Lynn Tuttle Gunney is a mother and a religious educator. She published Meet Jesus: The Life and Lessons of a Beloved Teacher in 2007. It has been embraced by Unitarian Universalists (UUs) and people of many other faiths as a much needed resource. Here she talks about conservative Christians, how parents are using the book and her inspiration for the project.
the inspiration for Meet Jesus?At Christmastime a couple of
years ago, I looked everywhere for a book about Jesus for my daughter and son,
who were 2 and 4 at the time. I
searched book stores, toy stores, and religious stores but found only
traditional Christian tales with more supernatural elements than I was
comfortable with. I wanted
something factual and historical, but still warm and fun for children to
So I decided to fill that gap. I wrote Meet Jesus to introduce my
children to the historical Jesus and his timeless lessons of love, kindness,
forgiveness and peace.
It’s also a matter of religious
literacy. So many parents struggle
with how to educate their children for a life of tolerance and mutual
understanding in a religiously pluralistic world. I wanted to give them a resource for
sharing the basic lessons of Jesus in a way that is respectful of Christian and
non-Christian faiths alike.
your major historical sources?I used the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, which scholars recommend as
the translation most faithful to the original texts. The Bible passages in the back of the
book are from the World English Bible, because it’s available in the public
domain. If I were to do it again, I
might include content from the Gospel of Thomas, although it’s more
controversial than the four canonical Gospels.
I also drew on the Babylonian Talmud for general
information on how Jewish boys were raised at that time.
anything about Jesus that you learned from your research that you hadn’t known
before?My experience was rather backward! The process of writing Meet Jesus
kindled a passion for studying the historical Jesus and early Christianity. I’ve read many books on these topics
since then and have become an associate member of the Westar Institute, home of
the Jesus Seminar.
Two of the most illuminating books I’ve read so far
are Jesus for the Non-Religious by John Shelby Spong, and The Misunderstood
Jew by Amy-Jill Levine.
In future editions of Meet Jesus, I hope to be able
to make some refinements that incorporate the most up-to-date Jesus
the general reaction been to your presentation of Jesus in his humanity rather
than his divinity?The response has been very positive. The book has gotten great reviews from
UU religious educators and authors, as well as from national secular book review
services and liberal Christian leaders such as John Shelby
I did fear some negative response from conservative
Christians, but it hasn’t happened.
While the book definitely takes a liberal point of view, I think it
remains respectful of the range of views about Jesus in the UU community and
parables to move the story along. How did you choose
them?I chose well-known, well-loved parables that would be
easy for children to understand and identify with, as well as those that would
lend themselves to appealing illustration.
The illustrator, Jane Conteh-Morgan, did a wonderful job of bringing
those stories to life. My favorite
is the donkey in the “Good Samaritan” parable on page 13.
you most enjoy about writing the book?Hearing how the book is making a difference in
children’s lives. One parent told
me that when her kindergartener wasn’t getting along with some girls at school,
she thought about what she had read in Meet Jesus and made a special effort to
be nice to the girls, even if they weren’t nice to her. That warmed my
Many parents have thanked me for giving them a tool
for opening a discussion about Jesus with their children. I get a sense that there are so many
parents out there who want their kids to know about Jesus’ life and lessons, but
have avoided the subject because they didn’t want to “indoctrinate” their
children. It’s been very gratifying
to provide a resource for them and their families.
religious figures would you write about in a similar fashion for
children?My husband was raised
Buddhist, so I’d like to write Meet Buddha to introduce our children to their
father’s spiritual roots. I’ve also
thought about Meet Mohammed, Meet Moses, and Meet the Goddesses, among
others. My husband jokes about
Meet Satan, but that’s definitely not in the works!
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Last updated on Wednesday, June 2, 2010.
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