Inappropriate Flannel Graph Bible Stories

I used to think of the Bible as flannel graph: white Jesus in a ridiculously clean robe with ken doll hands spread over the masses floating in a two dimensional sea of felt. They were nice stories where things worked out well. Sometimes the character had some sort of flaw, always remedied by the end of course.


Those were good, though censored, stories. I started learning about Jesus through those paper characters.

At some point I learned that the stories I was told were only a part of the story. The wonderful woman placing paper on the flannel left out certain aspects of the story that might not have been appropriate for children, or even left out certain stories altogether, like the one where Onan is supposed to impregnate his sister-in-law but instead pulls a little sexual maneuver to avoid it (Genesis 38). Could you imagine the after church conversation? "So Timmy, what did you learn about in Sunday School today?"

The Bible is as messy and sometimes confusing as the rest of existence, but its writers weren't afraid to include the gritty details, even the darkness. I'm grateful that God's intervention didn't only come to polite, put together places. It dives directly into the often perverted milieu and darkness, flips on a spotlight, and speaks hope to my condition.