An idea to beach a whale beside the Thames to tell the story of Jonah has itself been beached as some say it would be too “religious.” The British Bible Society had hoped to put the inflatable whale in a park across from Tower Bridge during the upcoming summer holidays.
The creature, which is life-size at 50 feet long, was meant for children to explore inside while they heard about the Biblical character Jonah. The same inflatable whale had been put on the same spot in the past when a pirate themed attraction aimed towards children was exhibited.
Actors were set to play Jonah and other characters. The society’s goal was to help reintroduce once familiar stories to a new generation of kids. Research shows that children are increasingly unable to identify some Bible stories such as Noah’s Ark or the Israelites wandering in the desert. Stories which were once taught in every classroom are new relegated to the parents and their decision whether to educate their children or not.
The entire attraction was not meant as a religious activity, but rather was built around story telling. With the influx of video games, smartphones and the internet, children typically aren’t hearing stories told as they once were. Previous generations found a great deal of entertainment in the stories, and others, but that is a practice that has gone by the wayside in the British Isles.
Management Trust, which runs the site the beached whale was to be setting on, refused the society’s request. Sources said that under the terms of the lease, there was to be no religious activity allowed on the property. James Catford, CEO of the Bible Society said the society wasn’t putting up the attraction to tell children, or anyone else, what to believe. Rather the purpose was to simply give the kids a fun experience. Catford pointed to research that showed 80 percent of British parents wanted their children to learn Bible stories and to have the opportunity to engage with them.
The original game plan was for the children to sit inside the whale while a trained storyteller would tell the about the time that Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale. The society isn’t giving up on their plans. They are busy searching for another, accessible, site where the beached whale can find a home for a week or so.
British Bible Society History
The British Bible Society started in 1804 when a small group of followers wanted to solve the problem of a scarcity of Bibles in Welsh. The Bible Society has always endeavored to be non-sectarian and non-denominational.
The society expanded to England and the rest of Europe during the nineteenth century. Many Protestant villages in Europe date their existence to the work of the Bible society distributors. Dozens of auxiliary chapters were established globally and these were later incorporated as United Bible Societies. A non-denominational Christian network, the society translates, prints and distributes affordable Bibles internationally.
Since it looks like the management of the property won’t be backing down, the society will need to find another location to tell kids about Jonah and the whale.
By Jerry Nelson