The Valley of the Shadow of Bible Verse Memorization

When I was young, memorizing Bible verses was to me what different knots and coin tricks were to other boys: a rite of passage. I would have preferred cards or comics or anything really to memorizing the Bible, but my little Midwestern church was convinced that the path to competent adulthood went through committing various swatches of Scripture to memory. And, to ensure that our maturation was unencumbered by the many rebellions of youth, we were started on this practice very young. I could recite snippets of John’s Gospel before I could say the Pledge of Allegiance.

The seemingly impossible feat of sitting dozens of crooked-toothed, freckle-faced, mud-flecked boys down around Bibles was accomplished through one of the church’s favorite tricks: reappropriation; take something fun, add something Christian, and see if the fun sticks.

In this case, the hijacked activity was Boy Scouts. Our church started a boy’s club in which boys received vests, and then recitation of different verses earned a variety of badges and pins for that vest. You started out as a “Skipper,” and when you memorized enough of the Bible you became a “Hiker.” And a few particularly gifted memorizers graduated onto become “Climbers” and after that, one assumes, “Pastors.” What memorizing the Bible had to do with skipping or hiking was never rightly explained, but it took me some years before I started to suspect that I’d been duped.


%d bloggers like this: