Sunday, July 21, 2013

Jesus is My Child's Babysitter

I live in the Bible Belt, at present. During the summer months, you cannot drive a half mile without encountering a sign inviting you to sign your child up for a week of Vacation Bible School (a.k.a. 'VBS'). For a long while, I lived in the Northeast. There are a lot of Churches in Boston, but I don't recall seeing any VBS signs. And NYC? Too heathen for that sort of thing. But  here I am, in Blue Ridge country, and it's like VBS HQ 'round here.

When I was a kid growing up in Southern California, my siblings and I attended VBS at our church, every year, until we were too old to go. I'm sure it was supposed to be a kid-level deep spiritual experience, but do you know what sticks with me all these years? I'll tell you. It's the 5 foot tall chocolate candy bar. One year, our church had this contest. You had to bring as many friends as you could to church that week (with the ultimate goal of saving their souls), and for every kid you brought, you got a point. The child with the most points at the end of the VBS week would win the 5 foot tall, milk chocolate candy bar that was displayed on the sanctuary stage, just to the left of the pulpit and behind the piano. It was like the Catholic practice of granting indulgences, except Protestant-style. Save other kids' souls and get candy in return! Try as I might, I was only able to find one friend who would go to VBS with me, and so I did not win it. It was a bitter, bitter defeat, let me tell you. Bitter. Not because of the soul-saving (I am so not a saint), but because of the towering chocolatey goodness that would not be going home with me. 

Here in this town, apparently, there are mothers who will suss out all the VBS locations and dates, and then will sign their children up for a summer's worth of VBS, one week following upon another. And endless summer of flannel board Bible stories, sing-a-longs, and forgettable crafts. Apparently, it's cheaper than finding childcare. You might say 'Jesus is my Co-Pilot', but there are apparently some who believe that 'Jesus is My Child's Babysitter,' instead.

I don't know if I would have, as a child, found this prospect alluring or terrifying. I imagine weeks on end of stale cookies and tepid, artificially flavored punch, day after day of coloring in Bible story hand-outs with stubby crayons, the endless parade of games meant to both wear us out so we wouldn't misbehave and also prepare our souls for the kingdom of God. I ponder the sheer number of 'Jesus Loves You' bookmarks I might have accumulated in that space of time, and to what use I may have been able to put them. And then I think about that 5 foot tall chocolate candy bar, and I'm pretty sure that eleven or twelve straight weeks of that sort of cut-throat evangelistic competition would have turned me into an atheist before puberty hit.

(Note: not everyone who reads this blog (especially those who may find it by chance) know me well enough to know that I do not have children. The title of this post, actually refers to a sentence in the third paragraph.)

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