Diane L. Olinger
“Out of the Mouth” just celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. The first anecdote ran in New Horizons in 1994, when Jim Scott served as managing editor. His title for it reflects the idiom, “Out of the mouth of babes,” from the King James translation of Matthew 21:16: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise.” Although Scott is now retired, his wit guided the editorial decisions behind “Out of the Mouth” for many years.
From the start, “Out of the Mouth” was not about sharing a story of something from a child’s lips that was simply funny or even spiritually profound. Rather, “the idea was to have things that children said that contained an element of truth (especially related to church, God, and the Bible), with of course the typical sincerity or earnestness of children, but which in one way or another did not get it right,” Scott explained.
Children of the church often say things that inhibited adults would not say, allowing us to see the humor in something about the pastor or the people of the congregation. In November 1994, Chip Stonehouse submitted a story that was shared with him by OP pastor John Hills. The Hills family’s rule was that if one of their children misbehaved during the worship service, Mrs. Hills would take them out and spank them. One Sunday, after Hills’s sermon had passed the fifty-minute mark, his daughter cried out in a loud voice, “Take me out and spank me.” We’ve all been there—right?
Sometimes our children have grappled with the big ideas of the faith in ways that show how difficult it is for all of us to imagine things outside of our normal daily experience. In a December 2014 “Out of the Mouth,” a grandmother explained to her grandson how wonderful the new heaven and earth will be, with all kinds of incredible things to do and see. He was thoughtful for a moment, then asked, “Will everything be within walking distance?”
A truly Presbyterian source of humor over the years has been the misspeaking of catechism answers, particularly those relating to the Trinity, the sacraments, and Adam and Eve, as children sometimes inadvertently speak a truth about something not at all intended by the Divines. One young man went so far as to dispute with his father (Chad Van Dixhoorn) the necessity of learning the catechism in the first place. After all, he reasoned, it wasn’t required for communicant membership. “I know how membership works,” the boy said. “You just stand in front of the church and say yes five times!” (October 2012).
Perhaps it goes without saying that we are dependent on you and your children for this long-standing part of New Horizons. If you have an example of the humorous “wisdom” that can come from children, please send it to New Horizons, care of editor Danny Olinger, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The author is editorial assistant for New Horizons. New Horizons, January 2020.