A lot of Lutherans have seen and shared this meme with Hank Hill from the animated series “King of the Hill”:
It’s a hilarious and accurate meme. Yet, there’s another scene from that same episode, “Reborn to Be Wild,” that I think is even more powerful. In that episode, Hank is trying to deal with his son Bobby, who has, disturbingly to Hank, become part of a Christian youth group that tries to make Jesus “cool” for teens.
“When I turn 18, I’m going to do whatever I want for the Lord,” says Bobby. “Tattoos, piercings, you name it.”
“Come here,” his father tells him, “there’s something I want you to see.”
Taking a box down from a high shelf, he opens it up, takes out an object, and says: “Remember this?”
“My beanbag buddy?” says Bobby. “Oh, man, I can’t believe I collected those things. They’re so lame.”
“You didn’t think so five years ago,” says his father. “And how about your virtual pet? You used to carry this thing everywhere. Then you got tired of it, forgot to feed it, and it died.”
Rummaging around in the box, Bobby finds a photo of himself in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume. “I look like such a dork,” he tells his father.
“I know how you feel,” says Hank. “I never thought that ‘Members Only’ jacket would go out of style, but it did.”
“I know you think stuff you’re doing now is cool,” says Hank to his son, “but in a few years you’re going to think it’s lame. And I don’t want the Lord to end up in this box.”
It should be quite shocking to us that a cartoon character gets it better than many Christians and churches do. How many parents, teachers, and churches take the very approach that is being warned against in this scene? (for example, see Miguel Ruiz’s recent post)
How many Christians do everything they can to try to make Jesus and the Word of
God entertaining and fun? Far too many do everything they can think of to make Jesus “cool” with the hope that the kids will find the church interesting enough to attend (yes, sometimes with the best of intentions).
And then when the children grow up and outgrow the foolishness that has been presented to them as Christianity…when the children find out that there are far more entertaining things out there than church…then Jesus gets put in a box along with all the toys and fads they’ve outgrown.
The goal of all parents, pastors, teachers, and churches should be that they teach their children in such a way they give the children something they can grow into rather than something they will grow out of. Picture the boy who walks around in his father’s clothes and shoes because he wants to be like him. It doesn’t fit yet, but the child desires to grow up and grow into it.
This is what we are doing – we are giving them something that doesn’t quite fit, but it is something they can grow into and are even growing into right now. They are growing into and discovering the breadth and the depth and the beauty of the one true faith.
We are striving to hand down to them the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) and we want that to be something that they cling to their whole lives. This means that we are giving them something that they cannot possibly outgrow.
This is done by handing down to them what has been handed down to us in the Bible, in the Book of Concord, and in the historic liturgy. These gifts give shape to both the form and the content of what, and how, we hand down the faith to them.
We don’t have to make Jesus cool or fun or entertaining because we trust that the Word of God is efficacious. So, rather than trying to change Jesus and manipulate our kids, we can trust that God’s Word is enough for them and for us – both now and all the days of their lives.
Let us attend to the wisdom of Hank Hill, so that our children don’t grow up and put the Lord in a box.