The Ten Commandments may be the foundation of Western civilization and the cornerstone of God's biblical expectations of humanity, but most believers--both adults and children--can't quote them in order.
The findings by leading pollsters would concern any pastor.
George Barna says that a majority of Americans believe "God helps those who help themselves" is in the Bible. A Barna survey also discovered that 13 percent of adults think Joan of Arc was Noah's wife.
George Gallup calls America "a nation of biblical illiterates." His polls have found that less than half of teens know why Easter is celebrated, the majority of Americans cannot name the four Gospels and 25 million American children have never heard an adult personally read a single verse of Scripture to them.
"The polls show undeniably the West is continuing a precipitous slide into an abyss of biblical ignorance," Dr. Ed Bez, president of the research group Focus on the Bible Ministries, says. "Among the more important of these key passages to vanish are the Ten Commandments."
With biblical literacy at an all-time low, two Christians in Hollywood, of all places, came up with the idea to help reverse the trend--starting with children.
George Taweel and Rob Loos created the Kids' Ten Commandments (K>10>C) video series, which presents the important lessons of the Ten Commandments using state-of-the-art animation and Hollywood stars such as Jodi Benson, Peter Strauss, Tom Bosley, John Schneider, Tim Curry and Lou Diamond Phillips.
"We were surprised to discover that other than Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 film, there was not another strong dramatic project of the Ten Commandments that had been produced--especially one designed for kids," Loos told Ministries Today.
"So we decided to do a new version," he adds. "Our goal is to inspire every child in America to know the Ten Commandments by making these rules an important part of their lives."
The commandments have become a controversial topic in America. Besides the U.S. Supreme Court banning God's Laws from public schools' walls, more than 20 commandments cases are being litigated nationwide, and Alabama's Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from office in November for refusing to remove a 5,280-pound Ten Commandments monument.
"We had no idea that a judge in Alabama would be bringing the Kids' Ten Commandments to the forefront of today's news," explains Loos, an elder with a Presbyterian church in Hollywood. "So far, we've received support from a wide group of people."
Taweel, an ordained deacon with an Orthodox church in Los Angeles, adds: "Even though the court removed the stone monument in Alabama, we are certain that these rules will continue for thousands more if we faithfully teach them to generations to come."
The pair's vision has caught on with an alliance of ministries and organizations that are uniting to bring God's Laws to a new generation.
In order to teach the Ten Commandments to children in churches all over America, three leading evangelical organizations, Tyndale House, Focus on the Family and Strang Communications (publisher of Ministries Today), have joined forces to create and distribute the nondenominational K>10>C church curriculum, released in February.
Calling it a revolutionary resource, the organizations' leaders believe the curriculum will not only help children to learn God's Word, but it will help to write Scripture on their hearts.
"We took practical things in a kids' world to communicate that the Ten Commandments come from a motive of love toward God and people," explains David Welday III, publisher of CharismaLife, which is part of Strang Communications.
"Rather than teaching them to 'just do what you're supposed to do,' we want kids to experience the Ten Commandments as an outflow of the love of God in their hearts," Welday adds. "To be biblically literate means more than just being able to recite verses and quote facts."
Taweel and Loos, co-founders of TLC Entertainment, which produced the popular McGee and Me and Secret Adventures series for children, did their homework for the dramatic telling of the commandments.
The duo, who have been working in Hollywood for more than 20 years, consulted an eight-member advisory board of pastors, rabbis, educators and Bible scholars for the scriptural accuracy and details of K>10>C.
With a $3 million budget, production teams from around the world worked nearly three years, using approximately 112,500 drawings to bring the five-part video series to life.
Since the first K>10>C was released in April 2003, nearly 700,000 copies of the videos have been sold, while winning many awards.
"No one has ever taught the Ten Commandments like this before," evangelist and author Josh McDowell says. "What a joy to see something good for kids and God-honoring coming out of Hollywood."
Even before the video series became popular, Taweel, Loos and Tyndale Entertainment, involved in the project from the start, believed that K>10>C would make for a great Sunday school curriculum.
"We all felt that K>10>C provides a unique and wonderful opportunity for impacting kids not only as entertainment, but as great 'infotainment' as well," Loos says.
"We always liked Jim Henson's quote about Sesame Street: 'If you want to educate kids, make sure you entertain them first.' "
With Tyndale Entertainment committed to creating the K>10>C curriculum, Taweel and Loos approached Focus on the Family, which expressed interest in the church project.
"We approached CharismaLife with the K>10>C project for input in the development of the curriculum and to enlist a partner who had excellent church-curriculum distribution capabilities," says Doug Knox, senior vice-president and publisher of Tyndale Entertainment, a division of Tyndale House, which publishes The New Living Translation of the Bible and the best-selling Left Behind series.
Stephen Strang, founder and president of Strang Communications, says the K>10>C curriculum meets a need for churches.
"It's my opinion that for years churches have failed to teach the basics of Christianity to children," says Strang, who founded Ministries Today. "That's one of the reasons we produce Sunday school curriculum through CharismaLife. We feel the K>10>C church curriculum is a perfect tool for churches to use."
The versatile curriculum, which covers God's Laws, plus the commandments given by Jesus in the New Testament, is formatted for a 13-week discipleship lesson plan, as well as a five-day, evangelistic vacation Bible school (VBS) program.
Each kit includes the K>10>C video series, a leader's guide which includes crafts and games, an activity book, music CD, music-video DVD, a game board with tokens, a secret code, a church-event promotional kit and an attractive carrier to hold all the K>10>C components.
Karen Stefacek, CharismaLife's project manager for the K>10>C curriculum, believes the program is a "must-have" for every church.
"It's two programs for the price of one," says Stefacek, noting that the curriculum could be used for the Sunday school program or VBS.
Stefacek adds that the K>10>C curriculum "was not written to focus on any particular denomination."
"The way it's created and crafted, it's really tailor-made for the entire body of Christ," she says.
Knox says Tyndale House will distribute the K>10>C curriculum to Christian retailers. Focus on the Family will offer the resource to its constituents. And CharismaLife will sell the product directly to churches.
Taweel and Loos hope the K>10>C curriculum will "encourage kids to love the Bible."
"If kids can learn the Ten Commandments and place them in their hearts, then hopefully that will affect the way they act and the things they do and don't do," Loos says.
Stephen Strang believes the K>10>C curriculum can help reverse the trend of biblical illiteracy nationwide.
"Every drought is broken by the first drop of water from the sky," he says. "Whether there's enough water to ease the drought depends on the amount of rainfall. But every drop helps. The K>10>C curriculum is a start. We're certainly hopeful that it's a tipping point, but if that happens, it's really up to God."
The Big 10--Kids Style
It's not often top Hollywood and Broadway stars lend their talents to a faith-based production, but that was the case with the Kids' Ten Commandments (K>10>C) video series.
The diverse cast for the five-part series includes Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Tom Bosley (Happy Days), Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba) and Paul Winfield (King).
George Taweel and Rob Loos, creators and executive producers of K>10>C told Ministries Today that some of the celebrities who provided the voices for the series were Christians, but others were Jewish or not affiliated with a particular faith.
However, they noted that all of the performers were "genuinely enthusiastic" with being a part of the K>10>C project.
John Schneider, who plays the character of Simeon in K>10>C, says God's Laws are relevant in the 21st Century.
"The biggest thing I hope that my kids take home from this is that the Ten Commandments are as applicable today as they were when they were written," explains Schneider, who has been in Smallville and The Dukes of Hazzard.
Peter Strauss, the voice of Moses, agrees.
"I think it's wonderful to try to bring the Bible to children in our day and age in a manner which they find enjoyable," says Strauss.
Eric Tiansay is the editor of Charisma News Service.