Let’s not disturb the kiddies by telling them about the crucifixion. And if you can’t tell them about the crucifixion, you can’t tell them about Easter. One North Carolina Protestant church got basically that response from the publisher of their Sunday school curriculum.
“Easter is a special time in churches,” the letter from the publisher says. “It’s a time of celebration and thankfulness. But because of the graphic nature of the Easter story and the crucifixion specifically, we need to be careful as we choose what we tell preschoolers about Easter.”
But can children be presented with the fact of death and not scar them? Can we tell them about Jesus’ sacrifice without going into the gory details? And is it worth tossing out the resurrection to avoid the cross?
Yet the cross is at the heart of our faith, as St. Paul tells us: “But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal 6:14) Yet, even in Paul’s time there were those who thought the cross was just too gruesome to consider, but he rejected the attempt to expunge it from Christianity: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)
“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)
This is the wisdom of the Catholic crucifix, a cross with a representation of Christ crucified upon it. Isabella has grown up seeing these crucifixes in our home and in our church and they do not startle her. She sees the cross, points, and says “Jesus Christ” and begs to kiss the cross. The last is not at our prompting, mind you, as she is a child who has learned to kiss that which she loves and she loves Christ. When she is 5 or 6 years old and we tell the story of Good Friday with no more gore than the Stations of the Cross in our parish church, will she be able to hear it without being scarred for life? I think so.
Perhaps our children—and ourselves— have become too citified, too far removed from the messy reality of life. Children raised on farms usually learn early on the lessons of life and death and suffering and sacrifice, not to mention children who grow up in much less civilized surroundings. Heck, there are plenty of kids in inner-city neighborhoods who know plenty of those topics.
Apparently, the publisher of this Sunday school lesson is connected to some of those suburban mega-church evangelical places in the Midwest, those places of the happy-clappy health-and-wealth Gospel. I suppose it’s not surprising it would be hard to find the hard teaching of the cross there. And they have so well illustrated for us that when the cross is removed, Easter is not far behind.