The other evening Kid2 thoughtfully pulled all the books off the bookcase in the playroom. I took a few deep breaths, reminded myself they’re testing their limits, and then recruited both Kid1 and Kid2 to help neatly stack the books so we could put them back on the shelves. As we sorted through Dr. Seuss, Bill Pete and Richard Scarry I came across Filled up Full a children’s book which simplifies very basic Christian Science beliefs written in the 1970s.
I thought I had taken all the Christian Science propaganda out of the kid’s room, apparently I missed a book.
I checked back through the shelves to make sure this was the only piece of offending propaganda, my MIL frequently sends us home with “books for the kids” and occasionally adds CS lit from my husband’s childhood. Travis Talks with God was no where to be found (I think it is in a box under the my bed). The pamphlet with the bicycles was also gone.
After the boys were in bed I decided to flip through the book that is in every Christian Science Reading Room, Sunday School and Childcare Room in the United States. It was published in 1974 and hasn’t changed since. Every Christian Scientist I’ve reminisced about childhood CS lit with (a fair number, I did go to Prin!) remembers this book (and Travis Talks with God). The copy we own was priced at $2.50 and was probably purchased in the early 1980s.
There isn’t much of a story, just some water color illustrations of animals and children with rather bland accompanying text:
See this kitten? She thinks only kitten thoughts. She doesn’t think of wading like a duck. She wouldn’t crawl like a turtle. Because she’s a kitten — filled up full with kitten thoughts!
It goes on in this way with different animals only doing one thing because they’re filled up full with their own thoughts, and then it gets to a little blond girl:
See me? I’ve filled up full with thoughts from God. So there’s no room for grouchy thoughts, or even little mean thoughts. God’s truth makes me strong. God’s love makes me kind. I’m filled up full with thoughts from God.
Of course being full of thoughts from God also means you won’t be selfish, or lie. You’ll share and be honest. You won’t be sad or bad, you’ll be happy and good. Maybe I should send copies of this book to everyone in Congress who claims to be “Christian”… I digress.
In the very back of the book there is a “Dear Parent” letter. I agree with part of the premise:
Dear Parent, Most of us have seen what happens with a child repeatedly hears “You are very bad.” The child often accepts the image even proudly committing further disobediences while assuring everyone that “I’m very bad.” This book can help your child see that no one has to accept a “bad” image. No one has to accept dishonest, or mean, or selfish thoughts. Far from it. As this book shows, it’s natural to be good. But right from the start every one of us must learn to preserve his innate goodness by filing his day with thoughts from God, with thoughts of Truth and Love, and then acting as those Christly thoughts tell him to act.
No child should hear “you are very bad” all day long, and children are inherently good (if somewhat trying at times) but I disagree about the God part of it. Exactly which God is this who is Truthful and Loving? Has Ms. Dueland read the Old Testament recently? That’s not a nice God. That’s an angry, vengeful, mean, spiteful, petty God. Or do you mean the New Testament God who kills his own son? No thanks.
So while the squirrel is busy being filled with squirrely thoughts, what should children be filled with? The German word for child is kind, which is fitting: children should be filled with kind thoughts.
There is no mention of the squirrel’s squirrely thoughts coming from God, so why would the child’s kind thoughts need a source? Is it because children don’t always have kind thoughts? Well where do those thoughts come from? If they’re not from God then who/what is sending them? Well, those are erroneous thoughts, they’re not real (at least not in Christian Science), but I’m having them anyway.
Yes, lets discount a whole range of children’s feeling as “erroneous” and “unreal.” That strikes me as a really healthy idea. Um, NO! If a child is feeling “bad” or “mad” or “sad” how about you talk to them, instead of just telling them to “be filled up full with thoughts from God!” It is important for children to be able to identify and express their emotions, not have them dismissed as un-God-like.
When I started this post I was about to pardon the book and return it to the kids bookcase but now I’m not so sure.