Sorting by

Skip to main content

You’ll never guess what came on the UPS truck the other day—a life-sized cardboard cut out of Bob Ross. You know, the curly-haired PBS painter who made painting look easy. I used to watch Bob Ross; he inspired me to want to be a painter. I tried to use my cheap crayola water colors to create happy little clouds, snowy mountain peeks, and sweet looking pine trees. They never turned out, but that never stopped me from trying. Bob Ross has developed a cult following of sorts among young people thanks to Netflix and Deadpool. My kids told me they watch him at night when they can’t sleep, his soothing voice reminding them that there is no such thing as a mistake, only happy accidents, giving them a sense of peace that allows them to gently drift off. They even make baby and toddler clothes stating “I’m a happy accident.” (I know one little guy who’ll be getting one for Christmas.) That’s where I found the life-sized cardboard cut out. The Religion Department at Northwestern needs a new bulletin board out in the hallway, so we’re going with a Bob Ross theme. My colleagues had some doubts, but when students kept popping in to take a picture of life-sized cardboard cut out Bob Ross they came around.

I read somewhere that Bob Ross was in the military, a sergeant or something, and that he used to yell at people. When he got out of the military he decided he didn’t want to yell anymore, making way for the soft-spoken persona we see standing in front of the canvas. There’s a spiritual dimension to Bob Ross in quotes like: “Look around. Look at what we have. Beauty is everywhere—you only have to look to see it.” Or, “Haha, and just beat the devil out of it.” Or, “People look at me like I’m a little strange, when I go around talking to squirrels and rabbits and stuff. That’s ok. Thaaaat’s just ok.” Or, “People might look at you a bit funny, but it’s okay. Artists are allowed to be a bit different.”

What if the church were more like Bob Ross? What if Sunday mornings were a blank canvas on which we were invited to imagine what it means to be part of a new creation with happy little trees and clouds that are free, making sure there are places for the squirrels and birds to rest? What if we viewed our lives, not as mistakes, but happy little accidents God uses to make something new? What if we took seriously the idea that all of us need a friend?

It’s easy to see why young people love Bob Ross. He portrays a grace and generosity that’s hard to find in the world. Most of the time, we can’t even find it in the church. Which is sad. After all, as Bob Ross says, “Trees cover up a multitude of sins.” Sounds like the gospel to me.

Jason Lief

Jason Lief teaches Practical Theology at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. He served as editor of Reformed Journal for many years and was one of the original bloggers on the RJ blog. You can find more of his writing at


  • Literally had just put on my Bob Ross tee before reading this. And it says, “No mistakes, just happy accidents.” Great thoughts Jason! Much respect!

  • RLG says:

    Some great thoughts there, Jason. If only church was like that. But singing many of the hymns we sing and listening to many of the sermons we hear, it’s obvious why it isn’t the same. Maybe we should all take up painting with Bob Ross. I’ll take him over “sinners in the hands of an angry God” (Jonathan Edwards). I like “happy accidents.”

  • David Stravers says:

    I like this. By coincidence, Randy Alcorn blogged today about God’s Happiness: We need to be more like Him.

  • Tom Eggebeen says:

    What a hoot … used to watch him, too … many moons ago. Thanks for the backstory.

  • Pam Adams says:

    Jason, I am not sure if I can leave a message because of the date of this entry. I too watch Bob Ross and do have a T shirt that says “Make art, not war.” We should abide by that especially now with Ukraine and Israel being in war with their attackers.

Leave a Reply