Twinkies or Broccoli

Martin Marty, the well-known Lutheran religious historian, has been a student of American religious culture for a lifetime. I sat down with Martin Marty last year for a forthcoming Reformation & Revival Journal interview. To say that he is a fascinating person would be an understatement. His insights are many and sometimes complex.

In a recent Chicago Tribune interview with the director of Children’s Ministries of America, which teaches churches how to make Sunday School more beneficial and appealing, director Mickie O’Donnell Gutierrez referred to Martin Marty. Gutierrez  teaches churches how to employ multidimensional learning for the benefit of better Christian education. She was asked about the spiritual hunger seen in so many in America today. Citing Marty, Gutierrez observed that we could meet this hunger with "twinkies or broccoli." I like that Marty analogy. Twinkies can meet a need for sure, at least for the moment. But the sugar and fat grams can kill you in the long term. My complaint with many evangelical church-based educational prorgams is not that they feed children absolutely nothing, but rather they provide teaching that is more like twinkies than broccoli. Broccoli provides several vital nutrients, plus anti-cancer agents, that are truly needed for the long haul. A steady diet of twinkies will do very little to build up the lives of children for the journey that leads to life.

The problem is even more accute when the pulpit provides a diet of twinkies on a regular basis.