By Cath Kennedy
Western Christianity is taught using stories of forced marriage. Religious materials for children have a lifelong effect, orienting cultural ideas of belonging, virtue and family life. So what children learn about the Bible is important.
In Godly Play, the issue is especially clear, making it a good case study. But the problem is not unique to Godly Play. Recently, additional Godly Play stories which do not rely on early, reproductive marriage as the basis for a godly life have been written, such as the new Godly Play story of Harriet Tubman. However, these are still subordinate to the main Godly Play curriculum.
The question is: if forced marriage is not a value in our churches, what more should we do to address its portrayal as a romantic or godly destiny?
I am attending the European Godly Play Conference in Mechelen, Belgium this week. The image above is the poster I am presenting to prompt discussion around the ways forced marriage is naturalised in the Bible stories we tell children. If you are interested in this issue or the research behind the poster, the full article can be downloaded via the link at the bottom of the page. This is a pre-print copy of a chapter which will feature in a forthcoming edited volume from Sheffield Phoenix Press.
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