Jesus and Socrates and UU kids

I got asked to serve as the guest editor for the summer number of uu & me, the four-page insert for children that’s in each issue of UU World, the Unitarian Universalist denominational magazine. I talked the editorial board into devoting this issue to Jesus.

Jesus is a big topic, and we knew we couldn’t cover the topic comprehensively in four kid-friendly pages (and we knew that there will be future numbers of uu & me in which to cover other aspects of Jesus). So we decided to do a general introduction to Jesus, and then focus on the parables. The parables, we felt, are among the core teachings of Jesus on which we Unitarian Universalists tend to place most importance, and the parables present wonderful little moral dilemmas that can get kids thinking about Jesus’s teachings.

Jane Rzepka, the minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, is on the editorial board of uu & me. Like me, she was raised as a Unitarian Universalist, and that meant we both learned a lot about Jesus and Socrates in Sunday school. During the course of today’s editorial meetings, we both kept drawing parallels between Jesus and Socrates. For me, the parables of Jesus sound a lot like dialogues of Socrates: they raise more questions than they answer, they are ambiguous, and when you get done reading them you feel as though you’ve learned how to see the world in a new way. Which makes it hard to teach Unitarian Universalist kids about Jesus’s parables: it’s tempting to tell kids what the parables are supposed to mean, but to do so is to bypass the whole purpose of the parables.

Today’s meeting has got me thinking about the parables in a new light. Now I want to go back and re-read them all, and think about how I might present others of Jesus’s parables to school-age children.