What is the biggest religion story in the news today? Why, that would be the tale of the seven-year-old boy who stole his parents car and drove off in an attempt to avoid church. I was going to rip on how overplayed this story was until I watched the video above. The ending is comedy gold. (And, to be clear, the headline above is in complete jest.)
The story brought back many memories of my childhood as a pastor's kid, which involves quite a bit of churchgoing. There was the time my four-year-old brother (who was very smart and knew how to read) pulled the fire alarm during the middle of services ("Pull down," it read. Later, he saw that it also said, "In case of fire."). The fire-extinguishing sprinklers were launched and the power supply was shut off. Which turned off the organ. There was chaos all around. My parents were livid but my grandfather retold that story with pride for years. When I was baptized, he apparently broke loose and ran all around the altar, screaming. There was also the time he debuted his organ-playing skills during an evening worship service during Lent. He wasn't asked to play ever again after he sped through "Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted" so quickly that it sounded like a jazz tune. The thing is that my brother is possibly the most faithful churchgoer I know. And he's a leader in his congregation, too. Although they still don't ask him to play the organ.
Anyway, it's still worth looking at the media coverage. Perhaps it's because this seven-year-old drives better than half the people on the Beltway here in DC, but this story is getting nothing but guffaws from the media. Fox13 Utah, which had the story first, now even has a story about how widespread the story has become. Commenter Kristy, discussing a separate post yesterday, wrote:
Just a heads up - The NBC news is on, and we just heard a story of a 7 year old boy in Utah who stole a car and drove around to avoid going to church. Maybe local news, but - national?? and there's going to be more tomorrow morning on TODAY. I can't wait to hear more about THAT. There's a religious news story you can't miss:)
Is this the way the media usually treat stories like this? I'm not sure, but it did bring to mind the very different treatment of another lawbreaking youngster. Last Christmas a Texas tyke busted out of his house and into a nearby toy store and was caught playing with toys after he set off the burglar alarm. I can't find the particular video I'm looking for, but that also made national news. The talking heads that told viewers about that story, however, were horrified and emphasized the parental neglect. In the case above, it's played somewhat differently. I wonder why that is.
At least the parents of the Utah kid seem to have a good perspective about it. From the Salt Lake City Tribune:
Parents of a 7-year-old boy who drove off in the family car to avoid going to church Sunday are avoiding media interviews because they don't want to reward their son for his bad behavior. . . .
"[The family] does not want this attention to be perceived by their son as an incentive or reward for his actions of taking the family car for a joyride," said Capt. Klint Anderson of the Weber County Sheriff's Office. "Humorous as this event was, it could easily have been a tragic story instead."
One of my big quibbles with any of the stories about the car chase were that they didn't even mention what church the kid was avoiding. But at least this story explains why that key information is absent -- the parents aren't talking.
Either way, I like the suggestion my friend Vic Matus had for how to be certain to keep kids interested and well behaved at church -- glass coffins. People interested in the topic of bringing children to worship services might be interested in this fantastic and funny essay on the matter by David Skinner.