by: Jeremiah Bolich
Like most Sunday’s, my family and I were invited by the pastor to join his family for dinner. So, after the service we piled into the Jeep and followed the pastor to Applebee’s. About half way into town, another unexpected conversation arose between my wife and I and our five year old son. The conversation began when CJ broke through the silence calling from the back seat, “Dad, Strawberry Shortcake is not a Christian.”
For those of you who have never purchased girly greeting cards or do not frequent the Saturday morning cartoon channels, Strawberry Shortcake is a fictional character born in the 70’s, but recently revamped to capture the attention of my 3 year old daughter. Strawberry Shortcake and her “Berry Friends” inspire children with their challenging adventures in and around Berry Bitty City. Each episode explores topics ranging from love and friendship to honesty and compassion. Strawberry Shortcake is a cute, sweet, and charming little girl who while capturing the heart of my daughter, has raised some serious questions in the mind of my 5 year old son.
It seemed plain from the look on my daughter’s face, that CJ must be out of his mind to even suggest that the cute little moral, upright, loving and compassionate Strawberry Shortcake would one day face judgement and damnation. Wanting to keep the peace in the backseat and without thinking to deeply about what was stirring in the mind of my son, I responded with “Sure she is CJ.” “We like Strawberry Shortcake, don’t we Lani?” Without missing a beat, CJ responded saying “Then why doesn’t she ever talk about Jesus?”
Strawberry Shortcake Christianity
Like I have, I think most people probably accept without really thinking about it the Strawberry Shortcake version of Christianity. She is modest, kind, and without question, moral. Strawberry Shortcake is safe and like my wife and I, many parents entrust our daughters to her for a few hours each week. Yet is she Christian? Does she embody and model the message that Jesus called the Church to embrace?
I need to openly confess that I do not insist that my children watch only Christian television. Nor do I insist that they play with only Christian toys. I think part of parenting is training your children to differentiate not only between what is Christian and what is not, but also between what is beneficial, tolerable and adverse. The issue at stake in our conversation Sunday afternoon was not so much whether or not Strawberry Shortcake was beneficial, tolerable or adverse, but whether or not she could be called Christian.
Some might think drawing lines in the sand over these kinds of issues is more problematic than beneficial, especially at the age of 5 years old, but I would strongly disagree. First, because often times, as in this case, these kinds of sticky conversations are not initiated by us, but pressed upon us. Another question could be asked at this point; who is doing the pressing? Could we answer and say the Holy Spirit? I think we not only can, but should say “Yes!”, it is He. I believe Jesus is at work behind the scenes in these types of uncomfortable situations. He brings them about, they do not simply arise out of thin air. Therefore, lines must be drawn.
Secondly, these lines should be drawn for the sake of The Message itself. We as Christians do great injustice when we sweep under the rug opportunities that come as vehicles to carry others into a deeper understanding of the Christian faith. Life is not simple. It is complex and dangerous and sometimes filled with questions that allow for no easy answers. It is sometimes cowardly and most of the time lazy to simply not engage when the time comes to do battle over what is Truly Christian and what is only nice and sweet.
Like our fictional character Strawberry Shortcake, the politically correct version of Christianity often times tolerated by those of us in the Church is also fictional. The sum of cute and kind do not equal to Christianity. The message Jesus came to show and tell is much more than what Strawberry Shortcake, as good as she is, models to our children, and we are called to be courageous and even a little narrow in what we proclaim as right and true Christianity.
It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit would guide us through the quagmire of these life kinds of events and that He would be both glorified and made known through them.