After controversy last year over its Asian-themed Vacation Bible School material, LifeWay Christian Resources is sticking with American imagery in 2005.
The Southern Baptist Convention publisher announced next year’s VBS theme Sunday, according to a news release on LifeWay.com. “Ramblin Road Trip: Which Way Do I Go?” incorporates a travel theme with stops at five destinations across the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />United States.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
Some Asian-Americans protested this year’s VBS theme, “Far-out Far East Rickshaw Rally—Racing to the Son,” set in Japan, saying it included stereotypes such as rickshaws and Chinese takeout boxes that are inaccurate and offensive to Asians. The Baptist Convention of New England refused to promote the material. Other SBC-affiliated state conventions noted concerns but opted to adapt the material rather reject it outright.
A “Stop Rickshaw Rally” petition placed on the Internet by a non-Baptist Korean-American pastor in Cambridge, Mass., collected 1,462 signatures.
LifeWay refused to withdraw the material but did make changes to its Web site promoting the curriculum.
A LifeWay spokesman declined to say how sales of the 2004 VBS materials compared to previous years, citing competitive reasons, but said that “Racing to the Son” was very popular and is reaching more than a million children this summer.
The 2005 VBS theme follows an imaginary road trip along “Route 254,” alluding to the Scripture Psalm 25:4-5: “Make your ways known to me, Lord; teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation.”
The first stop, “Destination Worship” is in Washington, D.C. The memory verse is Matthew 2:2, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” Crafts and snacks combine patriotic themes with the eastern star that the Wise Men followed.
Mid-point is “Destination Salvation,” at Lebanon, Kan., the U.S. geographic center.
The road ends on Day 5 at Knott’s Berry Farm, a Southern California theme park located about 10 minutes from Disneyland. The SBC boycotted The Disney Company in 1997 over gay-friendly policies and R-rated movies.
Knott’s Berry Farm is owned by Cedar Fair, L.P., a publicly traded partnership which owns and operates seven amusement parks and five water parks.
For the first time in 2005, LifeWay is offering a second line of VBS curriculum. “Club VBS: Beach Blast” will help children “Celebrate God’s Faithfulness,” according to a press release.
Asked if adding a second line was related to controversy over this year’s theme, company spokesman Rob Phillips said customers have been asking for a second line of VBS materials for several years, and that planning and development of VBS material is a 15-month process.
“We began work on both ‘Ramblin Road Trip’ and ‘Beach Blast’ a long time ago,” Phillips said in an e-mail.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.