Vacation Bible School

I received – not to Current Resident, but to myself personally – an Oriental Trading catalog of Vacation Bible School supplies. If signing me up for this was someone’s prank, it was a brilliant one. This is a thoroughly disturbing and delightful catalog.

I hadn’t thought of it in years, but I did go to Vacation Bible School when I was five. It was at the same Methodist church where I went to kindergarten, and it was basically the same as kindergarten – an afternoon of Bible stories, naps and being kept out of my parents’ hair. I do remember being scared by and with God at the Methodist church, but no one meant any harm, and for a Mississippian, I got off easy. When I was a teenager, I volunteered for an Episcopalian VBS, which just involved mild supervision of pretty well-behaved kids. There were no alarming doctrines propagated there by the friendly Whiskeypalians.

There was, to be sure, no ridiculous plastic bullshit at any VBS that I remember, nothing at all like what is being sold by Oriental Trading. I took pictures of the catalog; although of course there is a website, it doesn’t carry the uniquely American flavor of madness that the paper catalog does.


A man died on a cross. His name was Yeshua bar Miriam, and he was killed, depending on who you ask, because he threatened the power of Rome, or he threatened his fellow Jews, or he was fulfilling the will of God, for he was the Word made Flesh. Although I am not quite up on all doctrine, I am fairly certain he was not killed for one amazing deal at a time.


Was he killed to cleanse elementary schoolers of the sins of sassmouth and laziness? Again, I personally cannot clarify the point.


Children did have jointed puppets and instructional toys long before the days of Yeshua bar Miriam. Yeshua would probably recognize these and their purpose. Why the children of an expatriated collection of Celts, Iberians, Picts, Alemanni, Nubians and Asians are raised to have any interest in his doings would take a good deal longer to explain to him.


The “Divine Discoveries” kit is a cargo-cult science line for magnifying bugs, or creating baking soda volcanoes, or anything else that allows a little paddling around the niftiness of science without asking any of the questions that science is, in fact, the very process of asking. A wacky mad-scientist outfit, along with “funny nerd glasses,” is available to demonstrate to children that scientists are goofy ridiculous characters, who really can’t be taken very seriously after all.


Kids love playing secret agent games. But playing secret agent means you’re hiding secrets from someone – running from someone. An adversary. An enemy. Who? It’s not mentioned in these pages. I suspect it is, more or less, me: a secular humanist, someone who will not make you play these games in order to be considered good, to be worthy of love.