The Chocolate Bunny and Idolatry Today

It’s quite possible that I will never be able to shake this song from the popular Christian children’s show VeggieTales out of my memory bank. The musical number was none other than “The Bunny Song” from the Rack, Shack & Benny episode. I mean this episode had everything! Crowd favorites Bob, Larry, and Junior were the main protagonists in the story. It had the obnoxiously hilarious giant chocolate bunny statue. The gripping flying scooter chase scene through the HVAC system of the Chocolate Factory had you sitting at the edge of your sofa while you sipped your Capri Sun.

But that song featuring the asparagus as backup singers has embedded itself so deeply within my brain that even now, 20-some years later it finds a way to come to the fore at the most random of times.

While washing dishes, showering, or sneaking a piece of chocolate I quietly mumble to myself… “The bunny, the bunny, oh I love the bunny…

Well, I’m almost 30 now, and one of the things I’ve learned over the years is that the Bible isn’t merely a book of children’s stories that can be adapted to suit adults, as some may presume. It’s much more a book for adults, that through media, like VeggieTales, can be adapted to suit children. Certain stories are more easily adapted than others and there are many stories that are often set aside altogether until children get to an appropriate age. But if we think VeggieTales, or similar Christian media for children, exhaust the depth of these stories we’re missing the profound potency of them.

Consider the story of “Rack”, “Shack” and “Benny”, which is a riff on the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found in Daniel 3. They were three young men who were taken as exiles to Babylon after the capture of Jerusalem, where the Temple was shortly thereafter destroyed. They were no longer in their hometown, but found themselves within the heart of the Babylonian empire being trained to fill positions of great responsibility and service to King Nebuchadnezzar.

They were given new names. Trained to be important leaders and administrators within the empire. And after years of providing loyal service to the Babylonian Empire – with few conflicts beyond those due to remaining faithful to their religious dietary laws – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found themselves confronted with a challenge. Would they bow down and worship the giant statue King Nebuchadnezzar had erected, or would they resist and face the threat of being thrown into the giant furnace the king had created for the disobedient?

It’s a familiar story. And one that we probably overlook since we know the ending so well. But this story has probably even more to say to us adults than any children’s adaptation could express to kids. That idolatry, despite being less overt, is still present even today.

what is idolatry?

It’s probably worth noting that the first and second commandments God gave the Israelites were orders against the worshipping of other gods and manufacturing of idols. I mean all ten commandments are clearly important, but for these to be listed as one and two, probably means something right?

But wasn’t idolatry the worship of others gods? Like when people bowed down for statues and created things instead of the God of Israel? Isn’t that something only those primitive and uncivilized people of the past did?

I think the problem is we tend to have a low resolution understanding of what these “gods” were back then. And just because we don’t refer to things as “gods” today doesn’t mean there aren’t equivalents to them.

Idolatry is so much easier to spot when viewing another culture from the outside. It is far more difficult to spot from within. It can be like the air we breathe. The water we swim in. While it might not be a golden statue like the one Nebuchadnezzar erected, our idols today promise similar things.

Yet they always fail to deliver on those promises. And therefore, it’s beneficial to us to see them for what they are before they ultimately let us down. Here are a few ways I’ve learned to spot idolatry in action today. Maybe they can help you as well.

That we can think no higher than

Whether it’s the grand utopian visions of a completely equitable society and the perfect political platform being implemented, the lowly carnal desires for our next “fix” or sexual encounter, or anywhere in between, we all have something to which we are aspiring. For some, those goals have never been achieved. They are lofty and seemingly unachievable. Always out of our reach. Yet for others the most salient desires are those that they have been conditioned to enjoy through previous encounters with them. Sex, drugs, the acquisition of wealth. For everyone, there is something that sits at the top of their hierarchy of values.

For King Nebuchadnezzar, the statue wasn’t erected simply to have people worship it. While there’s debate as to whether the image was that of one of the gods of Babylon or of the king himself, its safe to say there was a purpose behind it. Their religion was not mutually exclusive from their everyday lives and the success or failure of the empire. He was expecting something in return from the people worshiping it. Something that was of utmost importance to him and probably most in the Babylonian Empire.

Maybe that goal was unity. If you force everyone to worship the same thing with the threat of death, you have to a certain degree established a form of unity if everyone obliges. Maybe it was to worship a god in an effort to seek blessing upon their empire in the form of wartime success, fertility, health, fortuitous weather for crops, or material wealth. Whatever it was, they were willing to bow down and submit to it.

I’ve heard it said that idolatry is “that which we can think no higher than”, assuming that thing is not God himself. What are the ideals or values of which we can think no higher than?

Unity? Diversity? Equity? Freedom? Liberty? Kindness? Strength? Wealth? Power?

We may not have statues dedicated or godlike names given explicitly to these ideals today, but we have flags, posters, banners, and movements dedicated to them. Can we think of anything higher than these values? And are we willingly or reluctantly deciding to bow down and submit to any of these ideals?


When in college, I accidentally stumbled upon an absolute gem of a book. I initially thought The Great Divorce was a book on marriage and decided to read it. Boy was I wrong, but it has become quite possibly the most influential book I’ve read in my life.

C.S. Lewis, in this wonderful novel, details the journey of a bus-full of travelers leaving their homes in hell to visit heaven. The story is told from the perspective of one of those travelers as he observes each of his fellow passengers have their own encounter with residents in heaven. One would think they would all find heaven to be blissful and alluring. But that’s not the case.

For each visitor, what keeps them from experiencing the fullness and grandeur of heaven were the “gifts” they had come to love. Knowledge, pride, material wealth, sex, kinship, and even marital relationships. Good things, heck many of them we would consider great things. But when they become the ultimate thing they keep people from experiencing the fullness of a relationship with God. When asked to give up these gifts in pursuit of God, they all fell away and preferred their residence in hell to a life in heaven. In essence, they were trying to enjoy the gifts without recognizing the Giver.

“The essence of idolatry is enjoying the gifts but not honoring the Giver.”

Warren Wiersbe

Throughout the book, Lewis shows how in heaven, a proper appreciation for God redeems all of these gifts. Sex when corrupted may take the form of lust, but in it’s proper place can lead us to a greater understanding of the love that God is. That family relationships, when put in its proper place as a secondary to our relationship with God, can keep us from smothering our family members with existential burdens and unattainable expectations and allow those relationships to point us to a relational God. That knowledge, for the sake of accruing knowledge, may lead to conceit instead of pointing us to the transcendental.

What are the gifts we strive for? Can they bear the weight of all our expectations in this life? Or do they just get corrupted when we fail to acknowledge the God who gave them in the first place?

what i give up everything for

There are many things vying for our complete allegiance. Our jobs. Our families. Our schools. Our political parties. Our country. Our bank accounts. Our political movements. Our urges and temptations. Our churches.

The reality is there are no shortage of things to which we can be dedicating our lives. We all sacrifice ourselves for some thing or purpose. But what are they?

I would give up everything for fill in the blank. It’s probably a worthwhile question for all of us to ask ourselves from time to time.  It may just point out the idols we have today. 

we adults need reminders too

What is it that we can think no higher than? What gift in life do we treasure above everything else? And what is it I would be willing to give up everything for? Our answers to these questions are not necessarily bad things. But if whatever they are isn’t God, we are bound to corrupt them under the unbearable weight of our expectations. And they will fail to deliver what we seek from them.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego worked for the benefit of the Babylonian empire, but when it was at odds with their desire to worship God and God alone, they did not submit. King Nebuchadnezzar sought unity, something that is not a terrible ideal, but when that becomes they only ideal to which we strive it becomes distorted.

But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who had shown over several years a desire to serve the empire and see it prosper, were willing to disobey the order to bow in front of this image, even in the face of execution. They chose to be faithful to the One who rightly deserves our praise and utmost devotion. We must likewise discern what is good and worth participating in within our society, and be willing to not submit when they fall out of alliance with the God we serve. Even when it’s unpopular.

That being said, I do think this VeggieTales episode really points not just children, but us adults in a useful direction. Consider the lyrics to “The Bunny Song.” Although they are saturated with messages for kids like eating healthy food and avoiding sweets as one’s main sustenance, there is also very much a message the show creators are pointing at. Something deeper and more profound that we all need to aware of.

The bunny, the bunny, whoa, I love the bunny
I don’t love my soup or my bread, just the bunny
The bunny, the bunny, yeah, I love the bunny
I gave everything that I had for the bunny
I don’t want no health food when it’s time to feed
A big bag o’ bunnies is all that I need
I don’t want no buddies to come out and play
I’ll sit on my sofa, eat bunnies all day
I won’t eat no beans, and I won’t eat tofu
That stuff is for sissies, but bunnies are cool!

I don’t want no pickles, I don’t want no honey
I just want a plate and a fork and a bunny
I don’t want a tissue when my nose is runny
I just want a plate and a fork and a bunny
I don’t want to tell you a joke that is funny
I just want a plate and a fork and a bunny
I don’t want to play on a day that is sunny
I just want a plate and a fork and a bunny

The bunny, the bunny, whoa, I love the bunny
I don’t love my soup or my bread, just the bunny
The bunny, the bunny, yeah, I love the bunny
I gave everything that I ha-a-a-ad…
For the bunny

What Scandals Can Show Us

I can remember where I was eight years ago when the news about Jerry Sandusky broke. It was the first weekend of November. A rare weekend that was free from Blue Band commitments since the football team had a bye week. I was scrolling through the Facebook news feed when I saw our drum major share one of the first articles to break with the story of Jerry Sandusky’s arrest with a simple status update. “Oh no….”

Since the news broke on Saturday and the details were sparse, it was difficult to tell at the time just how significant this story was. I know I didn’t expect the story to get the traction that it did. Not because if wasn’t a significant crime and story. But because I had never been closely associated with a story this big before. But by the time Monday rolled around it was the talk of every news station. It was everywhere on TV and the news stations had their vans lined up in front of campus, reporting from the town where it all transpired.

To be honest, I didn’t know an outrage nationally could occur this quickly. And I had never been a part of a community as rocked as ours was by this sudden turn of events (or at least the public revealing of past events). My only connection to the story was that I was a student at the university. But that didn’t keep people in the comment sections from saying that students like me were a part of the problem. A school, student body, and family of alumni that for years touted “Success With Honor” as one of our main mantras was left wondering was there ever really honor associated with that success?

Friends of mine lost sleep over Joe Paterno’s firing and soon-to-follow death. Some students transferred out of fear of remaining associated with an institution who’s name had been significantly tarnished. And trust in the leadership of the university and its athletic programs was shattered. Nowhere near as shattered as the lives of the victims must have been. But nonetheless, the sins of a few men had much wider ripples that extended beyond these young boys. Ripples that extended to their families and to the community at-large.

One cannot help but think about how much this story undermined what so many thought they had at Penn State. A seemingly infallible persona in Joe Paterno. A football program that was supposed to serve as the epitome of molding men and student athletes. A football program that was above reproach. And it was an identity that so many fans and students adopted willingly and joyfully.

The removal of the Joe Paterno statue eerily represented the sudden decline in the institution’s public image. And many were left wondering if Penn State ever was representative of the ideals we flaunted.

Just a quick reminder, the Penn State Scandal wasn’t the first scandal to ever occur. Nor will it be the last unfortunately. A similar one from the recent past occurred within the Roman Catholic Church. A similar coverup of sexual crimes against minors that had been pervasive throughout leadership. And just like the news with Jerry Sandusky, the revealing of these transgressions and the subsequent concealment of these issues, led to a similar distrust of authority within the church, widespread abandonment of the Catholic Church and the questioning of the Christian faith in general. This scandal leaves us with similar questions. Did the church or Christianity ever represent the ideals they claimed to hold?

The Penn State Scandal, a representation of when school spirit and the protection of an identity as a successful athletic program goes bad. The scandal within the Catholic Church, a representation of when a church hierarchy degenerates into an institution that is more preoccupied with preserving its image than serving as ambassadors for Christ and protecting the least of these. But the scandals don’t have to be at a national scale for them to impact us.

How about when you find out a friend has stabbed you in the back? Was that friendship ever really genuine? Did I ever mean anything to that person? What do I do with all those memories that at the time seemed so positive? Hasn’t this backstabbing distorted these memories and left us jaded?

Or how about being cheated on by a significant other? Doesn’t every memory come under immense scrutiny? Where did it go wrong? Did they ever love me? Can I ever see myself being back in a serious relationship or trusting someone else again? Could a child of divorced parents ever convince themselves to pursue marriage after seeing it fall apart?

And what about the revealing of significant errors made by politicians, CEOs, and celebrities? Does this undercut our ability to have any confidence in them or the organizations or agencies they represent?

The list goes on. We see parenting, politics, religion, friendship, sports, and life itself done in so many ways that are to the detriment of others. And when these seemingly good things go bad they eat away at our certainty in what has often served as pillars and foundations for our lives.

When I was at Penn State, this scandal fractured the school pride that I had at the time. To associate with Penn State was embarrassing for a while. My self-worth wasn’t wholly tied up in the school’s image, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t partially connected. This scandal forced me to ponder two questions.

The first was, where should I put my faith if these other things have failed me. I have never been perfect in my dependency on God, but He has served as that firm foundation. He has been unchanging, faithful, and dependable through the difficult chapters of life even when I haven’t always been steady in my response and trust. He was before dependable before the scandal rocked my community. He was during it. And He has continued to be afterwards. I’ve tried to set aside these foundations I formerly had and that did not hold up in difficult circumstances. And to the degree that these foundations have been exchanged for my faith in God, is the degree to which my security improved.

The second question has taken a longer time to answer. That question is how do we move forward after being hurt by others and/or institutions that fail us. Sometimes we withdrawal. Sometimes we lash out in anger. Sometimes we quickly try to find something new to fill that void left in our life. We will all respond in slightly different ways in the immediate aftermath of something significant like a scandal.

What I have found to be true in the long term though is that in almost every scandal or breakdown in relationships and communities, it is because something that was good became twisted from it’s ideal purpose.

The Penn State Scandal hurts because school spirit and community are not in and of themselves bad things. But when that school spirit motivates people to worship coaches and conceal criminals to protect an image, it has been distorted.

The scandal in the Catholic Church hurts because the church itself has incredible power to love and serve people. But when those who are entrusted to lead the flock, protect the wolves in sheepskin, the power of the church gets turned into something incredibly demonic and all authority and credibility gets destroyed.

The same goes for our relationships. Divorce is so unfortunate because the potential good of a healthy marriage, not just for the individuals, but for their families and community is lost. A broken friendship casts a shadow of how incredible a dependable friendship can be.

Just because a friendship or a relationship go as planned doesn’t mean we need to give up on all friendships and relationships. Just because a leader or an organization fails us, doesn’t mean we need to disassociate from any and every group.

As C.S. Lewis states in his book “The Great Divorce,” the stronger an angel, the fiercer devil it is when it falls. Some of the most tragic and scandalous things we see in the world don’t occur because they are inherently evil. It’s because something that has the potential for much good has fallen, been corrupted, and now has the power to do so much damage.

As I reflect on eight years since the Penn State Scandal broke, I continue to think about these two things. What is my foundation built on? And am I willing to open myself up to the good that can come from things that have gone poorly? Am I willing to up myself up when I’ve been betrayed before?

There can still be some good there. It will take courage to fight through the instinct to pull ourselves back. We just have to keep a discerning eye, always watching for when the good goes bad. And remembering that even the bad can show us glimmers of the good when we’re willing to search for it.

4 Common Misconceptions About Eternal Life

Despite growing up going to church, I never really understood eternal life. I was fine with the idea of being surprised at life’s end as to whether or not heaven exists. I mean I’ve been a “pretty good” person so I’ll live life and then confront whatever may be next when it’s in front of me. But for those who enjoy asking tough questions and looking for answers, or what constitutes to some people as intellectuals, society’s common depiction of heaven can be troubling.

But this depiction that is commonly pondered on is based off of incorrect conceptions about what eternal life really is, and I think these same misconceptions prevent so many from understanding Christianity and what it’s purpose is. I want to discuss 4 of the misconceptions I personally had that, when found to be incorrect, changed my view on the faith entirely. I love thinking through deep stuff like this and I hope you enjoy and take something from some of my thoughts from the past couple months.

1. Eternal Life is Simply Living Forever.

I’m a drummer and my family would tell you that I never stop drumming on something at all times. The steering wheel during drives to and from work, the kitchen table during dinner, railings go up and down the stairs… You get the picture. But the idea of doing something, heck even drumming, forever seems well… pretty boring.

In the same way, I had always found the idea of heaven to be well…. boring. Heaven was a bunch of people, clothed in white, in the clouds, behind those pearly gates, playing harps and singing hymns together forever and ever. On and on… and on…….. and you get the picture…

This life looked so much more fun than heaven did, and therefore heaven deserved to take the backseat in priorities to my own life here. Living forever might be fun for a few months, I guess years if you keep meeting new people, but after a while… yawn…

But this belief that it’s simply living forever, strips “eternal life” of it’s greatest characteristic. In the Gospel John, Jesus states,

“… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
                                                                                                             – John 10:10 –

He doesn’t state that he has come so they may live forever. He states that they may have life, and have it to the full.

When we say eternal life, so much pivots around both of these words:  Eternal and Life.

Life is something that is quantifiable. One can have a lot of life, while another can have very little, seemingly dead. Often we look at it as unchangeable and that we’re each given one and it’s a life regardless of how it’s lived. I would argue that we can have an abundance or scarcity of life.

Think about it. Two drivers on the road are both cut off by an aggressive driver. One of them reacts by flipping off the guy who cut him off and lets this detract from the rest of his day and makes him miserable with other people. The second driver, who realizes the insignificance of what has been done to him, realizing he’s okay and didn’t crash, and doesn’t let it affect his life and relationships with others. This is definitely an extremely simplified situation but hopefully it helps illustrate the point.

And Eternal. While we often associate this with unlimited time, it actually is meant to quantify the amount of life that is offered to us. Think of never ending life being represented by an infinitely long string along a timeline. What real eternal life is that same string of infinite length, but also with an infinite thickness. It’s about experiencing an infinite quality and quantity of life forever.

I think we can all say this world is difficult and trying. Multiple shootings, natural disasters, and heart-wrenching stories have occupied our news, especially this past year it seems. Living forever doesn’t really fix that, but an abundance of “life”, now that sounds enticing and worth looking for.

2. Eternal Life Starts at Death

The light. The moment when we pass from this world and continue on to whatever comes next. A man stands there (I guess this is God) and he determines whether or not you get eternal life and go to heaven, or go to hell. This is the common perception of when eternal life begins.

Growing up, I saw a huge disconnect between this life and this supposed eternal life. It seemed like it was simply a hope for people that needed lemonade in a world that was handing them a ton of lemons. This life seemed “fine” in many respects, and it was difficult to buy into the belief that we would live an entire life here, have it end, and then start another like this one never happened. And when things seem disconnected, one has a legitimate reason to question them. But I think it’s the fault of our culture’s oversimplification of eternal life that has led to this disconnect.

C.S. Lewis’ book The Great Divorce I believe paints a better picture of when eternal life starts, or better yet, when the progression for it starts. He throughout his book emphasizes that right now, in this life, on a daily basis we can either gain life or lose it. Jesus said that he came so that may have life and have it to the full, which means that it wasn’t here before. Power, riches, beauty, sex, relationships, and titles have all been pursued by man as a way of achieving fulfillment, and yet time and time again we have seen how they have failed to fill the void in the individual that longs for purpose and significance and often left them a more deteriorated and lost individual. Christ showed us how to live a full life and then provided the forgiveness, mercy, and sacrifice to enable us to have it.

So in a world that tries to continuously feed us lies about what will make us happy and give us a worthwhile life, I would argue there is only one way to a fullness of life. It starts here and now, not after death.

3. Eternal Life Can Be Earned.

God opens the books and weighs the scales to see how much good and how much bad we’ve done. It’s simple and it’s fair. Like karma, if you do good things, good things happen to you like receiving eternal life. If you do bad things bad things happen to you, you’re going to hell. It’s balanced and just.

But when you realize you’re not as good as you thought before, you start to give more thought to what the whole point of this life is. Could I even earn eternal life if I tried? And what does eternal life look like?

How could an imperfect person be in the presence of a perfect God? If I’ve made but one mistake, how could I possibly be fit for heaven?

“For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
                                                                                                       – Romans 6:23 –

God doesn’t want to judge and keep people out of heaven. He wants to be with us and doesn’t want us to experience death.

The ultimate way to demonstrate ones love for someone, would be to give up one’s life for that person to save them, right? A close family member or a significant other is about to walk in front of a speeding vehicle and you dive in and push them out of the way taking the punishment.

Simply put. That’s what Jesus did when he died on the cross. Sin earns death, and death is the absence of life. This world will wear us down if you don’t have anything that’s able to fill you up and give you life. He took the sins that deserve death from those who believe in who he claimed to be, and gives the eternal life he had to those same individuals. It was a demonstration of love. It was God showing just how much he loved mankind and how much he wanted us to be with him. We don’t earn eternal life, it’s a gift from God, sitting in front of us waiting to be opened.

4. Heaven’s Boring

A cartoon version of heaven may work for children but as an adult, I refuse to believe such a childish idea. As I hit my teenage years, I really had a hard time accepting heaven when it was often portrayed like fantasy. As much as I wanted to believe it because my church, and family believed it, I couldn’t myself. It wasn’t until I realized how unlike those typical depictions heaven really was, that I actually committed to believing in it. I’d like to briefly describe as best as I can what I think heaven will really look like. This are small glimpses into what I believe is impossible for us to completely explain or grasp.

Community. First off heaven is a community that is built on 100% pure relationships. Look at the elements of two or three of your best relationships in life. Think about some of the intimacy, trust, and love that is experienced in these. Now imagine that this exists between everyone, where there is no fighting between individuals, there is no sadness or hurt feelings, and everyone can find pure joy in everyone else.

Freedom. It’s a life away from so many of the things that restrict life like listed before. The pursuit of money, power, glory, and pleasure are all intrinsically valueless, and heaven provides fulfillment and frees the individual to satisfy the hunger and thirst for pure life that they long for.

Transformation. It’s not just about living forever. It’s much more about becoming more of who we were intended to be. Imagine a life without guilt, without disappointment in yourself because God has helped you reach the pinnacle where you no longer hurt others.

We often look externally, to possessions and experiences, for excitement and fail to see all the opportunity within the individual and especially within relationships to experience excitement. I think heaven presents a beautiful environment for us to experience those jaw dropping experiences but most importantly within perfect relationships and as the people we were intended to be, pure and without sin. Thanks for reading!

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
                                                                                                          – Matthew 7:7-8 –