Soong-Chan Rah, a pastor of the Cambridge Community Fellowship Church was affronted by the 2004 Vacation Bible school curriculum.
Published by the nation's largest Protestant denomination, the VBS curriculum, Far Out Far East Rickshaw Rally - Racing to the Son, includes what critics call "stereotypical 'Oriental' images of rickshaws, chopsticks, takeout boxes, kimonos and karate uniforms."
According to the LifeWay Christian Resources' website, the curriculum is "a VBS race that will have kids dashing through the streets of Tokyo, climbing Mt. Fuji and diving for pearls," which will leave the racers to conceive that "they will need to seek Jesus as Savior and Lord-and follow Him through the course of their lives."
Nevertheless, Rah said, "I was shocked, stunned that they would pass this off as Christian education," Born in Maryland, Rah preceded in setting up a website to oppose the curriculum. In the site he explained, "It's devastating and disturbing to know that there are children in many different churches across the U.S. whose first exposure to Asian culture will be this stereotypical, racially offensive material."
The number of critics who support the concern of Rah aggrandized with approximately 1,1000 signatures in its first month. The petition continues to gather signatories.
Rob Phillips, LifeWay's communications director, said, "We believe our materials are biblically sound." He cites testimonials from various sources and added, "The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We believe the right thing to do is look at it from a ministry point of view."
Not overwhelmed by the critics against the curriculum, Phillips stated that some people have called Rickshaw Rally the best curriculum the agency has ever produced and estimates at least 20,000 participating churches this summer.
LifeWay President Jimmy Draper repudiates claims that the material published is racially offensive.
Trinity International University professor said, "For many people it will either confirm their view of Southern Baptists as parochial and culturally naïve at best, or it will make them suspicious of our commitment to racial justice and ethnic sensitivity."