What, oblivious? Surely not here

Published 10:35am Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I’m writing from the front lines this week, where I’ve dug deep in trenches way over my head. No European theater for me, though, and no bombs bursting over Baghdad. Instead I’m involved in a strategic engagement much closer to home – Vacation Bible School.

Besieged, I’m on night duty after a kid-friendly meal in the fellowship hall, with a set of drums and a well-amped guitar providing background sound. My, how things have changed.

Of all the Bible Schools I attended as a child, none were at night and none offered any musical accompaniment other than that of a piano. The only one I vividly remember was when Mrs. Clanton made me memorize the Great Commission. She had us third-graders painstakingly write out each verse on notecards and illustrate them, too. Her methods worked, because I can still come up with every word of that Matthew passage today.

What exactly Mrs. Clanton would make of the way we do Bible School today, I’m not sure. She might be surprised to know that one of her students has been a small cog in the wheel of change, writing VBS materials for Lifeway that include this year’s spy-heavy themed offerings currently on store shelves.

I don’t remember themes being a part of Mrs. Clanton’s class, but now they’re so important with publishers that I had to sign a legal contract promising I wouldn’t let the cat out of the bag before its marketing debut. Bible School, it would appear, is big business.

Which begs the question down here in the South, where it seems there’s a VBS sign (and church) on every corner: why is it that the Bible belt, of which Mississippi is the buckle, gets looser every year?

Clinton Pastor Kevin Ivy thinks he can answer that. We’re simply oblivious.

“Here people know about Jesus and know the lingo, but they haven’t been transformed by the gospel,” he recently told a national radio audience while plugging “Oblivious,” a new 28-minute documentary produced by Ivy and two fellow filmmakers. Earlier this year the trio hit the streets of metro Jackson, conducting on-the-spot interviews shown in the documentary. Their goal? To find out what the average Joe believes about God and man’s relationship to Him.

Since each participant professed to be a Christian, you might think you know what they said. On the other hand, if you take the time to view “Oblivious” online, you may be shocked, especially since some of the footage was taped on Christian college campuses.

Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, calls the film a “revealing portrayal of how our culture has misunderstood the truth.”

It’s a situation Ivy sees as the fruit of a generation brought up on half-of-the-gospel preaching. “None of our participants mentioned the word ‘repentance,’” he laments. Well, actually one did, being careful to stress that he didn’t believe in it.

But in Mississippi, recently named the most religious state in the nation by Gallup Polls, what’s to worry about, right?

Plenty, if “Oblivious” is any indicator.

But back to the battlefront, where I’m hitting the last (whew) lesson of the week, digging in deep and even delving into the “r” word. The kids are chanting our theme, “God always wins,” a theme I think even Mrs. Clanton would like. Yep, they’re chanting it and believing it and chanting it some more – and it gives me hope.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.