Rarely on this blog do I include books I don’t like or have not enjoyed. I make exceptions however when I think they are dangerous. Grace by Morris Gleitzman could fall into this category.
As my children get older and read extensively, it is becoming harder to keep up with what they are reading. So while I peruse the back covers of most books, there are some that just slip in and out of here via various libraries and friends. This one came to my attention because my son read it and it raised questions for him and he asked me to read it too.
Grace is the story of Grace, a girl whose family is in a cult. It is told from her point of view as she watches her father be removed from her family by the elders for questioning the authority of the church. She tries all she can to find him and get him back, but her grandfather and uncle (key leaders in the church) prevent her from doing so. It is tense and anxious and I suspect could be quite fear-inducing for a child, as it raises the question: who do you trust in your family when some are telling lies and controlling you?
If this was a book for adults, I would have no problem with it. I have read many books over the years which explore the darker sides of a perverted religious message. However such a book, which is intended to be satire as well as serious, is quite risky with children.
My concern is that it uses the terms we are familiar with: sin, prayer, church, elders and turns them into an aberration. Of course that is the reality for a person in a cult. Truth is perverted. Grace is removed. Sin abounds. Children are victims.
So if your child reads this book, make sure you talk about it with them: explain the errors, how their church got it wrong and that sadly some people fall into these traps. I wouldn’t forbid them from reading it (although I wouldn’t recommend it for under 10s), just make sure you read it too and then talk about it.
My son and I did so this morning. It was a great conversation, we talked about the history of Christianity over time and how, sadly, people have gotten the message of salvation wrong time and time again.
In the end, I asserted with him numerous times, that:
We are saved by grace aloneThrough faith aloneIn Jesus aloneBy the scriptures alone
It was a good conversation to have on this Reformation Day!