Military Imagery in Youth Ministry

Youth Specialties
January 5th, 2009

Over the past few years I’ve seen some blog posts opening a debate about the use of military imagery in youth ministry events and teaching. When I first read these blog posts I wrote it off. Just a bunch of left-leaning softies, right? That stuff isn’t a big deal, is it? Then yesterday, Adam Walker Cleaveland brought it up again on his blog charging, YouthBytes Offers Inappropriate Youth Devotional. Here’s the video: There is plenty of truth to what Adam is saying on his blog. I’ve attended some youth ministry events that felt more like rallies for the United States military than conferences meant to encourage students to deepen their faith. Camouflage t-shirts, flag waving, teaching illustrations involving guns and fighting, videos of warfare, and a close tie between spiritual warfare and actual warfare. I sarcastically wondered if there were a recruiter for the Armed Services in the hallway next to the Compassion International booth. While he isn’t arguing that all military illustrations are bad, he is saying that this one is inappropriate. The flip side of that argument is that God’s Word, especially in the Old Testament, is filled with military imagery. It is perfectly logical to assume that since the Bible uses military imagery, documents battles, and uses those battles as a way to teach God’s people about a life following Him, it’s acceptable to modernize the imagery so that it makes sense to today’s audience. I know in my own teaching I’ve used plenty of military imagery as I taught 1 & 2 Kings and Joshua. How could you teach these books and avoid military imagery? With that, I invite you into the debate by leaving a comment. Is this video, as Adam charges, inappropriate? How do you separate the Bible’s violent imagery and the violence our students see today in schools, on TV, etc.? In a world that struggles to find relevance with the church, how do you think military imagery is viewed by non-Christians?

Youth Specialties

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