I really want to thank Dr. Gene Veith for posting about an interview with Phil Vischer, the creator of the kids’ TV series, “Veggie Tales”. Here is the quote making the rounds out of the interview Mr. Vischer gave for World Magazine:
I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, ‘Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,’ or, ‘Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!’ But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality.
American Christian[s]… are drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god… We’ve completely taken this Disney notion of ‘when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true’ and melded that with faith and come up with something completely different. There’s something wrong in a culture that preaches nothing is more sacred than your dream. I mean, we walk away from marriages to follow our dreams. We abandon children to follow our dreams. We hurt people in the name of our dreams, which as a Christian is just preposterous.
["It's Not About the Dream," WORLD magazine, Sep 24, 2011, 57-58]
If you have kept an eye on our blog for any length of time, you may have seen a post some years back about “Veggie Tales” which Pat posted and with which I wholeheartedly agree. (I have thrown out or shredded more than one of those moralistic DVDs in the defense of my kids’ faith.)
It appears Mr. Vischer is beginning to recognize that the “Christian” teachings (typically pulled from the Old Testament) were actually Christless moralistic teachings in his videos. All thanks be to God! My dislike of the moralism in some “Veggie Tales” videos is visceral. It’s tragic because it could have been such an enjoyable and quality kids’ program.
If you’ve ever heard my father speak about his childhood experiences in the church, you may remember that our family doesn’t do well with moralism. The world offers that salvation-less teaching in spades. Pick your brand! There is no shortage of them. Stop by the “Self Help” section of a book store (if there are any brick-and-mortar ones left besides Barnes and Noble) and you will find some very similar “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” teachings as you will find in the “Religion” section. Except that when Christianity is used as the underpinning the moralism is backed by the implied meaning that if you don’t succeed, hell might await you. How awful.
Personally, I wish Mr. Vischer had just stuck with “silly” for the whole cartoon series. When they weren’t being moralistic, those videos were wonderfully silly and entertaining—perfect for their intended audience. I didn’t mind at all when those episodes were playing in the background. But it was one of those things that had to be monitored to see what was going into the kids’ heads. I finally decided that it just wasn’t worth the effort I was spending reviewing and approving them and that it was good, right and salutary to make sure all those DVDs and digital videos were cast into the “sea of forgetfulness”, as it were.
Here’s an idea: how about we keep our theological teachings separate from our entertainment, in general? (Leaving room for exceptions, obviously.) So far this has worked well in my home—working with the kids on Luther’s Small Catechism (and/or other solid Scriptural teachings for their age using proven resources) in times of study, and making sure they have easy access to something on par with Warner Bros.’ “Looney Tunes” (wonderful and completely safe for kids, even if originally intended for adult audiences) if they want to watch a show or two. It’s a great combo and it helps keep things in their proper place, much like basic rules such as “no toys at the dinner table”. They get to hear the Gospel and learn about what Jesus did for them out of His love for them, and they don’t risk having Jesus washed out by some insidious “be good and follow all the rules and then God will be happy with you and you’ll get into heaven” Christless garbage.
Now, if we can just get rid of similar moralistic, Christless teachings in our churches!By Ted R