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From Rick B.: Hello- just found your site and am enjoying some articles. Thought you might be able to use this piece about Veggie Tales from the June 3 issue of Time ('Finding God in a Pickle'):
"Although the series is based on sacred texts, the popularity of the videos rests largely on their irreverence."
They also have a movie coming out soon "Jonah"- which is being distributed by a secular company that gave us "Van Wilder" and "The Blair witch project".
Why must the world be wise enough to see the incongruity, and the church can't?
I appreciate your insights. Keep focused on HIM- be careful as all of these problems and evils can have an alluring power to draw you away from the Lord - a deceptive and subtle allurement as you get fixed with 'defending the truth'. Keep exposing the works of darkness, but come fresh to the cross daily. That is the only safe place.
Thank you, Rick, for your insights and encouragement.
Question : The Veggie Tales are tremendously popular with our grandkids. My husband thinks that all animation, whether it is veggies or something else, is not good. What is your opinion? Is it right to allow non-humans to talk?
Berit's impression, which is not a researched answer: I have only watched the Veggie Tales a few times, but I remember two concerns. The first one has to do with the talking plants. Today's emphasis on planetary oneness and interconnectedness promotes the pantheistic idea that humans, animals, and plants all equal members of one global bio-family. Giving human characteristics to plants and animals encourages children to accept this unbiblical notion as more normal and compassionate than God’s ways.
Second, the "cool" language of some of the characters seemed rude and disrespectful. Since children tend to enjoy these assertive attitudes and rude messages, they are likely to remember and imitate them.
I don't remember the episodes well enough to comment on anything else.
The following letters offer a broader perspective and some positive points. I continue to have reservations. Remember, lessons in good character may be useful, but if these lessons are presented in a context or setting that conflicts with the Biblical world view, they can confuse a child's understanding of both of reality and of Scriptures. This danger may be more serious than the benefit from the repeated reminders of a good habit. However, I can't validate my concerns until I find time to buy and watch a few more of the Veggie Tales videos.
From Nancy Baetz: As a Mother of four fans of this cartoon, I thought you might appreciate some comments. First, they have a website, BigIdea.com, that will answer the question on their mission statement.
I think they have very good, honorable intentions about morally inspired stories for kids....and adults. The kids love the talking veggies, and after all, God used a talking donkey to get Balaam's attention didn't he?
The only concerns that I have about V.T's is that the "Larry Boy" videos are quite scary, (in parts) and not meant for the five and under crowd. And a LOT of the content is pretty deep, and full of "inside jokes" that I doubt most kids get, although my husband and I have been very entertained by them!
My all time favorite is however, "Where's God When I'm Scared," (the Daniel in the lions den segment,) which has hilarious lyrics, (if you can catch them,) and is set to some great classical music!
You know, I have found that even the CHRISTIAN videos need to be previewed. We are very particular about what we let our children see. Even the "Beginner Bible" videos have some Biblical discrepancies in them. It may take more time, but Mom and Dad need to check out anything that they expose their kids to.
Notes from Big Idea: Sometimes these conversations will even result in redoing a VeggieTales episode. A few years ago our customer service team received some disconcerting feedback from parents whose children were singing "The Bunny Song" out of context. "The Bunny Song" appears in the VeggieTales video Rack, Shack & Benny, and is a declaration of servitude to chocolate (of all things!).
So we redid the Bunny song with new lyrics. For the line: "The bunny, the bunny -- Whoa! I love the bunny! I don't love my mom or my dad, just the bunny!" we substituted "soup or my bread" for "mom or my dad." And the line "I won't go to church, and I won't go to school" became "I won't eat no beans, and I won't eat tofu." But don't worry, it's still catchy … just with greater bean and bean curd levels!
From Berit: Parents, please remember that the catchy jingles and lyrics of these popular videos have a way of "sticking" and repeating themselves in the mind of a child. It seems a bit absurd to even suggest (especially in catchy songs) that a Christian child learn, then and sing these words to himself: "I don't love my mom or my dad, just the bunny!" or "I won't go to church.... These powerful suggestions can affect a child's values and behavior far more than all the nice "Christian" sentiments cloaked in clever stories.
From Mrs. Renee L. Zienert: You asked for information on the VeggieTales (hereafter “VT”) video series for children. My daughter loves these videos, and my husband and I think they’re ingenious and funny. As far as I can tell, there is nothing “New Age” about VT. Bob, Larry, Junior, and the rest of the veggies teach biblical character traits, usually through an Old Testament story (David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den, Joshua and the battle of Jericho, to name a few) or “real-life” example (or both). Each video has an applicable Bible verse at the end.
For example: the newest video, “King George and the Ducky,” is essentially the story of David and Bathsheba, but done very tastefully for children (King George sends Thomas to the front line of the Great Pie War so that he can steal Thomas’s rubber duck). The story teaches children that being selfish and coveting other people’s possessions hurts the people around us and makes God unhappy. The Bible verse they show at the end is Romans 12:10: “Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself.”
Also included on many of the videos is a segment called “Silly Songs with Larry”, “the part of the show where Larry comes out and sings a silly song.” These songs are pure fun and show the creative talents of the Big Idea Productions folks. The songs range from “I Love My Lips,” in which Larry the Cucumber “confronts one of his deepest fears”: that his lips might suddenly decide to leave his mouth and head off on their own, to “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything,” a sort of “Pirates of Penzance” spoof about three lazy pirates who just “stay home and lie around,” to “Song of the Cebu,” which is about a boy who goes canoeing with his three cebus (an animal kind of like a cow) and contains the line, “Sick cebu is rowing and sneezing, achoo-moo-moo, achoo-moo-moo, achoo-moo-moo, achoo-moo-moo, achoo-moo-moo, achoo-moo-moo, moo, moo.”
One of the things that I think is unique about VT is that the videos encourage children to go to the Bible and their parents when they have questions or have trouble with peer pressure or making a decision. In “Rack, Shack, and Benny” (the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), Junior Asparagus sings, “My mommy always told me to do what’s right/To wash behind my ears and try to be polite/You see, she loves me so/That’s why she tells me what I need to know.” Later in the song, Bob the Tomato advises, “When everybody tells you that you gotta be cool/Remember what you learned in church and Sunday School/Just check it out/The Bible tells us what it’s all about.” Then Larry the Cucumber joins in: “So if you have a question, go ask your dad/And he can tell you if a thing is good or bad/You’ll make their day/If you remember what your parents say.”
In VT, God and parents are trustworthy authority figures who love their children, rather than being irrelevant or tyrannical as so many children’s shows teach these days. All in all, I think the VT videos are acceptable entertainment for children. They’re certainly better than Pokemon, Barney, or Teletubbies!
There is something that bothers me about the VT phenomenon, however—the marketing blitz. Not only can parents and children buy the videos, there are also “Veggiecational” books (to teach children the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, etc.), VT plush toys, playsets, rubber stamps, ties, t-shirts, finger puppets, and jewelry. I think the idea is for VT to compete with Disney, but it all smacks of consumerism to me. This is ironic, considering that one of the VT videos (“Madame Blueberry”) is all about how we should be thankful for what we have instead of being greedy and always wanting more!
From Tabitha St. Hilaire: To list the titles and intent of Veggie Tales:Madame Blueberry: Teaches Kids why God wants us to be thankful for what we have.Rack, Shack & Benny: By Paralleling the Biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Fiery furnace: The veggies are teaching kids how to resist peer pressure for what is right.Josh and the Big Wall: an obvious retelling of Gods' Great power at the battle of Jericho Dave and the Giant Pickle: With Gods help even little ones can do anything Just to name a few ... The Veggies are repeating God's Words and the children are memorizing it by sheer exposure. To bring a new age perspective at them is to skew the intent of a very good teaching tool which i am Happy to say I'm using with my daughter, Nephew, and my non-christian friends Children. I am also Happy to report that My friends have noticed the happy way her children play in contrast to the way they usually do after other Cartoons.
Also on a side note By insulting the attempt of Speilberg to bring an Accurate account of God's power to the screen you are insulting the Many Christians who labored and consulted on it.
From Crystal Click: I am one of the 3 Christian people I know that isn't crazy about veggie tales. I had my reservations for the first episode I viewed because they seem more along the lines of good morals than inherently Christian.
Another red light -- they are popular among non-Christian families. Since we live in a day with such opposition to traditional Christian values I believe this to be a bad sign, not a "Glory Be, We Are Reaching The Lost."
We received one of the videos as a gift (Madame Blueberry) and in the advertising portion it mentioned a glowing review of the videos in a National Newspaper. Now, no national newspaper is going to favorably review anything firmly grounded in God's word (just my opinion).
The references to cultural humor also bother me. One show has sort of a Gilligans Island parody. I thought the point of buying Christian videos was to avoid secular entertainment. Come out from among them and be ye separate.
I don't have a problem with the vegetables talking, I have a problem with the ripping off and dumbing down of God's word with story lines such as Dave and the Giant Pickle. Umm...I thought the story of David and Goliath was good enough as it was. They change the stories so while still being "moral", they don't even come close to following the true story. Watering down and desensitizing God's word. I think that is a serious thing.
I also dislike the disrespectful tone of the videos. The vegetables don't always treat each other with respect, they are smart allecky. I find that disturbing because there are no consequences for them treating each other in that manner. Our culture is so full of that garbage already, every television show, every book -- children are taught it is cute to be disrespectful to others (especially parents, fathers moreso). I think is is possible to entertain children without degenerating to the baser worldly instincts.
I was in the Walmart fabric section a week or so ago and I saw there were bringing out the polar fleece for fall --- yep, Veggie Tale Polar Fleece and I have seen Veggie Tale Tshirts there also. Again, I will say, when something is that popular in a nonChristian society, it makes me nervous about its value. But what do I know, I am just a stay at home mom who doesn't have television....
From Berit: You know a lot, Crystal. Thanks for your insights!
From Angela Smith: I just wanted to add a quick perspective to the Veggie Tale question. I saw that a few people were concerned about the fact that the cartoons use talking vegetables and were comparing it to pagan religions.
The reason vegetables were used is because of the technology existing at the time the cartoon was created. The type of animation used was still in its infancy. The creator of VT knew he would have to use characters that were simple to animate. This meant no clothes, arms, legs, etc. He ended up choosing vegetables because he thought it would be better than his other choice (candy bars). He figured some mothers would get upset with the use of sweets.
P.S. I love you site. It is very informative.
Thank you, Angela!
From Dina Jones: I enjoyed what comments people have made. Veggie Tales are better than most cartoons, but they just seem to be moral, not really Christian. Even the quotes from scripture seem to stay away from the New Testament and Christ.
As a side note, I discovered the Amazing Book video and liked it more than the Veggie Tales. The animation is great, the songs are fun, and scriptural; the Christian message is clear. There are two other videos in the series, Amazing Children and Amazing Miracles.
I usually feel that the Christian world is always following the world by Christianizing things to make them acceptable to the Christian community. We still seem like an isolated sub-culture that has little impact on the dominate culture. I guess I get tired of this western form of Christianity and want to keep the gospel simple and do what Jesus did (instead of doing in all this other churchy stuff). It seems that our culture is hungry for the supernatural. If we were more like the first century church- feeding the poor, healing the sick, and walking with the Spirit, I think we would have more of an impact. I know my church does these things, yet still seems to have little impact on our town. What do you think?
I agree, Dina. Thank you for making this point. I may quote you again in an article I hope to write next month. At the same time, the most visible part of "Christianity" are the people and churches that have conformed to the world and drift along with its values.
From Sarah Michael: oh, i love this show! it keeps kids' attention and teaches them about certain aspects of the Bible we'd rather not tell them, but that still have a good message. like David and Bathsheba; David becomes infatuated with a rubber duckie instead of a woman. having walking, talking, singing, dancing veggies teach doesn't make it disrespectful.
Personally, if i had this as a child instead of a stuffy church that loomed over me and told me what to think, i would have been saved long ago. instead, i grew hateful towards the Church (not to God, just the Church) and went my own way. Later, my sister brought me to her church, one that taught me that i could think for myself and thus find and love God again.
I know many will agree with you, Sarah, and I'm so sorry you didn't find God's love in the church you first attended.
Part of the problem with Veggie Tales is the a problem you described well: when it turns Biblical characters into fruit or vegetables, it also alters the Biblical account in the minds of children. Later, when today's young Veggie Tales fans are old enough to read the Bible themselves, those images -- now stored in their mind -- will influence the way they understand the true story.
For example, would George Washington receive his due respect if history lesson -- simplified to make important event more entertaining -- presented him as a carrot or a potato?
God's Word is sacred. You may not see the Veggie Tales version of historical events as disrespectful, but God tells us not to alter the Scriptures in any way. The following verses show His attitude both toward the Bible and toward the people who trade man-made stories for His holy and unchanging Word:
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." 2 Timothy 4:3-4
You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." Deuteronomy 4:2
"Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it." Deut. 12:32
"Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.
Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar." Proverbs 30:5-6
"if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:9