This past weekend we had a church weekend away. Our guest speaker was Elaine Storkey who used to lead Tearfund. To parallel what she was speaking to the adults about, we took the young people who attended the weekend on a look through the book and story of Jonah as a way of looking at the themes of ‘calling’, ‘mission’, ‘justice’ and ‘compassion’.

The first session we asked our students what they knew about the story of Jonah. Our group had a number of 11-14 year olds…making them born circa 1995 (holy crap do I feel old). They proceeded to regale us with their understanding of Johah. It went a little like this.

‘God told Jonah to go to Nirvana…or something like that…he didn’t noahwant to go…so he got on a boat to run away from God…then God made a huge storm come up and the pirates…’Pirates? What pirates?’…Jonah was on a pirate ship…the pirates decided to throw Jonah overboard to make the storm go away…so he walked the plank and then God brought a big fish come and swallow Jonah…and after a few days God made the fish ‘throw-up’ Jonah through the blow-hole…’

You get the point. After listening to this description of the Jonah story, I was trying to figure out where the ‘pirates’, the ‘gang-plank’ and the ‘blow-hole’ came from. If it was simply a young person’s imagination bringing the story to life, that wouldn’t be bad, it would actually be kind of exciting…a young person spending enough time in the Word to bring it to life in their mind. But no…they told me that was the story of Jonah according to Veggie Tales.

The only problem is that they stated that it was from Veggie Tales as if VT carried the same authority as scripture. One student was prepared to argue that the sailors on the boat that Jonah was on were ‘actually’ pirates. Don’t get me started on the worm that lived on the vine that also sold Ninevah merchandise.

I completely by into the idea of making scripture relevant to young people in a technological culture and making the scripture come alive visually…but at what point are we sacrificing the ‘truth’, ‘sacredness’, the ‘history’ of scripture just to hold the attention of young people? Is a video of a bible story really more powerful than an adult who loves the story conveying it to a young person in a well thought out way, in the context of a loving caring relationship?