Wednesday, 22 April 2009

In Depth Story

Another lively In Depth discussion, including a story which I am going to re-tell from one of the members with a Sunday School and somewhat transitory evangelical past, and, as he said, his beliefs are different now and different from the time of this story.

Back years ago, there was a shop trading in second hand goods and sales were seasonal. Dad told daughter staying for weekends and at the shop that money was tight but God looked after him. Daughter wanted a teddy buying for her but dad said no. Dad got his stock by looking in small adverts and seeing what was being sold. The daughter joined him doing the rounds, and father said to daughter that if he says "What do you think?" when the woman says a price for her good quality cream coloured dryer, say, "Mummy really wants a white one," as it might get the price to pay down (even though mum was miles away and unconnected). So they went in this house, and the woman said she wanted £40, and dad said to daughter, "What do you think?" and she said, dutifully, "Mummy really wants a white one." So the woman then said £35, which was the intended effect, and dad asked then his daughter again what she thought, expecting this time the daughter to say OK and he would take the dryer. Except the daughter said, again, "Mummy really wants a white one." The result was he couldn't take the wrongly coloured one and it wasn't bought at all, and both went back to the van.

He asked the daughter why did she say it twice, and she said, "You won't buy me a teddy so you're not buying a dryer." So after this conversation he then he prepared to drive off, but there was a knock on the window. The woman said she can't sell the dryer, and instead, not knowing of the conversation they'd had, said they may as well have it for nothing, and "Buy your daughter a teddy."

So, having paused further to load up, they drove back to the shop and took the dryer out. At this very point a man came over, asked how much for the dryer, and he said he could have it for £35 [pure profit] and of course now the daughter knew that dad had money to buy the teddy. So they went to buy a teddy.

Thus God had arranged that the girl received a teddy, the same God that had been looking after her dad through lean times. So the girl was taken to church for the first time on the Sunday, and she asked who that man was hanging on the cross. The daughter thought this was horrible and the service was horrible and nothing to do with the God who had looked after them.

The reason this delightful story was told (and I've taken it upon myself to reproduce it) was because we discussed how people think practically and this worldly these days, and he (the story teller) does wonder what the even church attending people do actually believe. Children have a view of the world that equates to story-telling, he said, and we were agreed that since the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment so much of that has gone. History is now so precise, but it never was (we have a historian in the group). There is literalism with silly fundamentalism and scepticism too. Our story teller is very much, I said, an ethnographer of beliefs (much travel around the world and sympathies with and observations of superstitions and fears in ordinary believers with Buddhism and Hinduism) as we discussed the various ways Religious Studies approach religions and the relative isolation of Theology.


Erika Baker said...

This is taught by evangelicals as moral?

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

No, that's not the point. The point was the view of God mainly from Sunday School and child based belief. Of course his initiation of her into ways of trading was doing what we can all see as an unethical device to get the amount paid down - but the point was how the girl used this and how it underlined the girl's view of God. It's not quite so much an evangelical view of God as an example of a Sunday School view of God, something a child could more easily hold than an adult, though he too then believed that God would see him through lean times.

Erika Baker said...

I don't know, my girls and the children we used to have our our Sunday school would never have thought this to be a true view of God.
God helping you with direct intervention - yes.
But helping you to flog a cooker you just almost swindled out of someone - no.

Kids are brighter than that. And have a much more deep-seated sense of fairness.

Fred Preuss said...

Theology is isolated for the same reasons Astrology, Phrenology and Alchemy are isolated: it's not true and we have better, and verifiable, ways of understanding how the world works.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Well maybe too the God the girl believed in was also the one she used that sorted out a strategy to knock down the price. Maybe that's the other side of this tale, that the belief you hold can be divorced from the ethic you would then be expected to hold.

(I took a risk in relaying this rich and amusing story of a child taking control, and now I think I'm starting to regret it - an ethical conundrum for me too.)