Cross Currents: Behavior vs. Believing
You have maybe seen them. If a parent, you may have even bought them. They are called VeggieTales, and they could be found in the children’s section of a Christian bookstore or perhaps in a church preschool. These videos were an attempt to teach Bible stories through vegetable cartoon characters, such as Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato. Such characters would seem harmless enough. They were characters that appealed to children, as their producers sought to teach Christian values. VeggieTales videos were meant primarily for a Christian market, but eventually, they appealed to a wider audience. Throughout the 1990s, they became quite a success story.
That was then. VeggieTales are no more; that is, they are no longer under the control of the man who created the whole enterprise, Phil Vischer. The production company eventually went bankrupt and changed hands.
Meanwhile, a change was taking place in the heart of Mr. Vischer. He became a man with a new perspective on the videos that he had once produced. Here is how he put it: “[The videos] convinced the kids to behave Christianly without teaching them Christianity.” He went on to explain: “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 is not Christianity, it’s morality.”
He indeed was on to something, a different perspective than what he once had. He now sees Americans drinking what he calls “a dangerous cocktail.” He adds, “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.”
The VeggieTales videos lacked the true motivation for a Christian life. That which alone can provide the true motivation is found alone in the Gospel about Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life for us and shed His innocent blood on the cross for our redemption, “that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).Paul Madson is an ELS pastor emeritus living in North Mankato, Minnesota.