5. Bible Quizzes. This might be a bit esoteric, but it was pretty big in my youth group when I was growing up. Each month (or maybe quarter) we’d travel to another church for a Bible quiz. We’d be quizzed over a different book of the Bible each time. During the quiz, we’d sit these little pads. A corresponding light would shine if we were the first person to stand up (the experts know how to sit on their pad in such a way that the slightest movement would trigger the light; they could then think about the answer as they we’re sitting up). This may seem like an efficient way to encourage youngsters to memorize Scripture (which is a good thing, right?), but memorizing Scripture just for the sake of memorizing Scripture turns out to be rather meaningless. I want my kids to know what Scripture teaches, not just memorize it verbatim. We might think we’re getting both with quizzes, but I serious doubt we are (or maybe I was just a terrible student of the Word back then).
I would like to elaborate on this choice. As friend of the 5ive blog Brain Thomas pointed out, memorization of Scripture has many benefits, and should not be discouraged. I didn’t intend to be completely dismissive of it (even though that’s how my paragraph above turned out). Let me add some context. The Bible quizzes of my youth took place in a strongly legalistic environment. There existed an unspoken connection between being good at memorizing Scripture being a good Christian. It was a standard (among so many others) by which we could measure ourselves. The competitive aspect of the quizzes only fuelled our desire to be the best, most outwardly “righteous” Christian in the state. Being the Bible quiz champ clearly indicated that you were going to do great things for God. It’s all this legalistic framing I object to. It’s one thing if you memorize Scripture because you love it and want to learn more of what God has to say. It’s another thing entirely to memorize it for the sake of gaining another trophy to prove to everyone how righteous you are.
4. Kirk Cameron. I know he’s a person, but (more significantly) he’s also a persona. I’m sure the person Kirk C. is a nice guy. I wouldn’t mind chatting with him over a beer (does he drink?). It’s the pop-cultural persona I don’t like. The guy whose smile tell’s you, “Everything’s great¹.” The guy who’ll make cheesy Christian films that fail not only as films, but also as doctrinal lessons. The guys who thinks that bananas are evidence of God’s design (yeah, Kirk, we’re not gonna forget that for a while). I wish Kirk would fade out of the spotlight, and just focus on those around him, because, in the spotlight, all we see is his flaws.
3. Christian self-help books. Christian bookstores are full of them. To be sure, without them, Christian bookstores would cease to exist. And with titles like Living the Braveheart Life: Finding the Courage to Follow Your Heart, Fall Seven Times Stand Up Eight: How to Succeed No Matter What, The Better Life: Small Things You Can Do Right Where You Are, or Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, what weary person could resist? Except that they’re mostly garbage. They could all fit under the head, “Chicken Shit for the Soul.” The thing is, the life is hard for everyone, even more so for Christians. The Bible all but guarantees this. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something (specifically, a book that costs about $15).
2. Daddy-daughter dates. I have four daughters, and I love them dearly. I want to spend time with them, doing activities they enjoy, whether it be playing with magnets or Legos. I want to, by the Spirit’s enabling, model how a husband should treat his wife. I want to warn them about unscrupulous men who feel they are the dominate sex. Just this day I warned my eldest daughter about men who would treat her as someone beneath him, someone he could boss around. I want a lot for my daughters, but I never want to “date” them. I don’t want to pretend that their future relationships with men will in any way mirror ours, or vice-versa. Daddy-daughter dates are just…creepy. No thanks.
1. Thomas Kinkade. Like with KC above (see #4) I don’t mean to disparage the person here. I’m have no reason to think Thomas K. isn’t a great guy. but his paintings…they’re not very good. Yes, they do look like the thing they are supposed to look like. Yes, they are fully of light and color. But they tend to be shallow. There’s no storytelling in them, no depth. They represent an escapist view of the world, one that wants to see it through an artificially optimistic lens. And they sold like hotcakes. People would fork over a couple of Benjamins for just one of these. I’ve actually seen a store in a mall (right next to the hotcakes store) that sold only these paintings. Thomas K’s paintings are the epitome of all that’s wrong with the modern Evangelical views on art. Frankly, I think they’re ugly.
¹for more on this topic see item #2