On a recent afternoon, two evangelical pastors read children’s books in public libraries, events they called “Pastor’s Story Hour” in contrast to the burgeoning number of “Drag Queen Story Hour” readings in libraries and public schools.
The Story Hours in Batavia, Ohio, near Cincinnati, and Cottonwood, Arizona, about 105 miles north of Phoenix, drew as many as 35 children and parents but no protesters, the pastors involved said.
The Rev. Michael Foster, pastor of East River Church in Batavia, said “men in lingerie, reading books to little kids and twerking things is super disturbing and twisted.”
The Community Reformed Evangelical Church pastor said protesting the drag queen readings did not “lead to much good effect.” He decided to take another route.
“I thought, ‘You know what, we should just do our own, we should just go to our libraries and do a really good job at telling good wholesome Bible stories,’” he said in a telephone interview.
Mr. Foster reserved space at the Batavia branch of the Clermont County Public Library and let parents know what was happening via Twitter. He said there were 35 children and their parents in the audience.
Mr. Foster read from “The King and the Dragon” by James Shrimpton, an evangelical children’s book that uses the motif of a king, a knight and a dragon to explain the gospel message. In the book, the dragon represents the devil, God the Father is the king, and the knight represents Jesus, who slays the dragon and sets all the king’s people free.
The reaction from the audience was positive.
“I went and read, made sure they all got a candy cane on the way out. And they really liked it. My wife said a couple of the kids said, ‘When are we doing the next one?’ And that was encouraging to me,” Mr. Foster said.
He said the storytime is one way to respond to what he described as a moral crisis in America.
“Nature abhors a vacuum, and we’re living in a country that’s fatherless,” Mr. Foster said. “And someone’s going to step into that vacuum to speak into young people’s lives. We can let it be men in lingerie or it can be us,” he said.
The Rev. Dale Partridge, pastor of Reformation Fellowship in Prescott, Arizona, said he held a “Pastor’s Story Hour” at the public library in Cottonwood, about 40 minutes away from his church.
He plans to move to Cottonwood.
He read to the children from “Jesus and My Gender,” a children’s book he wrote and published.
“It’s just a kid’s book that doesn’t speak to the transgender issues,” Mr. Partridge said. “It just essentially affirms boyhood and girlhood to children that God made you this way. And it’s a great thing. So it’s a pretty simple book.”
Like his Ohio counterpart, Mr. Partridge believes a pastor-led children’s story reading is a countercultural move.
“I just think that the church has essentially checked out of the political, cultural sphere,” Mr. Partridge said. “We’ve essentially reserved or sidelined our faith to just the church or home life. I think that we really do need to get back to what I would say is a culturally engaged [manner],” he said.
It’s important for Christians to engage in the culture, he said.
“Why is it that drag queens and the LGBT movement are seemingly more interested in influencing the community, their local community, than pastors are?’’ he asked. “I think Christians are good at doing church stuff. We need to get better at doing culture stuff.”
Mr. Foster put it this way: “How about we curse the darkness by lighting the candle?”