Friday, November 5, 2010

Tie Ins

The Jesus Youth greet you, Unbeliever.
Today, in the church mail, I got the flyer for Group Publishing's Sunday School offerings for 2011.  Group is a tightly run and moderately evangelical shop.  They have their finger on the pulse of our culture, and their stuff is nearly always tied in to major media events.

If there's a pending cinematic extravaganza, an ultra-hyped Hollywood summer blockbuster, you're guaranteed that they'll capitalize on it by producing coursework that harmonizes with whatever the mass market zeitgeist happens to be.  Got a Pirates of the Caribbean flick coming out?  It'll be seafaring VBS.  Finding Nemo coming out?  Expect lots of fish themed Jesus stuff.  I'm actually a bit surprised they haven't done something with zombies.  It's mostly innocuous, positive, well-produced material.  Although it tends to be a bit treacly for my tastes, my own church has used it plenty in past.

This upcoming summer, the next Transformers movie is going to hit Cineplexes near you.  It'll be in 3D, loud and blangy and more-in-your-face than ever.  So of course, the flyer I got in the mail gives good-customer-me a preview of the "Transformer"-themed Jesus curriculum that Group will be pitching out.  A bunch of backlit sword-wielding Jesus children grin out at you, their armor emblazoned with glowing crosses.  The little one in the middle looks remarkably like a young Glenn Beck.

It struck an odd chord. Not because tying the Gospel to big stupid-loud ultraviolent blockbusters seems to dilute the Jesus message, though it does.  Not because the iconography has almost crossed over into Leni Riefenstahl territory, though it has. 

Rather, it's because I'm in the habit of dream-sharing with my children.  If we have a particularly interesting one, we discuss it, exploring its meaning.  My ten year old son, whose dreams are often...well...strangely prescient...had a long vivid dream that he recounted to me in extended detail yesterday.  It was about a dark and violent force that was sweeping across the country.  It was an army, one that brought with it destruction.  He and his friends fought against it, but it proved too strong.

Last night, he showed me a picture of one of the warriors in the army, a little pencil drawing he'd done.  It was an armored robotic figure brandishing a long sword.  Emblazoned on its chest was a cross.  "That's the power source, Dad," said he.  "It uses it to power its weapon.  To defeat it, you have to take out its power source."

It was exactly what I saw in my mailbox this morning.

Tie-ins can be rather odd.