We are very excited about the upcoming week of Summer Splash at Elim from August 5th to 11th. This is an all ages week that concludes with a SPLASH at the Jim Lupient Water Park on Friday here in Northeast.
This years theme is “ROAR!” and derives from Biblical Stories, some of which come out of the continent of Africa. We are aware of the ways in which the “ROAR” curriculum is insensitive and mischaracterizes the complex heritage of Africa’s diverse range of people groups and languages. In some circumstances it minimizes the terrible reality of slavery. The biblical book of Exodus is an entire book dedicated to the theme of liberation from slavery, and many Biblical stories do deal with the reality of state sponsored slavery and/or forced labor with incredible detail and seriousness. These are not light matters and persist as problems in our world today and we want to treat this subject with the utmost care and sensitivity.
Some of the complaints voiced of the ROAR! curriculum are:
- Students are told to role-play as “hopeless” slaves while someone else playing a “mean Egyptian guard” yells out things like, “What are you doing? Don’t you slaves know anything?… You’re the most hopeless slaves I ever saw… Maybe the next batch of slaves will be better.” The point of the lesson? To teach kids how “unfair” life was for those slave. Not dehumanizing and inhumane, but “unfair.”
- They learn how to produce “clicks” with their tongues so they can speak a native African language… (“Introduce yourself… with your new ‘click language’ name.”)
- They’re shown a video of the Maasai warriors jumping up and down (out of context) and told to imitate them so that “their feet make the sound of a crazy stampede.” The word “Maasai” is misspelled in the text.
- After completing the lesson, kids are told, “You’ve been able to see some of the people in Africa and the amazingly wild things they do!” Wild. Africans are wild.
- Africa, in at least one instance, is referred to as a “country.”
We are removing these activities. Unfortunately these activities mischaracterize the people and land of Africa as well as the issue of slavery in unhelpful and possibly damaging ways. The reality is that finding good curriculum is extremely difficult and unfortunately this is not an uncommon thing with curriculum created for and by the church! We believe the ROAR! curriculum (with modifications) however will be an edifying resource for this years Summer Splash.
I want to reassure you that we will continue as a church to be mindful of the ways in which we can potentially offend, hurt or malign others as well perpetuate the harmful stereotypes that foster white supremacy or minimizing others’ experience of oppression. The last thing we want to teach our kids is to make light of these very serious issues — it dishonors God and the humanity that God created. We look forward to the many good conversations, prayers, and teaching times that will result from this years Summer Splash week!
It’s going to be a great time and we hope you join us!
Paul Stephen Olson
Lead Pastor, Elim Church