'night'?"
I knew I'd never get past the first page. She was already frustrated that God has been misquoted. The King-James-worshiping fundamentalists would not have understood her objections.
After "moveth" and "creepeth," Holly said, "HEY, that's like that game!" And by that, she meant the then-new Strongbad parody of Zarg, which sayseth everythingeth in very-bad parody of 17th centuryest Englisheth ("Thy Dungeonman" at homestarrunner.com).
After one repetitive passage she said, "Hey, this is like poetry, but it doesn't rhyme."
"Maybe it did in Hebrew."
"Well poetry that doesn't rhyme is the worst kind."
And once she said "You wrote this!" and she pointed to the front of the Bible, which sure enough had my name in gold, right on the front, so I told her, "Yeah, I guess I did."
When I got to "dominion" over things she asked what that meant. I said it meant we owned them, that we were kings over animals and could tell them what to do (thinking "yeah, like things that creepeth are going to listen").
Holly says, "And yet we're not king of the forest!?"
So at the end of the sixth day, that was the end of the first chapter and I said so. She said, "That was a short chapter. Wait, I thought it was divided into books."
"Yeah, Genesis is a book, and it has fifty chapters. When you want to tell someone something particular, you tell them which book, chapter and verse," and I showed her.
That was enough Bible for her for today.
She might or might not come back for more, but she made more intelligent comments and asked more questions that actually meant something than some people would be willing to ask in a year of Sunday School. And she made connections with Lord of the Rings, homeschooling, language, journalistic integrity, Strongbad, poetry and the Wizard of Oz.
So it goes.
P.S. "So it goes" reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, and of Linda Ellerbee who ended her TV news commentaries with that line. And so it goes, connecting the dots.
A reader of Moving a Puddle wrote from the U.K.:
I especially liked the story about Holly and the Bible. Each interaction requires careful truthtelling doesn't it. I read bits of it out at supper last night. We do a lot of reading at the table!
The article above first appeared as "A Fascination with Religion," in Acorns, the March 2004 issue, Volume 7, Issue 7. Acorns
is was the Journal of Pagan and Alternative Homeschooling. The newsletter seems not to be in publication (as of 2007). There are were archives linked here, but in 2019, they're gone.
History and origin of Thy Dungeonman (and other terrible Strongbad video games)
But they really built them, and you can play Thy Dungeonman.