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
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
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
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
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
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