Evangelical Dog and Pony Shows

A Rant

A dear saint emailed me a video over the weekend. It is only six and a half minutes, but I think it is worth the time invested so we can learn some hard lessons about evangelicals and culture.

The story is heart stirring. In fact, I would wager that a few of you got all misty eyed and weepy as the report moved along. A little girl and her father lose mother and wife after a courageous battle with cancer, dad makes a video of little girl singing Amazing Grace and uploads it to You Tube, little girl becomes an overnight sensation, the rest is history, to God be the Glory. Right?


At the risk of being booed and hissed, receiving frowns and glares, having people wag their heads at me, and accusing me of quenching the Spirit, or otherwise beating up on a little kid. I have to confess I am troubled by what I see here.

“Troubled” with a capital “T” Troubled.

Just so I preempt any misconceptions,

I will say I appreciate how Rhema’s daddy has been an active part of her life after her mother’s death. I was particular encouraged to see how he allowed her to share in her mother’s darkest, agonizing days when she was dying of cancer. It was a move against our hand-wringing, nanny state society who shield our generation of children from real, gritty tragedy and personal trial.

I will also admit she has some talent going for her as an aspiring singer. That fact is certain.

And, it was nice to learn that Rhema and her father appear to be sincere Christians. When I checked around on the internet, they go to what looks like to me to be a water-downed Church of Christ fellowship. I say water-downed, because the congregation isn’t the typical CoC church I am familiar with from that neck of the woods. They have a quasi-charismatic feel to them (I mean, it’s called “the Branch.” Any church named after gardening is typically charismatic or lean heavily that way), they have adopted a multi-site model for their church, and they allow musical instruments to be used in worship at the campus where Rhema and her daddy attend.

Having said all of that,

Let me unpack the concerns.

First, why is her father marketing her like a pop-star? She has an “official website.” What seven year-old has an “official” website? I mean, is it “official” in that there are already non-official sites? I can understand the “Star Trek” franchise having an “official” website, but a seven year-old? A seven year-old who is just famous for singing Amazing Grace on You Tube ONLY has an “official website” if the smell of money is in the air and there’s a need to market a “product.”

And what’s with the glamor shots at the “official” website? Of a seven year-old girl!? I guess you can say the pictures are “tasteful” and “cute.” But honestly, glamor shots of a little girl displayed on a website are odd. I know this may come across harsh, but that’s Jonbenet Ramsey weird. Am I overreacting? I can only hope the daddy is getting some input from family and friends and pastors at their church as to how to go about promoting his daughter.

Yet something is telling me he isn’t getting any words of caution from similar minded folks like me among his circle friends. The reason I say that is because in the 20/20 report, Rhema says she believes God has called her to sing Gospel music and Gospel music can touch people’s hearts.

There you have it: Those three sanctified magic words, “GOD CALLED ME.” They automatically prohibit any criticism by anyone. Especially if that “anyone” thinks what you are doing is not smart at all.

“You know Jerry, I don’t think it is wise to just quit your job to pursue a career in CCM. I know you play the guitar okay for our fellowship class worship time, but hitting a major career as a CCM artist is rare, plus you have a family of three to support, don’t you think you ought to take this whole CCM thing one step at a time and… What did you say? GOD CALLED YOU? Oh. Well, if GOD CALLED YOU, who am I to argue against you taking this leap of faith? I’ll be praying for you.”

This assumes, of course, that God calls seven year-old girls every once in a while to touch people’s hearts with Gospel music on the internet. And if God called her, what self-respecting evangelical pastor will stand opposed to God’s call on a little girl’s life? Plus, God knows the plans He has going for her as that verse in Jeremiah says. If anything goes wrong, God’s to blame. He was the one who did the calling.

Regrettably, what I see here is another evangelical dog and pony show. A few of them happen every year. One or two have some sweetness to them like our little girl here, or they are outright train wrecks like Todd Bentley and pint-sized preachers. The internet makes them even more popular than they normally would be, yet I think it is something of a stretch to say a bunch of sappy Southern Baptists blubbering over your You Tube testimony are being “touched.”

We can only hope the dad exercises discretion with young Rhema. The last thing we need to have happen to her is go the way of Britney Spears shaved head or Miley Cyrus’ Vogue pictures.

Remember, both of those gals claimed to be Christians.

9 thoughts on “Evangelical Dog and Pony Shows

  1. "There you have it: Those three sanctified magic words, "GOD CALLED ME." They automatically prohibit any criticism by anyone. Especially if that "anyone" thinks what you are doing is not smart at all."Curious. Has John MacArthur ever said that he was called to anything?Anyways, you're right. Anytime anyone uses the phrase "God Called Me" then they're seemingly immune.If you ask them *HOW*, there's not much to substantiate it. Which now that I think about it, can't really be substantiated. It almost has to be personal, subjective, feelings, and emotion-oriented to justify a statement like "God Called Me."

  2. Beautiful girl. Unwise. Popularity does not come without a price (extraordinary temptations for drugs and sex, stalkers, scammers, and other dregs of society hounding you at every turn). That's a lot to heave onto a 7 year old.

  3. I am not so sure it is her that is unwise as it is her father and other adults around the family who are pushing this on her. I hope it works for her, but I am not convinced at the moment.

  4. "I am sure John has, but you're comparing a spiritually mature adult man with a 7 year-old girl?"No.I thought you were objecting to:"Those three sanctified magic words, "GOD CALLED ME.""regardless of who said it, whether they be a 7-year old girl or John MacArthur.So does your objection change depending upon who said "God Called Me"?

  5. You know…I just want to thank you for thinking "outside the box" – as it were. To me, some of your observations in this article and others drip with Biblical thinking.It seems as if there is a tendency in Christianity to just "take things – accept them." Let's see: all the neighbors have Wii…so let's get it. Then we wonder why our kids – well you know…"Oh…we need to be more progressive in our music for our youth to relate to them and make it more relevant…"I better stop before I start ranting.

  6. Pingback: Answering Survivor Bloggers and Other Sundry Theological Cranks | hipandthigh

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