In an effort to get his grandkids to pay attention to him grandpa decides to get an earring, a tattoo, spikes up his 4 hairs, and trades in his Harry Carey glasses for some square-rimmed Pomo glasses. He also decides to spend a week watching MTV and consuming everything youth culture so that he can pick up a few buzzwords here and there to go with his flashy new ensemble.
“NOW, they will listen to my stories”, thinks grandpa.
But here’s the problem: If Grandpa’s stories are still lame a few buzzwords and a new look isn’t going to change anything after about 5 minutes. They’ll notice but they won’t remember any of grandpa’s stories. Grandpa can’t be rescued by buzzwords.
What is worse, though, is if grandpa actually does have really cool stories. What will happen is that rather than hearing grandpa’s cool story all the kids will walk away with is the scarring-image of grandpa’s four spiky hairs. The story gets lost by the distracting medium. Grandpa doesn’t need to use buzzwords.
In Posers=Fakers=Wannabes Jim Hancock has attempted to give Brennan Manning’s best-selling book Abba’s Child a makeover youth edition. This book falls under the second scenario. I don’t agree with everything Manning teaches but he is an apt and thought-provoking author. Brennan Manning is the grandpa that has good stories and doesn’t need buzzwords.
The problem that I have with this book is that the message is lost because of the medium. How strange that this book is fundamentally about “being set free to be who you really are” and yet it’s packaged as if Manning isn’t able to be who he truly is. If he wants to engage the youth culture then he had better be a poser, a faker, or a wannabe; he had better spike his hair and use a few buzzwords. And that is a shame because the youth of today need to hear Manning’s message.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of Manning here to be recognizable. I may even be overstating my case a tad. Hancock does not abuse Manning’s writing and make him indiscernible. The problem though is that today’s teenagers see through the buzzwords and are often turned off by them. They long for “just grandpa” and not “grandpa trying to be a teenager”.
The content of Abba’s Child is really good and the central message is very helpful: stop faking it, be real, trust in Jesus. Every page oozes with that theme. Again, I’m not saying that this youth version is horrible. It can be very beneficial. The problem is that the philosophy that undergirds the change is dangerous. Rather than rewriting Abba’s Child to make it appeal to teens, why not encourage mom’s and dad’s to go through the original with their children?
If the point to grandpa’s story is something akin to, “son, be who God made you to be” but he tells it using buzzwords that are foreign to him doesn’t it undercut his message? I’m all for adaptability and writing and speaking in a way that youth can relate to. But teens (all people) have a tendency to go to the level we set for them. Abba’s Child doesn’t need to be made cool…it just might need a little stretching and guidance to go along with it.
Buy Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging. Or if you think I need to buy some square-rimmed glasses and spike up my hair (in other words you disagree and want the hip-version) you can buy it here: Posers, Fakers, and Wannabes: Unmasking the Real You