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Commissioners in talks with BP after oil-rig ruling

12 September 2014

Peter Graystone suggests some unexpected role-models for Christian girls

I AM infuriated by a matching pair of books in a local bookshop. One is bright pink and called Bible Stories for Girls. Among others, it features the story of Ruth, emphasising her kindness and loyalty (but is vague about what it took on the threshing floor to get her man). Its twin is pale blue, and called Bible Stories for Boys. It includes the early life of David, featuring his bravado against lions and giants.

I am aware that nurturing Christian children can benefit from discussions in single-sex groups, particularly in the teenage years. But to stereotype children at a young age by the selection of Bible stories is unhelpful. This is particularly true for girls if the qualities emphasised in their stories show servanthood without leadership, or those for boys show leadership without servanthood.

Girls are never going to learn that the Christian good news offers life in all its fullness from a pink Bible. I would rather they learnt how to be human from a surprising source - vampire literature.

In the late '90s, for 144 episodes of Joss Whedon's television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar played the lead role, and offered an outstanding role-model for girls. She stood defiantly for righteousness, but knew that she was not perfect. She sided with the shy and unpopular, and made a mess of love, but never gave up on it; she was trendy, but sometimes dark and scared. Despite bereavement and depression, she took on evil and won.

Or, instead of a vampire slayer, choose a vampire as a role model. In the National Theatre of Scotland's recent stage version of the film Let the Right One In, the undead Eli awakens bullied teenager Oskar's understanding of humanity, with all its goodness, love, and sadness.

Where are the Bible heroes like these? Before they are ready for such sanguineous fare, there are stories that Christian girls should encounter.

I want them to discover that two women, both called Mary, were the first to be entrusted with the most important message in history. And that, despite women of that culture being considered so inferior that their statements were unacceptable in court without male endorsement, they badgered the men with the news that Jesus was risen until they investigated for themselves.

I want them to be inspired by Lydia, a businesswoman and formidable traveller who was miles from home in Philippi when she heard of Jesus. Was it she who took the good news home to Thyatira, where a loving, serving, persevering church is later described in Revelation?

I want them to learn that Jesus's mission was funded by a highly organised group of women. They included Joanna, who was the channel by which money generated in Herod's palace, where her husband was manager, escaped that vile setting and was recycled into hope and healing.

I even want them to hear about Jezebel, the contemptible queen of northern Israel, so that they realise that there is nothing about being female that protects someone from the possibility of having their head turned by power and greed.

There is nothing pink about these Bible characters. They are blood-red and fine purple. Girls need to know that these women are part of the great story of the salvation of humankind. And, in order to understand their place

in God's good and equal creation, so, too, do boys.


Peter Graystone develops pioneer mission projects for the Church Army.

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