This may be an unusual request but I hope some of you will provide input. I am looking for reaction from parents, teachers, and even middle school students.

I am currently writing a book of “stories, folk tales and legends” taken from the bible, targeted at students in grades 5-8, designed to teach the basic bible stories accurately from a secular (rather than religious) viewpoint, without glossing over awkward or embarrassing issues and stories.  This is a biblical literacy project, bible stories for humanists and atheists. [Note: [1] The impetus for this project came from my daughter, a teacher in an independent school concerned about quality of education, who asked me to recommend a book of stories from the bible for my grandson, that treated the stories as literature rather than religion. [2] I have graduate degrees in ancient history, religion and literature.]

Regardless of whether these stories are “true,” they are important to know because they underlie our culture, provide themes in literature, art, music and drama, and one is culturally illiterate without exposure to them. Some of the stories in the bible are cruel, violent and brutal, or touch on issues of intercourse, homosexuality, rape, incest, promiscuity, circumcision, etc.

My wife (also my editor and advisor) believes that some stories that I believe are important should be omitted because they raise embarrassing and awkward issues or because the issues are not age-appropriate for middle school students.

A look at sex education, as done in U.S. middle schools, shows quite a range from pretty full and accurate information (rare), to glossing over the details with general discussions of puberty, to ignoring the subject for religious and political reasons.

An example representative of the issue: Lot lives in Sodom. Two attractive male visitors arrive at Lot's house and some of his neighbors gather around the house and demand that Lot send his visitors out so the men can have intercourse with them. The end of the story makes no sense if the issue is ignored by saying simply that his neighbors wanted to cause trouble. I believe that candidly presenting the story as written, in modern language of course, provides an opportunity to discuss issues if they are raised by the student. Do you agree or not, and why?

One response from a parent at a U.S. school said why not sidestep the sex issue and just say that the men of Sodom were rude and inhospitable. Other than being dishonest and not faithful to the story, it fails to recognize that most middle school kids are aware of sexual issues and homosexuality. I believe, and look to be persuaded otherwise, that these stories present an opportunity for healthy discussion of both religion and sex.

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The sexuality in the Sodom stories are not the main focus, according to most Jewish scholars. Instead, it is about the inhospitality, which is a major faux pas in the culture. However, the idea that planning on raping angels was part of why they were considered inhospitable. I seriously do not understand why people are so against kids reading about sex at all, though, seeing as by the age of 12, it's a popular topic among friends. I remember chatting about sex in middle school all the time, and even friends who had already lost their virginities. However, a lot of people are of the (incorrect) mindset that discussing sex makes it more likely the kids will have it, or in the case of homosexuality, experiment with it. >.X It comes from ignorance being blasted by the media.

If you do involve sex and homosexuality, you will receive complaints, no doubt. So it really is up to you if it is important enough of a discussion topic to risk complaints and bans.
This really struck a chord with me since I was a Sunday school teacher for K-2 for 3 years. I tried to focus on the moral in each story and left out a lot of details. I became an atheist during my censoring of the Bible, I didn't want my then 2nd grader to hear or read the Bible. My daughter is now 10 and an avid reader, I don't censor what she is reading unless it is explicit although she does get confused.

I guess my problem with being candid to a 10 year old is that although they may know about sex, what they know is rather limited. As you mention earlier there is rape in the Bible. You know that in that story Lot ended up offering his daughters to the mob and that Lot's daughters got him drunk and raped him.
I had sexual education in the 4th grade, I know that kids are aware of sex and sexuality but at ages 10-12 they are still pretty immature and impressionable.




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