What can I say? I think VeggieTales is funny. The characters are talking vegetables who are masters of randomness and wholesome silliness. They have no hands yet they always seem to be holding something and they pull off cultural parodies without being tacky. How did creator Phil Vischer come up with a show as successful as VeggieTales when kids hate vegetables? The show is well done and entertaining, but an article in the latest issue of World Magazine shows that it has a real problem for Christian parents. Consider the following quote:
After Big Idea, the animation studio he started in his basement, went bankrupt, Phil Vischer had an epiphany. He looked back and realized that while his immensely entertaining VeggieTales characters delighted kids and sold by the millions, they only taught children how to behave Christianly—they didn’t teach them Christianity.
I’ve just started watching some episodes of VeggieTales with my boys and I’ve seen this to be true. Do the episodes teach valuable lessons of morality? Yes, but the lessons, if never supported by the Christian message, come up empty. Without the Gospel, lessons in humility, obeying your parents, and using your gifts become efficient ways to scrub up the outside of our kids so they look Christian without being Christian. It is true that parents can in no way save their kids, but we can give them the Gospel that is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Our kids need to know that the Gospel is what gives heart, power, and purpose to morality, and most importantly, that morality doesn’t make them Christian, but proves that Jesus made them Christian (if they believe).
So, what’s the lesson we need to take away? Is it that you trash all your VeggieTales DVD’s and tell your kids that Bob and Larry moved to Abu Dhabi? I don’t think so. Rather, the lesson is for us, as parents, to watch VeggieTales with our kids and supplement the material with the Gospel. Just because VeggieTales is sold in every Christian bookstore in the country does not mean that you can use the DVD’s as a babysitter and hope that your kids get saved. Watch the show with them and use the lessons as a starting point for Gospel conversations.