CONTEXT: We live in a corner of the west Yorkshire world that embraces many different faiths. The 6 yr old lad attends a wonderful infants school. It happens to be secularly-orientated but still does a sterling job to include the many different faiths and beliefs within the curriculum.
Recently however, I have become increasingly aware that in comparison to his older sister, my little lad’s knowledge of all-things spiritual – and yes, biblical – is just a tad bit lacking. So I was rather pleased to see that he had been learning about The Ten Commandments at school. Here’s a great chance I thought, for us to have a bit of an in-depth discussion about the moral values that thread their way through most systems of human ethics and religious beliefs.
The kid brought home a little booklet that he had been asked to study, colour in and write in. Lots of pictures illustrating the commandments etc.
ME: It’s great that you’re learning about this… but I’m a bit confused. You’ve only got SEVEN commandments here in your booklet. That’s not right – is it? We were actually given TEN. That’s why they’re called ‘The Ten Commandments.’ Didn’t you know that?
ME: See – what I think has happened is… they’ve sort of joined some of the commandments together. Maybe they think that it’s easier for you that way. What do you think?
ME: Like… lusting after other people’s cows and husbands and things. They clearly think that it’s a bit too tricky for a bunch of six year olds to follow. Anyway. Okay. read this one out to me…
KID: ‘Don’t hurt no-one’
ME: That’s … well. It’s not really good enough in my opinion. It’s supposed to be ‘DO NOT KILL!’ That’s what Gods said to Moses up on Mount Sinai when he issued all of these important instructions to us on bit of rock. Apparently. And the picture you’ve got here to illustrate it is… a STICKING PLASTER!
KID: Yeah. Actually, can I have a plaster? My thumb hurts. I bit it too hard. One with Shrek on it, please.
ME: I mean – what’s going on with education today? Are they scared that if they tell you lot the truth .. . they’ll end up putting ideas into your heads and you’ll end up trying to… massacre each other during your phonics lesson or something?
KID: Can I have a biscuit? I’m bored.
ME: No. And why – when it says ‘Do Not Use God’s Name In Vain’ have you written next to it “Sorry”? I mean…. writing things like that will make your teacher think that …at home… we swear all of the time. Or something. And we don’t do we? I mean – I don’t even let you say things like ‘For God’s Sake.’ You know that!
KID: But you say ‘bugger’.
ME: Yes but saying ‘bugger’ is actually… not so bad – if you are following the – you know, the REAL – Ten Commandments. No. It’s not as bad as saying ‘Oh My God,’ now. Is it? Because that’s what taking His Name In Vain means. Do you get me?
KID: A bit. Can I have some cheese?
KID: Anyway, Mum. I thought of a better rule – than all of those. I thought of “Let’s love everybody”
ME: (experiencing a ‘perhaps I am in fact, the Mother of A Very Special Child – as the Blessed Virgin Mary Herself Was’ moment) Oh! But sweetheart! That’s what actually Jesus said! Did you know that? He said we had NEW commandments that totally… overrode all of the other ones. Did you know that?
KID: No. Can I go on the ipad?
ME: No. You see – there were two new commandments. And the first one was that we should love God more than anything else in the world. And the second one was exactly what you just said…
KID: The rule what I invented. I want to be an inventor when I grow you, you know.
ME: Yes – I know that. Ok… invented, I mean. That we should just love everyone. Regardless.
KID: Cool. It’s fun inventing everything. I’ll just invent my own rules and not follow these boring ones then. Can I go and watch ‘Garfield’ now?
ME: No. It’s not a TV day.
KID: You are so mean! You are just horrible! You’re the worst parent ever! And you go on and on about really boring things what no one cares about! (stomps off upstairs.)
ME: (to myself) I’m going to have a word with them about skipping over the ‘Honour Thy Father and Mother’ commandment too. Bang out of order, that.