Vacation Bible School Wars
Critics say SBC curriculum about Asia is 'racially offensive.'
March 1, 2004
When Soong-Chan Rah received an advertisement for a 2004 Vacation Bible School curriculum published by the nation's largest Protestant denomination, he thought it was a joke.
Then the pastor of the Cambridge [Mass.] Community Fellowship Church visited LifeWay Christian Resources' website.
After examining promotional materials for Far Out Far East Rickshaw Rally: Racing to the Son, he was outraged.
The materials for the VBS curriculum include what critics call "stereotypical 'Oriental' images of rickshaws, chopsticks, takeout boxes, kimonos, and karate uniforms."
"I was shocked, stunned that they would pass this off as Christian education," Rah said. Unsatisfied with LifeWay's response to his concerns, in December Rah set up a website to oppose the curriculum. The site says, "It's devastating and disturbing to know that there are children in many different churches across the U.S. whose first exposure to Asian culture will be this stereotypical, racially offensive material."
Rah, a Maryland-born man of Korean descent, grew up Southern Baptist and taught from LifeWay's materials as a collegian. But the Evangelical Covenant Church pastor believes Rickshaw Rally uses mocking and insensitive images.
He's not the only one concerned. His Web-based petition against the curriculum gathered approximately 1,100 signatures in its first month. The petition continues to gather signatories.
Rah said some petition supporters have suggested a LifeWay boycott and pickets of its retail stores.
But the Southern Baptist Convention agency isn't backing down. Rob Phillips, LifeWay's communications director, said some people have called Rickshaw Rally the best curriculum the agency has ever produced.
He cites testimonials from various natives of Asia ...