Each Wednesday in What Memes Mean, Kirk Bozeman questions the significance, humor, and subtexts of viral videos, memes, and other Internet fads.
The baby preacher is back: O evangelicalism, how strange thou art.
The proliferation of baby preachers on YouTube really bothers me. The whole concept taps into the errant notion held by many evangelicals that theological training and ministry experience is subservient to “the shivers”, and that anyone who tacks the claim “God revealed this to me” onto a statement should be given the floor. Said sarcastically: evidently God’s design for successful teaching and preaching is not a balanced, intelligent, passionate presentation of hard-studied truth – it’s that we get all worked up and yell a lot. Baby preachers are another example of content, substance, and wisdom taking a backseat to things like personality and novelty.
Child preachers are novelty. Certainly God can do as He pleases in all the earth, and in times past He chose to speak through a number of interesting mediums, including donkeys (Num 22:22-35), habitual murderers (1 Tim 1:12-17), and sudden crowds of heavenly beings (Luke 2:8-15). But none of those communications was designed to wow the world through unsubstantial novelty. Child preaching videos smack not of God speaking in a way that humbles men at the surprising sound of His voice, they come across as “spiritual child beauty pageants.” By this I mean that it’s really about the parents, not the kids. It’s exploitative and disturbing.
Please don’t think I’m taking shots at the kiddos – they don’t know any better. Infants and children mimic their parents’ actions in order to seek approval, or at least repeat actions for which approval is received. For a children under parental care, this is not yet an issue of personal ethics. The problem is with the parents, church leadership, and (my own personal pet peeve) the congregations who cheer them on. Do these people really prefer this sort of thing to studied, prayed-over, life-experience-built preaching by a loving adult pastor/teacher? *sigh*
We all want God to trump the rules of fallen man, to turn the world on its head. He in fact does do this, will do this, and has done this throughout history. But I doubt that this will ever be accomplished through a shallow novelty. And again, child preaching is not gospel proclamation – it is novelty. It gives the world another reason to roll its eyes and not take the Church very seriously.