When I was in the third or fourth grade we had a visitor at my school. He was a storyteller who was there to share some scary stories at Halloween time. He told a story that I still remember to this day…well at least one part of it. He told us of a man who one night fell asleep drunk in his home. As he slept, his arm dangled over the edge of his bed. Soon rats came and chewed off the tips of his fingers. In his drunken state, he could not tell that a large group of rats had made a meal of his fingers.
Now, what you need to remember is that I was only about 7 or 8 years old when I heard that story. This was traumatizing to me and after that day, I could not allow my hands to hang over the edge of my bed. I don’t mean for just a little while. I don’t mean for just my childhood. Even to this day, when my hand drifts dangerously close to the edge of my bed at night, I pull it back. I’m almost 41 years old now. I am old enough to know that rats are not going to come and gnaw at my fingers as I sleep. Yet the fear instilled in me as a young child still rears its ugly head and despite my better judgement, my reaction is to recoil and protect myself.
Keep in mind that this was just a scary story told to entertain children. It had no real world consequences, although my mind made me fear rats that didn’t reside in my bedroom. What happens when the scary story taught to children isn’t labeled “entertainment” up front but rather labeled as “the truth” or “God’s Word”? What happens when rats are replaced with eternal torment as you are separated forever from a loving God? I will tell you what happens, as I was once a child taught these scary stories.
When you teach a child that anything they do that isn’t absolutely perfect (even something as innocent as a thought in their head) is a sin against God, deserving of Hell, you instill fear in that child that can last a lifetime. They can’t just pull their little hands up under their covers to protect against a rodent’s bite. They know that there is nowhere to hide from a vengeful and constantly disappointed god. What it does is take the innocence away from children and replace it with unnecessary guilt and unending self-loathing. Instead of being parents who can gently correct wrong behavior in our children, some of us choose to tell tour children that everything they do is sinful and without Jesus, they will burn. I can’t begin to explain how much I find that disgusting.
Having a bad thought is not a bad thing. When you act on a bad thought, the action is the bad thing. We cannot always control where our minds go. We can control what we do with our bodies in reaction to our thoughts. Children are even less able to control what they think, say and do. To tell them that they are sinful is repugnant to say the least. My children may do things I don’t always approve of, but they are still innocent in my eyes. Why do we feel the need to take a book of unsubstantiated horror stories with a “God sticker” slapped on the front cover and scare our kids to death with it? Why can’t we teach them truth and discipline them with love and guidance instead of threats of torture and fire?
I have broken free from the prison of religion and no longer give credence to the threat taught to me from the day I was born, but I still have the thoughts and images of a lifetime of indoctrination running through my mind. I know the stories. Every one of them. I know the punishment that the religious say I am deserving of. I know the risks involved if I am wrong and it somehow turns out to be all true. Yet I am unafraid. Why is that? Why am I not concerned one bit about being wrong about God? Why do I go about my days without worrying about offending the god of the universe, yet I can’t sleep without all of my body parts completely within the confines of my bed for fear of rats? Simple. Rats are real. There is undeniable evidence of their existence. There is none for God. NONE. I can put aside my childhood fear of Hell because it is a story based on myths and legends. I still hold onto a fear of rats at night, because rats do exist. I’ve seen them. I’ve found them in my garbage. I’ve seen what their teeth can do. And even though I know it is nearly impossible to fall asleep in my bed and have rats chew on my fingers, I still keep my hands up and safe because I was scared to death as a child.
Look, don’t teach your kids horror stories and claim they are true. The impact on their lives is unsettling. If you do tell scary stories, teach them the difference between the truth and stories meant to entertain. Don’t keep feeding into their fear by insisting that an unprovable story of nonsense is the ultimate truth and that they need to obey or else. Whether a story of rats or a story of Hell, scary stories can terrify a child. Do the right thing and be honest with your children. Tell them that rats will not be biting their fingers as they sleep. And tell them that an invisible, all powerful rat in the sky isn’t waiting for them to mess up again so that he can toss them down into a pit of fire to be tortured forever and ever because of unrealistic rules.
Rodentius Christus did not die in a giant rat trap for our sins. He was just part of a story designed to scare, intimidate and persuade people. The best thing to do when you have a rat problem is get some d-CON. d-CONverting will stop the rat problem right at its source.