We own about 15 or so Veggie Tales videos. They’re cute, and my kids have enjoyed them. They go through phases – won’t watch them for months, and then won’t watch anything else for months. I’m not sure if the kids “get” the moral of the story, meaning, I’m not sure the videos are doing much to alter my children’s behavior, but at least they are learning, somewhat, some Bible stories.
Except King George and the Ducky…yeah, an adult will know it’s about King David and Bathsheba. But if adultery and murder are too much for little kids (and gee, I hope they are!), why even bother trying to tell the story? Surely there are other examples of coveting thy neighbor’s goods?
I digress. That is a problem with Veggie Tales, but not the one I intended to address. No, my big complaint is with Rack, Shack, and Benny and Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Both stories come from the book of Daniel. My study Bible says that it is debatable whether the book of Daniel is prophetic and written during the Babylonian captivity, or if it was written long after the captivity and is more a recounting of the trials through which God brought His people. Either way, the moral of the story is God Saves. That’s a great moral, right? Sure.
Find yourself being thrown into a furnace? No worries! Pit of hungry lions your afternoon’s adventure? No problem! If you are good, love God, and pray hard enough, God will save you! On eagle’s wings and all that…
Yes, but…what about St. Ignatius of Antioch? Did God not love him? And all those thousands of other Christians who met their fate in the Roman Coliseums? Or the millions persecuted in the past 2000 years?
Or is it that God only saves the Jews? Hey, remember the 1920s, 30s and 40s? Was God not interested in helping His people in Dachau?
The story of Joseph (with that amazing technicolor dreamcoat) is a much better example of God’s saving hand. Joseph suffered for years in slavery and in prison before the Divine plan was revealed. Veggie Tales did this story as well – Little Joe – and it’s fine. Doesn’t quite show the passage of time and kids might think that God works all his miracles all at once, but it’s fine. At least, though, you can see that all his trials put him in just the right place at the right time to save God’s chosen people.
But Little Joe is overshadowed by Daniel and the three guys at the bunny factory who are saved from certain death by a miracle. And so, when my son, Billy, flips through our Picture Book of Saints to find a story to read and picks St. Ignatius who is depicted surrounded by lions, his little mind fully expects to hear about a miracle, not a martyr. The poor kid was flabbergasted.
I suppose the story of St. Stephen doesn’t make for a good, happy-ending tale, eh? No, not if your martyrdom is the end of it all, which, thankfully, it’s not. How about the story of St. Paul? Let’s show him holding everyone’s coats while St. Stephen is stoned to death, then show him blinded on the road to Damascus (en route to persecute more Christians!), and then show him writing half of the New Testament from prison! Hmmm…not too many happy endings in the New Testament. Perhaps that is why the makers of Veggie Tales have stuck mostly with OT stories like Daniel, Joshua, Joseph, and Esther. Let’s skip Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, and Aaron and the golden idol and that messy deal with slaughtering everyone who turned away from God.
It is unfortunate that the reality of this world is usually an unhappy ending…sometimes an unhappy beginning and middle too. We avoid suffering as much as possible, and that is understandable. But kids need to know the truth, too. No, they don’t need to get all the gory details or never hear a happy ending. But they need to understand that suffering does not mean that God doesn’t love you. They need to know that always God brings good out of misery…you just might not be able to witness the good of your personal misery from an earthly position. So let’s see Larry the Cucumber as St. Paul dying a martyr’s death! But let’s see the spread of Christianity from all of his writings, too.
Yeah, OK, that’s ridiculous. I guess I just need to add to my collection of Glory Stories and CCC of America Saints and Heroes DVDs. Would my kids even believe a cartoon tomato could get squashed beyond recovery?