Tyrades! By Danny Tyree
Even though secular influences have reduced the Bible Belt to a Bible Thong, one can still find plenty of Vacation Bible Schools here in the South.
My son Gideon (soon to be a seventh grader) recently completed VBS at two different congregations, learning of prophets and kings and miracles and parables — prompting me to share some observations.
I get a warm, fuzzy feeling hearing the youngsters sing classics such as “Roll The Gospel Chariot Along” and “Isn’t It Grand To Be A Chrisian?”. Unfortunately, some songs have been modernized beyond recognition, such as “The foolish man built his house upon the sand and the rains came tumbling down and he laughed all the way to the bank because he had government-backed flood insurance.”
The themes for the VBS curricula have been updated as well, in a quest for “relevance”. Themes such as “Let’s Tour Nazareth” have been joined by “Elijah’s fiery chariot: what sort of carbon footprint did that hotrod leave?” and “The meek shall inherit the earth — those lousy one-percenters!”
I’m glad that VBS lets kids have some reverent FUN with the Bible. Week in and week out, some of the more dour congregations can make an impressionable youngster feel like the hapless Charlie Brown. (“I got five pieces of candy!” “I got a chocolate bar!” “I got a quarter!” “I got a brimstone.”)
The VBS experience can vary widely between the liberal churches (“A prize for inviting the most friends to class? Oh, I was speaking metaphorically when I promised that”) and the more conservative churches (“Yes, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, but he had a dinosaur saddled and ready just in case”).
Congregations also vary in financial resources. Some get by with repurposed bathrobes and cheesy fake beards, while others get more sophisticated. (“Congratulations to our third-grade class for secretly bankrupting the Greek economy as punishment for all those heathen gods.”)
Children learn many lessons from the example of Jesus, but adults learn a lot at VBS as well, often the hard way. (“Y’know, there was a certain wisdom to Jesus feeding the 5,000 with loaves and fishes. Probably worked better than candy bars and sugary caffeinated beverages.”)
Most townsfolk smile at the sight of the happy youngsters streaming in and out of VBS, but there are always cynics who cluck their tongues and sigh at the thought of kids being taught “myths and fables”. (Of course, these realists undergird their own lives with principles such as, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” and “I’ll still respect you in the morning.”)
The cynics shudder to imagine the indoctrination going on within. (“Brad, make sure the younger kids color within the lines, but you can color however you want. It’s part of our master plan of filling the pews with hypocrites! Bwahahahaha…”)
Bless the teachers who work with VBS year after year. They do get to see individual students progress from the toddler phase to the graduating teen phase. In other words, from those with all the questions (“Does Jesus send God a Father’s Day card?”) to those with all the answers (“I pray I can keep my pride in check as I spend my entire career with one company and have my congressman weigh my every opinion.”)
Isn’t it grand to be an optimist, isn’t it grand?
©2015 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes email responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”. Danny’s’ weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.