“The Bible: Uncut” (by Collin Packer)
My childhood heroes weren’t Superman, Spiderman, or The Hulk.
My superheroes were named Daniel, David, and Moses.
That opener sounds like a sad tale from a child who grew up in a home with parents who denied me the pleasure of cable television in an effort to keep me away from “worldly influences.”
My list of heroes wasn’t the result of a conscious censoring attempt by my parents. It was the result of a childhood full of summers spent at VBS.
I’m a Millennial from the big city, which meant my summer VBS tour didn’t include your grandma’s VBS with coloring sheets, crackers, and apple juice. I took my turn at Vacation Bible Schools that included hour-long professional musicals, color-coordinated t-shirts, and laminated nametags.
When they told the story of Daniel, I wanted to be Daniel.
When they told the story of David, I wanted to be David.
When they told the story of Moses, I wanted to be Moses.
And that’s the problem.
It was a problem then, and it’s a problem today with the advent of numerous Children’s Bibles read in households across the country.
I wanted to be Daniel because he survived a lions’ den.
I wanted to be David because he took down giants.
I wanted to be Moses because he parted the Red Sea.
That was the story my VBS and Children’s Bible told me. They made these characters out to be heroes who had no flaws and only experienced victory.
Now, let me first say, we have a Children’s Bible in our home and we read from it regularly. I’m not condemning Children’s Bibles. They serve a great purpose.
Children’s Bibles serve the same purpose as radio-edited music on your drive in the car with your children. They’re “safe and fun for the whole family.” They edit out the objectionable content in the Bible.
And there’s a lot of objectionable content in the Bible. If you don’t believe me, then start reading Song of Songs as a bedtime story to your kids every night and just listen to the questions they ask. That’s one way to ensure you have the “Birds & Bees” conversation earlier than you had hoped.
Children’s Bibles are appropriate for…well…children. But you’re not a child anymore.
There’s more to the story than VBS or your Children’s Bible told you.
While there are many reasons why people don’t enter the doors of churches, one key reason is our inability to read beyond the edited Children’s stories we learned growing up. And those stories inoculate us from the real power of the gospel.
Somewhere along my childhood VBS tour (with its strobe lights and choreographed dance moves), I got the idea that God only uses superheroes like Daniel, David, and Moses.
And that message wasn’t hopeful as I entered young adulthood and experienced my propensity to mess things up.
Our churches desperately need the rest of the story.
I needed the rest of the story.
Biblical illiteracy’s greatest casualty isn’t lower scores on Bible quizzes.
Biblical illiteracy’s greatest casualty is the assumption that imperfect people can’t be used by God.
I needed to know that Daniel emerged from the lions’ den and remained in exile.
I needed to know that David knocked out seven of the Ten Commandments in one weekend.
I needed to know that Moses doubted his ability to lead people.
I need to know that none of that disqualified them from being used by God.
In fact, those experiences were the very things that qualified them to tell people the story of God’s forgiveness, redemption, and grace.
And if God could use those people, then perhaps it’s safe to take off my superhero costume that I stride into church wearing so often.
Our churches need to tell the unedited, uncut version of the Bible. I’ve found there’s more hope in that story than the color-filled pages I read growing up.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be like Daniel, David, and Moses.
But let us never forget that they aren’t the main characters in their stories. God is.
And that’s something I never learned at VBS.