We just finished a unit that was infused with the character of God. The read aloud I chose was The Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen L. Taylor. It's my understanding that she took the original work by John Bunyan and wrote it for children. I can't compare it to the original because I've never read it, but this book is beautifully written, has extremely short chapters, and is filled with line drawings to give the kids a visual. It's really a nice piece of work.
But I ditched it.
We got through Christian's story and stopped before Christiana's story due to allegorical issues -- ideas that are quite adverse to the faith I'm instilling in my boys:
1. Vanity Fair. Christian leaves this horrible experience with NO sign of grief, no visible show of change as a result of what he experienced. If it were me, my very next chapter would have been about how Christian threw himself upon the ground at the outskirts of the city and mourned for Vanity Fair, eating the grass and pouring dirt over his head. Does one really witness martyrdom and then brush it off?
2. Ignorance. As is true for practically everyone met along the way, Ignorance is greeted coldly by Christian and his companion, held at arms length and essentially written off because his journey looks differently than theirs does. They engage in a debate and decide that he is not worth waiting for. I find myself actually holding Christian responsible for the wicked end that Ignorance meets. If he had invested in him, shown him some compassion, asked more probing questions, walked beside him... If little Christian were taking seriously his call to be salt and light to the world wouldn't Ignorance be one of his most interesting and fulfilling relationships? Oh, that's right -- he never is called to be salt and light. It is evident that his only calling is to the Celestial City. Selfish tunnel vision fills this book and compassion for others is non-existent.
3. The Shining One. [The Christ Figure] And I quote, "But although the King had sent His servant to seek for the lost children and to bring them back into the right path, He was not pleased with them, and He had commanded the Shining One to punish them for their foolishness." Oh, there's more..."I shall be obliged to punish you, because you have now been pilgrims for a long time, and you would not have lost your way if you had done as the Shepherds told you." And then he beats them with a whip. No joke. Jesus comes down and beats his servants with a whip. What Bible is this from? [Now you could say that the Shining One is an angel, but there's too many similarities to The Angel of the Lord for me to agree.]
4. The Journey. The point of the journey is to get to the Celestial City [Heaven]. And that's IT. There is no desire to transform the lives of people around them. The only people they seem to be interested in influencing are those whom they chose to leave behind at home. There is no care for any other person's pain or sense of loss regarding their direction in life. No counseling, no healing of any kind. It's all about their own, individual journey. Anyone who seems to be a hindrance is left behind and truly forgotten. Please, don't let me teach my boys to be this kind of Christian.
5. The Celestial City. To Christian, Heaven is the end, the point, the goal of life. It seems that getting to the place of Heaven is even more important than being in the presence of the King who loves him. Oh, for many years, I thought this too. But God is at work to rescue and redeem all of creation on our behalf through the work of Jesus Christ. This whole journey is NOT just about Heaven. It's about life now, transforming, redeeming, communing, blessing and leading. It's also about a new heaven and a new earth later. Heaven is not the end-all of life after death. There is much more to come after that.
So, while this old classic has a place, it won't be in the hearts of my guys.