September 30, 2006
“A rather pallid figure”
Children see Jesus as “a rather pallid figure” and are confused about almost every aspect of His life and mission, research has found.
The lack of understanding about the founder of Christianity includes children who believe Christians at Easter celebrate Christmas or even chocolate, and others who think that Jesus died on the Cross “to replenish our sins”.
According to the study, funded by the Jerusalem Trust, a Sainsbury family charity, Jesus has been turned into “a very nice secular humanist, a nice chap, who wanted everyone to be nice to each other”.
Researchers at the University of Exeter surveyed nearly 500 children. They included children aged 7-11 in ten junior schools and children aged 11-14 in one comprehensive, one Church of England, one Methodist and two independent schools. Nearly half the children were Christian and nearly a third were Muslim.
… While most of the children knew that Jesus had a reputation as a caring person, fewer than one in ten believed that Jesus was, or is, God. A third found Him “a bit confusing” and more than a quarter thought him “hard to believe in”. The children struggled to understand Jesus’s death and Resurrection, and resorted to the language of magic to describe him, linking the miracles with the magic tricks of Paul Daniels. [A British magician best known for his bad combover.]
Asked about the parables, only one third of the children were able to name one — the most popular being the story of the Good Samaritan. Only 4 per cent understood parables in theological terms. Most saw them as secular, ethical tales.
… “There is a perception that the Church and Christianity has an image problem and is perceived as, at best, outdated and, at worst, weird,” the report says.
The results of the survey are hardly surprising, because asking children about religion is a bit like asking the Pope about sex. As Richard Dawkins points out in his terrific new book “The God Delusion,” the whole idea of “a Christian child” or “a Muslim child” is nonsensical: at most, you can speak of “a child of Christian [or whatever] parents.” Kids are too young to know where they stand on religion, just as they are too young to know where they stand on economics and politics.
But they sure know where they stand on magic—which may be why, when asked why “some people wanted to arrest and kill Jesus,” one child responded “because everybody thort he was a wizard.”
And wizards are imaginary beings that kids can relate to.
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