Thoughts of a former evangelical Christian

Save the Children: A Parable of Child Sacrifice

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Christianity as Tribalism: Cultivating a Tribal Identity on October 7, 2010 at 9:34 pm

This week, I created a sobering musical 3-D animation (7.6 minutes) that illustrates a modern-day tale of Genesis 22 — Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac — as a parable of the soul murdering message of the “good news” so frequently inflicted on children.   I used Google Sketchup to generate the 3-D animation, and then video editing software to add soundtracks, fades, and textual overlays.

This is not a satire.  I do not scoff.  With this animation, I visually and musically dramatize the very real horror I felt as a child, when being relentlessly reminded about my utterly sinful and inadequate nature and God’s authoritarian nature.

Please take note: the audio script of the animation is taken verbatim from the Bible and from Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) teaching materials.  Because I did not want my own voice to convey satire or exaggeration, I took excerpts from CEF’s favorite “gospel” script and several lessons from CEF’s “Life of David” flannel graph series, and — using ISpeech — computer-generated audio versions of those excerpts.  I repeat: the audio script is not made up.  In fact, the brevity of it cannot do justice to the relentless and overwhelming repetition of these spine-chilling exhortations in almost every CEF lesson.  In their lessons, CEF relentlessly emphasizes (above any and all humanitarian values) the supremely important value of obedience — absolute obedience — to God and our “God-given” authorities.

My dramatization is in the animation visuals, the background music, and (to a small extent) textual overlays.

CEF repeatedly reminds children of their horribly flawed, intrinsically worthless sinful human natures; how God’s holiness cannot tolerate the presence of sin; how sin — even the smallest sins — has to be punished by death and hell; and how the only way of salvation is to believe and obey what they say about God.  On top of this, they instill an anxious fear in children by reminding children to check their hearts — to make sure that they are not just pretending.

The cumulative effect of all of this is to wreck a child’s self-image.  It encourages depression and provokes vulnerable chidren to suicide.  With their lessons, CEF re-enacts, in a very disturbing way, the near-sacrifice of Isaac.

I included several deeply symbolic elements in the animation.

  • I use a god of war to depict the authoritarian, demanding God of Abraham.
  • The altar that my modern-day Abraham constructs is the Bible, whose authority Evangelicals dare not question.
  • The modern-day Isaac — perhaps unlike the son depicted in Genesis 22 — is a young boy, reflecting CEF’s targeted age group.
  • The dagger Abraham brings to slay Isaac is shaped like a cross.
  • An enormous hell, filled with tormenting flames, lies just beneath the altar, reflecting the immediacy with which the threat of hell is presented to a young child’s mind.
  • The woman in the video represents my own mother and the various female Good News Club and Sunday School teachers who told me all these terrible things.
  • The multiple crosses lining the entire path of Abraham’s journey symbolizes Christianity’s relentless emphasis on the atonement.
  • Later in the animation, Isaac lays prostrate on the sacred altar of the Bible, at the foot of the Cross, on which a bloodied Jesus hangs crucified.  This represents the dramatically powerful, emotionally poignant, near-irresistable and certainly inescapable fashion in which Jesus’s death is presented to children (and adults for that matter).

As a musical background, I chose Akira Yamaoka’s “Room of Angel” song (see iTunes link), produced for the “Silent Hill 4” game, for its haunting melody and poignantly appropriate lyrics (e.g., “Here’s a lullaby to close your eyes (goodbye); It was always you that I despised….”).  As a child, I was dejected and despised.

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