Tuesday, June 30, 2015

VBS Music and Theology

I have had the music of VBS in my head for over a week now.  In some ways, it's not horrible. Many of the lyrics are somewhat Biblical, after all.  We spent the week singing about the might of God, the love of God, the uniqueness of God--all in simple sentences, with an upbeat tempo.

When my brain is full of VBS songs, I wonder what my brain usually contains when it's not these lyrics.  In my younger years, it would have been different songs.  But now I don't listen to music as much as I once did--somewhat strange, since music is so much more accessible now.

People across disciplines have long known that if you want the brain to remember something, one good way is to put it to music.  I remember song lyrics long after other knowledge has seeped from my brain.

On Sunday, as I watched the group of VBS kids sing about God who can do anything, I thought about future years.  Will they wonder why this God who can do anything neglected to do something they deem important?

The theology that we teach in VBS is fairly simple--and I'm not saying that critically.  VBS is designed for children, after all.  And a recent trend in VBS is to have curriculum designed for multi-age groups--which means that the theology is geared towards first or second graders.

But I have noticed that many grown ups have never moved much beyond this elementary school theology.  This fact used to enrage me.  I saw it as a failing of the modern church.

Lately, I've been wondering why I have been so angry.  After all, if people have a theology that brings them comfort, who am I to criticize?

But the thought that pushes at me:  is theology meant to bring comfort?  If we delve into theology to understand God, then a second grader's theology isn't serving grown ups well.  Was Jesus sent into the world to bring comfort?

Yes, in some ways.  But no, in important other ways.  There's the social justice angle, after all.

We focus on social justice in our VBS--or to be more accurate, we have a charity project.  This year we raised money for earthquake victims in Nepal.  In the past, we've worked on clean water and malaria nets.

When it comes to social justice, many grown up Christians still have the theology of children.  We care for those who are down on their luck by giving money.  Most grown ups, regardless of spiritual background, don't spend as much time working on changing the social structures that keep people trapped in poverty.

I know that many adults don't care about theology at all.  They come to church for a variety of reasons.  They have friends in the church.  They like to sing in the choir.  They feel better about themselves after an hour in church.  It's a respite from regular life. 

Is there a way to interest these worshippers in a deeper, more complex theology?

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