Tuesday, September 21, 2010

If You Like to Talk to Tomatoes...Is that Blasphemy?

Larry and Bob meet my two youngest at LifeWay's Kid's Day.


Have we got a show for you!

I was recently taken to task on a Christian discussion forum by a brother, --well-meaning, I'm sure-- who saw the picture above on my Facebook page, and let me know in no uncertain terms that my kids should not be watching VeggieTales. If you're at all familiar with this Christian animated kids' show, you have already recognized its two main characters in the picture, Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato, with my two youngest sons.
(If you're not familiar with VeggieTales, check out the back story here and here. You can also watch some of the videos on YouTube.)

Why the rebuke about my kids watching VeggieTales? Well, he raised some points I thought were important to consider. Maybe he's right and you'll agree with him. I don't happen to, but I'm glad that, through his remarks, God gave me the opportunity to think things through.

His stance? VeggieTales is blasphemous (his word) because it waters down the Bible and doesn't present Bible stories exactly as they appear in Scripture (for example, in "King George and the Duckie", based on the story of David and Bathsheba, the king covets someone else's rubber duckie rather than someone else's wife; in "Josh and the Big Wall", based on the story of the fall of the wall of Jericho, the enemy soldiers stand on top of the wall and drop frozen "slushee" drinks on the Israelites as they march around the wall).

Another argument was that VeggieTales never presents the Gospel, and rarely mentions Jesus, reducing the Bible to the level of Aesop's fables. Without the Gospel, Biblical truth can turn into moralistic deism, the false belief that we can be in right standing with God solely by "keeping the commandments", and kids may mistake this as the message of the Gospel, rather than salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.

Ok, I can see where he's coming from, but here's what I think:

Don't depend on VeggieTales for your child's salvation.

If you're a genuinely converted Christian parent, you have a Biblical mandate to raise your children according to the Scriptures. Parents who are raising their kids in a Christian home are already teaching them the truths of the Gospel and taking them to church. They are not depending on VeggieTales or any other form of Christian children's entertainment to teach their kids the plan of salvation. The Bible, family worship, Biblical preaching, and kids' classes at church are the main dish with which they feed their children spiritually. VeggieTales, and the dozens of other Christian videos for kids, are like ice cream. They're yummy and fun, and, technically, they're part of the dairy group, so there's a little bit of nutrition in there, but it's an occasional treat. You don't feed your kid ice cream three meals a day.

Parents who are not saved are, by definition, not raising their kids in a Christian home. They are likely not teaching their kids the Bible or taking them to church (and, if, for some reason they are, the kids are being taught the Gospel), and VeggieTales isn't going to make their kids any more lost than they already are. Let's face it, you can be a nice "good people" family or a family of meth-addicted Hell's Angels, but without Gospel conversion, lost is lost, and VeggieTales, or the lack thereof, isn't going to change that.

VeggieTales introduces the idea that there is a God, and He has standards of right and wrong that we need to follow.

Again, kids in a Christian home are already getting this straight from the Bible. Kids who aren't being raised in a Christian home desperately need to be introduced to this basic concept. How can we know that we are sinners in need of a Savior unless we first know that there is a God, He has standards of right and wrong, and we have transgressed His law? Galatians 3:24 says, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith."

VeggieTales teaches kids that they were made by God.

The tagline of every VeggieTales movie is, "Remember, God made you special, and He loves you very much." Kids in a non-Christian home might not have the opportunity to hear that anywhere else. They'll be taught in school that they evolved from animals, not that God made them.

VeggieTales teaches positive moral concepts and encourages kids to apply these concepts to their behavior.

Unselfishness, kindness, courage, obedience, love. These are attributes that most parents, whether saved or not, want their children to attain to. As Christian parents, we teach our children that we love because He first loved us (I John 4:19), that we can be courageous because God will give us strength for whatever task He has called us to (Philippians 4:13), etc. We funnel these concepts through the message of the Gospel.

Non-Christian parents are also trying to teach their children these concepts. How can it possibly hurt their efforts for a cartoon to not only reinforce what they're trying to teach, but also show both child and parent that these moral concepts are not the result of societal pressure to conform (as evolution teaches) but that they're God's idea?

Additionally, even if a child is lost, we want him to behave himself. What's wrong with a cartoon that encourages him to share, love, be kind, or talk through disagreements instead of punching his brother in the face? SpongeBob isn't teaching that kind of stuff.

Lord of the Beans vs. Lord of the Rings?

The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Christian romances, mysteries, historical fiction. Christian fiction is one of the largest and fastest growing book genres these days. Perhaps my brother would eschew all of these as well. I would hope so, if his argument is to have any integrity whatsoever. I have read the Chronicles of Narnia series (I read all the books to my children one summer) and numerous Christian fiction books, and I can tell you that most of them don't specifically mention Jesus, present the plan of salvation, or present Bible stories verbatim. So, if you're going to throw out VeggieTales, you're going to have to throw out a lot of other books and movies as well.

"I will open my mouth in parables..."

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "I WILL OPEN MY MOUTH IN PARABLES; I WILL UTTER THINGS HIDDEN SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD." Matthew 13:34-35

While nearly all of the parables Jesus told had to do with salvation (a few don't center specifically on salvation, such as the
parable of the persistent widow {prayer}), He certainly was not against the idea of the parable itself as a vehicle of conveying Biblical truth. Though He did quote Scripture, Jesus was not teaching solely by telling Bible stories verbatim. He used illustrations and told stories. Lots of them. And Jesus wasn't the only person in the Bible to use parables. Isaiah did, Ezekiel did, and so did Nathan.


So search it out. Pray about it. Seek God for the kind of entertainment you place in front of your kids and be obedient to His leading. As for me and my house, it's time for VeggieTales.


4 comments:

Regina Merrick said...

I love VeggieTales. Sure they water down the gospel, but then we're talking kids' entertainment here, not a theology lesson at a seminary. The book of Esther doesn't mention God, either. And it's not even fiction! My kids are 15 and 21, but they still love the occasional VeggieTales video - especially "Lord of the Beans." Gotta love those Sporks! ;)

Gail Slawson said...

Good food for thought! I don't know enough about Veggie Tales to have an opinion, but enjoyed reading you blog.

Michelle said...

Thanks, ladies. Regina- good point about Esther. Hadn't thought about that one.

sean donner said...

Ya know, I would have to agree with you. VeggieTales is a fun way for kids to begin to familiarize themselves with the stories and morals of the Bible when they're too young to fully understand everything in it. And as long as it's not used as their only religious learning, there's absolutely no harm in it.