I’ll admit that I’m not an expert on the complexities of children’s television. If it’s like most human institutions, I’m sure it’s a swirling vortex of numerous interests—cultural, religious, political, and above all, economic. And I’m fairly certain that network executives are far more interested in turning a profit than in advancing their personal ideologies. But, acknowledging that I’m passing judgment on this complex world of television from the outside and probably over-simplifying it, allow me to comment on the sudden appearance of VeggieTales on NBC Saturday morning cartoons.
Although some have complained that VeggieTales had to water down its message to make it big, in my opinion this is really just a case of watered-down water. VeggieTales has never struck me as a distinctively Christian program. They never brought children face to face with the incarnate Son of God who died and rose again. They quoted a few Scriptures, told some Bible stories (mostly Old Testament), and pushed a Judeo-Christian ethic, but that alone could never introduce us to the Savior, without whom all the rest is powerless.
We have to remember that VeggieTales was always meant to appeal to a broader audience than evangelical Christians. Not only did evangelicals gobble it up like cotton candy, but so did Mormons and Catholics and everyone in between. Why? Because the morality was universal, the stories entertaining, the animation above average, the music outstanding, and the theology unobtrusive. It was, on all counts, safe viewing. You could allow kids to watch it without supervision. And you still can.
VeggieTales works best if you have believing parents helping them see that Christ is the center of the Christian life, not some moral dos or don’ts. However, this is probably done very rarely—even in Christian homes. And now the “Christian” message broadcast all over the world through VeggieTales T.V. is portraying Christianity as a set of moral choices without the heart of the Christian life—Jesus Christ. It’s all rather unfortunate, I think. But again, not much has changed between pre-NBC version of VeggieTales to the T.V. version. I don’t see how somebody could sustain a charge that VeggieTales “sold out” . . . they never had but crumbs to offer.
Like it or not, V.T. has come to T.V. Personally, as a father with three kids, I welcome the safe Saturday morning programming. However, I’m not counting on the T.V. version of V.T. for communicating to my children their spiritual need to know the person of Christ, the payment of His death, and the power of His resurrection.
In fact, I never have.