Saturday, May 9, 2009

20/20 Vision

(What I’m Teaching, Part 3)

What do Hannah Montana, Cinderella, Aladdin, Harry Potter, and the Bernstein Bears have to do with God and the Bible?

Nothing, most kids would say. Except maybe that Harry Potter is very, very evil because it has wizards and witches in it.

But the other ones? There’s no sex or violence or cussing or witches, so those ones are okay.

This is a big problem with kids. It’s a big problem with Christians in general. I didn’t start to see it myself until a few years ago when I really started studying biblical worldview.

The problem? We categorize things. We make a pile of “good” things: church, the Bible, “Christian” books, “Christian” movies, pastors, missionaries, etc.

Then we make a pile of “bad” things: movies rated PG-13 or higher, alcohol, drugs, sex, cussing, not going to church, gambling, clubbing, tattoos, etc. The denomination a person attends will often help to determine what is “bad.”

Then we make a pile of “neutral” things—neither “good” nor “bad” nor “religious”: school, plumbers, computers, owning a house, buying a car, art, history, food, books (as long as they don’t have “evil” in them), and kids’ movies.

Many Christians assume (as I did, once upon a time) that if you do something or think about something in the “good” category, then you are a good Christian. Then you avoid the “bad” category and you’re doing even better. And the “neutral” category? Well, those are just normal things that normal people do that don’t really have much to do with God and don’t really require much analysis.

Is that really how God created the world? Is that really how God expects us to live our lives? Or could it be remotely possible that everything in our world says something about God and the way He runs things? That sometimes things in the “good” category can be so poorly done that they do injustice to the glory of God (think: cheesy Christian romance novels)? That sometimes things in the “bad” category can tell us important things about the fallen human condition or about the culture we live in? (What comes to mind immediately is “Gran Torino”—a movie I recently saw which is rated R but is an incredible, powerful, touching story of redemption and forgiveness). Or, perhaps most importantly, did God really create anything to be “neutral?” Perhaps what is neutral is most dangerous of all, because we go through the motions, or put things in our head without thinking about them, without digesting them—and therefore, they affect us in very subtle but powerful ways.

This is a big topic for Gil and me. I will resist the temptation to go on and on and instead write about what this has to do with what I am teaching.

Our spiritual theme for HOPAC this year is 20/20 Vision: Creation Chaos Christ. The banner you see above is prominently displayed at school.

Our goal is to help develop a biblical worldview in our students, to help them see the world--every aspect of the world--the way God sees it.

Gil and I teach elementary school assemblies (chapel) on Tuesday mornings. The teachers are integrating biblical worldview into history, science, math, etc. (and we have been doing some training with them), but during assemblies we have been focusing on popular culture.
So this is what we do: We show a clip, play a song, or read a book that is popular among elementary aged kids. Then we talk about how to look at it with “our Bible glasses on.” Some examples:

Cinderella: Can we admire Cinderella for her gracious, kind heart? Absolutely. But should we allow ourselves to think that finding our perfect “prince” is going to solve all our problems, when God is the only source of lasting happiness?

Bernstein Bears: Why is Papa Bear always portrayed as such a dope? Is that the way God wants fathers to be?

Harry Potter: Is the biggest problem with the “magic,” or with the fact that Harry gets away with lying and disobeying the rules in the name of saving the day?

Hannah Montana: Is life really a party? And do we really have control over our own lives? (themes in her songs, for those of you unfamiliar with tween culture)

High School Musical: Are we really supposed to “follow our hearts” or follow God’s Word?

Aladdin: Why is Aladdin seen as such a hero when he steals and justifies it?

The Lion King/Brother Bear: Does the Bible teach that we can talk to our ancestors or that they are watching over us?

Jack and the Beanstalk: Why is it okay to steal from someone, even if he is a mean giant?

And so on. We teach the kids that first of all, they need to obey their parents in what they watch and read and listen to. But secondly, they need to think about everything they are putting into their minds. Not just blindly watch and listen and read, but to think while they are doing it. Digest it. Analyze what the Bible would say about it. Have their "Bible glasses" on. That it’s not necessarily wrong to watch or read or listen to these things, but it is wrong to do it without thinking—because otherwise they will influence you without your permission.

Since this is such an important topic for me, I can’t go away without endorsing some books:

I've written about this book before, but it doesn't hurt to write about it again, since I think every Christian should read it. Powerful, fascinating stuff. Definitely in my top 5 most influential books I've ever read. Everything in this post? Influenced by this book. Not an easy read, but well worth the effort.

This one's also very well written. Excellent explanation of worldview at a level that any average high schooler can understand.
Still haven't found anything written for kids on this subject. Hmmm.... maybe someday when I'm retired....


Anonymous said...

You get be on a soapbox every day that you teach, lucky girl. Thanks for helping these precious kids how important it is to factor the Lord into everything and not pull off the shelf when you want.
Love, Babu

Amanda said...

Haven't read either of the recommended books, but I couldn't agree more with this post. Thanks for helping another generation learn to think critically and biblically.

Anonymous said...

Right on!!!!

JR said...

I love this post! I get so discouraged about so much of the media that we are throwing around as "family friendly". You are so right about looking at what the book/movie/music is trying to tell us about a world view. I hate the kid movies where the kids disobey the parents, who don't know anything anyhow, and then are proved the heroes as their parents realize how right their kids were in the end. Or the kid movies that introduce romance girlfriend/ boyfriend stuff to kids well before they should even be thinking about such things, etc...