Vacation Bible School: Faith and APA Stereotypes

I just finished a week of chaos and insanity, which happens every year during the summer. If you walk into pretty much any church, Asian and non-Asian, there will be signs up for the upcoming Vacation Bible School (VBS) with themes on everything from Egypt and heroes to ranches. A lot of Vacation Bible School is painfully cheesy, but the kids seriously love it all. Still, it makes me question what we use to teach kids about faith and spirituality, and of course, I was appalled by the video, Jesus Loves the Little Racist-Puppet Children. It reminds me of the nightmare that was Rickshaw Rally, a VBS program promoted as: “Far-out Far East Rickshaw Rally: Racing to the Son is a VBS race that will have kids dashing through the streets of Tokyo, climbing Mt. Fuji, and diving for pearls!” Oh dear God, that was painful, and sooo messed up. (I didn’t really know anyone that actually ended up using this curriculum.)

All these caricatures…for what? Does it really get the point across? A while back was the Skit Guys fiasco, an offshoot of an evangelical organization that attempts to minister to people and share Christianity through supposedly funny and accessible skits, where anyone can get the scripts and present them to their own communities. Alice Chen reported on the Skit Guys in an article called,  “Speaking Up for Asian Americans” about the response from the APA community. Though it took a while, the skit was eventually pulled from its curriculum. I haven’t seen much of these blatant Asian caricatures or non-white stereotypes lately in programs but now there’s an advertisement for a 2011 VBS program called Pandamonium that I thought could potentially be questionable. It looks harmless enough so far, but if anything, I feel bad for panda bears.

It still begs the question for me: when educating children crosses over into entertaining, is this necessarily a good thing, even if it’s more attractive to our ADD-sound-bite-needy younger generations?

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About Mihee

Mihee lives in the Mid-West with her husband, toddler-aged twins (yes, terrible twos is actually a thing), and baby #3. Though her reserve of brain cells is seriously depleted she is still passionate about Asian American culture, religion and social justice for marginalized people, stories about Korea, sports, and power naps. During the day, she spends a lot of time trying to remember which baby needs to eat or get a diaper change, mentoring and ministering to college students, occasionally taking a walk, writing, watching Sportscenter, or grabbing coffee. You can read her blog here.
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