Wednesday, June 15, 2011

An Issue of Age-Appropriateness

So, I want to share with you an experience I had today and get some feedback on both my reaction and the response I received. My almost 6 year old daughter attended Vacation Bible School today at a church affiliated with our usual church. At the end of the day they were watching a video about the story of Joseph and Potiphar's Wife. A quick recap for those who are unfamiliar: Joseph is sold by his brothers to Potiphar. Potiphar's wife seduces Joseph and then lies to Potiphar, telling him the reverse and making up other lies about Joseph's behavior. The portion of the movie I walked in on was when Joseph was being whipped for his supposed transgressions. I included the video below (please fast forward to the 2 minute mark and watch until the 2:32 mark). This was shown to the class today, including kids as young as 5.

I was bothered. I felt it was a little intense for that age group. It further bothered me when the entire first row of little kids gasped and put their hands over their eyes (my daughter included). We are very careful about what we let our kids watch. Their exposure to television is very limited and we certainly don't let them watch shows with graphic, violent content.

At the end I approached the Pastor, who in general I feel is a very nice man. However, his response today was very disappointing. In a very non-confrontational way I told him that I was a bit concerned about the graphic nature of the video as that is not something I would choose to show my children. His initial response was that because it happened that way in the Bible he does not believe we should alter, modify, water down, change, etc. the specifics. I pointed out that, while I agree that the stories shouldn't be changed, I didn't think it was then necessary to show the visual reenactment of something that could possibly be upsetting to young children. I stated that while my children knew the details of Jesus' crucifixion I wouldn't go home and show them Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ until they were older and it was more age appropriate. He disagreed. My response was that when I was teaching in a public HIGH SCHOOL I would not have been allowed to show that clip (and not because of the religious nature, but because of the graphic content). I further pointed out that any clip I did want to show had to be approved by the principal first and then I had to send out permission slips that gave parents the opportunity to opt their child out. I explained that I felt like we should have been given some notice that this type of video was going to be shown.

His “solution” was that tomorrow I could put my 1st grader in with the 3-4 year olds because they watch a cartoon version. I just wanted him to understand that while some kids are exposed to that or aren't bothered by that, I KNEW that this was something that was going to bother my daughter. He dismissed that concern. There was more, but essentially he disagreed, which is fine, but also completely dismissed and invalidated my concerns about the content and the fact that he made a decision about what he felt was appropriate for my child to view without giving me the opportunity to have any input. Further there were some very patronizing “solutions” offered.

My daughter, who had no knowledge of my conversation with the pastor, came and found me and the first thing she told me was about this “terrible movie where this bad man whipped Joseph and his blood went all over.” She was very bothered and has talked about it ALL day. Further, she drew a picture for my grandmother depicting a man getting beat. She explained, “This is Joseph. He's getting whipped and this red part is his blood going all over.” Not really something I am happy about.

While the showing of the video bothers me, the Pastor's response bothers me even more. He could have said, “You know, I made a judgment call. I felt it was appropriate. I'm sorry if it offended you. Next time I will ask.” End of story. Instead he made excuse after excuse and pretty much tried to make me feel like it was ridiculous that I would be concerned about the content.

So, I am curious about your take on this? Mainly, is this content that would bother you if your child viewed it and what is your take on the Pastor's response to my concern?


Nancy said...

I would have been upset if that was shown to my son at that age also. I don't think it was appropriate AT ALL and why does the Pastor think that that age in above a cartoon version. Crazy.
Are there other parents in your daughter's class that you can spread the word to and get their feedback. Maybe if more parents request their child doesn't get shown that, he will reconsider.
I agree - there's nothing more frustrating that someone continuing to come up with excuses rather than saying, "I'm sorry if it offended you".

Robyn said...

I am HORRIFIED. By both the film AND the pastor's reaction. I thought we were supposed to keep children innocent. There is no need for your daughter to know what whipping is, let alone watch it in all its gory detail. For the pastor not to recognize that YOU are the one who should determine what is appropriate for YOUR child bothers me even more. I would probably try to talk to some of the other parents and maybe send a letter from everyone saying you want to know ahead of time all movies that will be shown to the children. Something more needs to be done - he's just not getting it.