Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cutsie Christianity

I was walking down the hall of our preschool the other day and noticed all the posters with cute baby animals covered in religious catchphrases and bible verses. I've never really liked those things, but I usually chalked it up to my general contrariness. This time, though, I began to think about why people like these kinds of posters.

It dawned on me - people like them because they're harmless and frivolous and people would rather have a non-threatening faith. I suppose the same could be said for Thomas Kincade paintings or Precious Moments figurines. The larger evangelical culture seems to have overly domesticated Christianity.

Think about it. This is a faith that began with the worship of an executed prisoner, one that took the brutal instrument of capital punishment and spread it all over their homes and lives. They called people to martydom without violence, to give up their bodies and lives for a different way of life. For the first several hundred years of Christianity, the most revered saints were those who half-starved themselves in the desert or those who knelt calmly and prayed in the arena whilst being torn apart by lions.

Christianity is a far cry from cartoons and baby animals. I recognize that those images and ideas may not be appropriate for children, or even understood. Still, it seems like we could do better in forming our children around the idea of Christian life as something different. The way of Christ is not cuddly and docile.

Perhaps our society (Christians included) doesn't quite take God seriously because the Church has done a lot to make God something less than serious. It's become almost cliche these days, but CS Lewis image of God as the lion, Aslan says a lot more about our lost conception of God. Aslan, a huge ferocious, loving Lion scared the children, the main characters in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Lucy, the youngest, asked, "is he a tame lion?" and the response came - "He's not tame, but he is good."

We seem to be taming God for the next generation - and perhaps for ourselves. We prefer a God and a faith that doesn't require much of us - that doesn't call us to sacrifice and disrupt our lives. We'd prefer a tame God who will let us go about our business and be mostly just like everyone else.

I continue to be haunted motivated by the words of Scott Daniels in a sermon - "Our kids are desperately seeking something worth dying for and we refuse to give it to them."

Our faith is an adventure, a challenge, a journey. It is the consummation of our created purpose. The gospel is good news that the relatively mundane, sedate purpose our world attempts to sell us is just not the real thing. There's excitement and fulfillment - and a little bit of danger out there.

Our kids deserve to see it.


Auntie J said...


And exactly.

Unknown said...

Definitely agree to an extent, Ryan. However, when we add to the lion concept the fact that we also read of Christ offering rest/comfort, that seems to leave room, too, for these "comforting" images of cuddly critters. ;)

They, in fact may appeal to those especially in need of such comfort, who live/have lived where necessary nurturing comfort is a bit lacking. So, we see it as another one of those areas of keeping things in balance.

While suspecting you may have come from a perhaps "nurturing/comforting" family, maybe a new perspective on these heretofore disliked Bible verses superimposed on cuddly creatures could be something like this:

Just consider them reminders to pray for folks who may need the bit of comfort they offer, being thankful you were not among them.

Blessings! :)

Ryan said...

The idea of comfort is a valid and important point. Thank you for mentioning it. However, I do think there is a difference between a serious depiction of comfort and something cartoonish. I'm just concerned, from experience, that too often we over-simplify Christ for kids and they never grow out of that simple understanding.

The way of Christ is indeed simple, but the implications of life in that way are incredibly complex. I think we can do better to portray the various facets of Christ in ways more appropriate to mature faith - even for kids.