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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Veggie Tales Jesus

If you aren't aware, Veggie Tales are popular cartoons that re-tell Bible stories with all the characters represented as talking vegetables. The quality of the animation and humor is pretty good and they have a stong moral emphasis.

Rev. Paul McCain, over at Cyberbrethren brought the product pictured above to our attention recently.

I have two points I'd like to make. The first one having to do with the Veggie Tales Nativity scene here. And the second point regards Veggie Tales in general.

First, this nativity scene is very cute, I admit. I'm sure they'll sell a bunch of them. And sometimes I really get tired of being a curmudgeon. But this is just too goofy folks. We are talking about turning the Almighty Son of God, the eternal Creator of all things, into a carrot. Would you think it disrespectful of God if we made a cartoon of the life of Jesus and represented our Lord as a radish? Or maybe the cartoons would use animals instead. Would you think it appropriate to have a nativity scene with a puppy in the manger? Or maybe Jesus as a frog nailed to the cross. What's next? A Mr. Potatoehead Holy Ghost?

Why is it that we equate cute with harmless? This Veggie Tales scene is cute, but not harmless. I have no doubt that the real baby Jesus was adorable. Aren't all babies? Well, almost, right? But the shepherds came to worship him. The scene of Christ's birth should be more than just sweet and cute. It should inspire awe and reverance and holy fear. Thanks Veggie Tales for undermining the birth of the Savior.

And secondly, on Veggie Tales in general. I have a son who is now 10 years old. When he was little, we bought and played Veggie Tales videos for him. And some of my orthodox confreres might want to poison my beer after I say this, but in a way I kinda like them. I have absolutely nothing against moralizing to children. We should moralize to our children. Only negligent irresponsible parents fail to moralize to their children.

HOWEVER, I'm still not thrilled with portraying the great biblical saints as produce. Please do not honor me (not that I'm in the ranking with the biblical saints) by painting me as a turnip. But my chief concern with Veggie Tales is the moralizing. Now, I know what I just wrote above. I'm not contradicting myself. I am in favor of moralizing, I just don't think that is the chief purpose of the Holy Scriptures. When we tell the story of God, the point is not "be moral" or "be good" and certainly not "be nice." The point of the plot of the bible is Jesus Christ, Savior of sinners. If that is not the point of telling the bible story, then you have not spoken the Word of God, no matter where you got your script.

If you want to moralize your children - and you should - use Aesop's fables. There's a lot of good natural law morality there. Or use the Bible, but if you use the Bible and fail to end with the cross, you may as well stick with Aesop.

And by the way, Veggie Tales, a tomato is a fruit.

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Bob Waters said...

Not legally.

Believe it or not, a case concerning the question of whether the tomato is a vegetable or a fruit once reached the Supreme Court. With much the same insight which governed Dred Scott, Roe v. Wade, Cruzan v. Director, and a host of other such decisions, the Court ruled that- contrary to science- since it is customarily used in main courses rather than desserts, the tomato is a vegetable.

I find this ruling useful when people insist that the Constitution enshrines a right to abortion because the Court says it does.

John said...

The Veggie Tales do more than just moralize, they show a faith and trust in God, especially in "Dave and the Giant Pickle", "Josh and the big wall" and "Rack, Shack and Benny" and to a lesser degree in "Esther" and "Jonah", yes the other videos like "Are you my neighbor", "Lyle the kindly Viking" and "Sumo of the Opera" are basically only moral lessons. I think the Vegetables help to get kids more interested in watching or learning about things because they are different and stand out. I know you don't like to play to fads or what ever is hot at the time, but I think the Veggies could be good if used as a supplement and not the main course.

One thing that creators of Veggie Tales had said in their Easter video, on the behind the scenes directors sound track, is that they would never portray Jesus as a Vegetable and that they purposely showed him in the stained glass windows of the church to explain the Easter story, because they could show him as a human. I guess that does not apply to their merchandizing or it slipped past someone. I don’t agree with making our Lord a vegetable either.

On moralizing: I know the main purpose of the New Testament is to bring us to faith in Christ’s work on the cross, but Jesus does some moralizing as well, when he says “Go and sin no more” or “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him”, or “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches other to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” I know desiring to, and obeying God’s command are a byproduct of faith, but we need to know what God desires of us in his commands.

Yes, I will give you that the Veggie Tales are weak on the Gospel, but they do have some merit in showing the faith of the church patriarchs and matriarchs, and the third use of the law. Plus they are better than a lot of the other children’s videos or TV shows out there.

If this message shows up twice please delete one copy. I though I published it but it did not come up on the comments.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Hi John,,
I'm afraid I disagree with your assessment. Teaching children to have faith or trust in God is not the Gospel. Mormons teach trusting in God. Pagans trust in God. It's fine, but without a clear presentation of Christ, it doesn't help anyone.

The Gospel, as you know, is the message that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. Anything less than that is sub-Christian. And while this does appear sporadically in Veggie Tales, it's minimal.

God-talk is swell, but is of no use for the church. God-talk is fine for the kingdom of the left. The purpose of the civil kingdom is to keep law and order. God-talk is suitable for that. Natural Law and all that.

So Jesus was a moralist? I guess we just understand Jesus differently. All you did was give examples of Jesus teaching the law. That's hardly moralism. Moralism is when your aim is to make people moral. That is not what Jesus is doing. It is a byproduct of what Jesus does. You can't pull law quotes from Jesus out of the context of the Gospels to compare Jesus with (barf) Veggie Tales. That is misusing Scripture.

In the context of the Gospels - indeed in the context of the entire New Testament - no disciple of Jesus could say he was moralizing.

The Veggie Tales teach the "faith of the church patriarchs and matriarchs"? Again, I simply disagree. Did you mean "faith" or "THE faith"?

Teaching "faith" is not the same as teaching "the faith." THE Faith is encapsulated in the creeds of the church. THE Faith refers to doctrine, not behavior, though naturally I concede that those are not divorcable. I just don't see it.

And Third Use of the Law?! Nope. There is no third use without the cross. Only the first or second use. The only thing the second use can do is kill. And that's a good thing but only if the cross is clearly proclaimed. Morals without the cross are morals without the cross, whether it's Veggie Tales or Aesop's Fables.

Which is worse? A pagan tale of morality which everyone knows is a pagan tale? Or a pagan tale of morality that calls itself Christian?

As I said in my post, I am in favor of teaching morals. It's just that without the cross, it ain't the church. But on one hand, that's OK because many good pagans can effectively teach morals too.

And it's not that I disagree with making Jesus a carrot. It's evil.

john said...

Hi Pastor,

I didn't mean raise your ire. I never said the Veggies were the be all and end all, I never said that they teach Christianity, that is why I said:
"I think the Veggies could be good if used as a supplement and not the main course"

I would whole heartedly agree that they are "sub-Christian", Christ and his atoning work is rarely mentioned and when it is mentioned in the Easter video, it is very weak at best.

I did not say moralism, which is “belief in the practice of morality apart form religion”, I did say moralize, which is to “reflect on or explain in a moral sense”, where moral means “pert. to the distinction between right and wrong, and the rules of right conduct”. I think Jesus teaching the law is moralizing, by telling us what is right and wrong, maybe I misunderstand the definition of moralize. He never says that we can be truly moral, hence the need for his atoning sacrifice. Don’t we need to be taught what is moral so we will realize we are sinning, and be driven to Christ? I do think the Veggies try to teach right and wrong. Which is better than other kids videos and cartoons that just show man acting naturally (sinning) and acting like there is nothing wrong with it. I would also say that teaching the law in not Christ’s primary function, but knowing the law is a prerequisite for us to come to faith, if we do not understand how we have fallen short how can we know that we need to be saved. Maybe I'm slicing the onion too fine here.

As far as the third use of the law, yes “The Faith” is prerequisite for the third use, we must be born again for this use. Luther says “For the Law is a mirror in which the will of God, and what pleases Him, are exactly portrayed, and which should [therefore] be constantly held up to the believers and be diligently urged upon them without ceasing.” You may not like this next statement, but don’t take it to the nth degree, where the Veggie’s teaching of the law coincides with God’s Law, and where a child has been born again, I think the third function of the law would be in use, because a believer hearing the law would generate this use. Do I misunderstand this?

Yes, I meant "faith" in that they trusted God at his word, not "The Faith" which is the basis for salvation. When God said Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness, what did he mean? Did he mean "faith" as in trusting God that he will do what he says? If it is this "faith" I think the Veggies do teach this to some degree in some shows. I believe that it is important that we trust God at His Word, and to do that we need to read His Word, after we have read His Word, then Veggies may be OK, but not as a substitute. Again I agree the Veggies do not teach the most important thing which is that we trust God when He says that Jesus died to pay for our sins, in full.

Finally when I said that I disagreed with showing Jesus as a vegetable, I meant that it was wrong, otherwise I would no basis for disagreeing with it, and what is wrong is evil. So what you said.

If I am wrong in what I have said above please teach me, that is why you are the Pastor.
Sincerely, John

John said...

Maybe not a turnip because "As they age,... their taste becomes stronger and their texture coarser, sometimes almost woody"

But could we interest you in a good German variety of Radish for the following reasons:

1."Definition: From the Latin radix, meaning "root," the radish is in fact the root of a plant in the mustard family." (root or seed of faith?, not Jesus mind you but you point towards him)

2. "The flavor can be mild to peppery, depending on factors such as variety and age." (mild when needed, biting and stinging when needed)

3. "Available year-round" (always there when needed)

4. "Choose those that feel firm when gently squeezed. If the radish gives to pressure, the interior will likely be pithy instead of crisp." (I think you would be a crisp radish)

5. "For added crispness, soak radishes in ice water for a couple of hours." (for when you really need to be on the ball)

6. "They can be found in ... health-food stores" (good for the health of your soul)

With brotherly love.

Source of all quotes:
turnip -,7770,779,00.html


radish -,7770,2413,00.html

John said...

This article:

from Christianity Today, May 2004, (which I did not know about until I look at Pr. McCains Blog) shows that there has been a change in who is running the company. The original creators of the series who made a commitment to not depict Jesus as a vegetable are no longer in charge. Hence the change in policy as of late.

On another note; I don't think the Veggies were ever intended to, or said that they portrayed the Gospel. This would be difficult without showing Jesus as a vegetable. They were meant to be a better alternative to Power Rangers, Pokemon, Yugi oh and the other garbage that shows up on TV.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Hi John,
I know many Christians, even pastors, who think morality is Christianity. Or they think that God-talk is Christianity. Every once in a while when I am in the car, I listen to Charles Stanley "preach." Admittedly, I have only heard a smattering of his sermons. But I have never once heard the man preach the cross. I'm not saying he never does. But he definitely doesn't always preach it.

Just recently, I heard a great sermon from him about humility and submitting to God. Everything he said was true. But there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about Jesus Christ. He never even mentioned the name of the savior one time except maybe in passing. He went on and on eloquently about morals and used God-talk. And by "God-talk" I mean he just says "God." He never talked about the Holy Trinity or the incarnate God who is the only way to know the Father. A half-dozen non-Christian religions could have preached the same exact sermon, almost word-for-word. And I have listened to him enough over the past 20 years to know that that was not a solitary example.

I know lots of Lutherans, pastors included, who think his way of preaching is gospel preaching. And it isn't. Even you, John, a very theologically astute man of God whom I love dearly, stated above that Veggie Tales teach "faith" and "the faith" and equated that with the justifying faith of Abraham. This is not a criticism of you. I am just saying that whether the Veggie creators have claimed to preach the gospel or not, many Christians think they do. Or assume they do. And that means that many many Christians don't know the gospel. They mistake morality for the gospel. And that will send souls to hell.

I really don't think we're on different sides here John. I agree that we should teach morals to our children. And I agree that Veggie Tales does that.

But I continue to believe that they abuse Scripture. Jesus said that all of the Law and Prophets refers to him. So I say that anyone who presents these bible stories without talking about Jesus and using God's Word in a way contrary to the intent of the HOly Spirit who inspired them.

Jonah, David, Noah, Abraham, Isaac. All of those stories are about Jesus. How can anyone teach them correctly without mentioning Jesus and his cross? I heard the other day that public schools teach "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," but they do not talk about the religious content. That is absurd! That is the whole meaning of the story. There is nothing else there. And I think Veggie Tales actually remove Jesus from the Bible by treating it as merely a book of moral teaching.

Of course, I must realize the intended audience. I don't expect they could very likely make these videos too expository and get too deep.

As a clean alternative to the other rubbish out there, I see the appeal. I just wish they wouldn't use (misuse) the Bible. I know that for the young ones, you have to keep thing simple. But the same thing could be done in a more Christ-centered manner.

I'm not throwing stones at you if you show them to your children. I admitted in my post that I have done the same.

Yvonne said...

I think you'll find that's just completely bizarre. And hilarious. As is this. I mean, Jesus did not have button eyes and sticky-out ears.

But I would just like to point out that, according to the Bible, God created the radish and the carrot, so it's probably not blasphemous to represent him as part of his creation.

theresa said...

I loved reading what you wrote about this subject. I totally agreed with what you said about the depiction of Jesus as a baby carrot. Excellent!

Anonymous said...

Wow... what a fuss about some animated vegetables! I just attended a Christmas play at our church. Mary was 4 years old, Joseph 6, and baby Jesus was plastic. I heard no outcry about the inaccuracy of this depiction. In the same way, I see the Veggie Tales nativity as the Veggies putting on their own nativity play. Veggie Tales are fun, creative, and spark kid's interest. What a wonderful opportunity we have (especially now that Veggie Tales are on Sat morning TV) to reach unchurched children with a message that entertains, yet opens their little hearts to receive deeper spiritual truths (if we choose to use what they've just seen as a springboard into conversation). John 4:36-37 reminds us that we all work together for a common goal: "Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true." Don't down Veggie Tales for sowing seeds. Let's all heed 1Thess 5:11 "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..."

Anonymous said...

After a little research, found that this set is based on the Veggie Tales book, "The Stable that Bob Built" in which the Veggie Tale characters are excited about putting on a Christmas pageant to share the true meaning of Christmas with others. Anything wrong with that?

SG-Girl said...

Why are you trying to put it down so much? At least they are teaching kids bible stories without being too graphic! I LOVE VeggieTales, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. But think of this: would you want a two year old to see a bloody, torn Jesus on the cross? I am not saying we should sugar coat it, but 2 year olds shouldn't be exposed to that at an early age. BTW... They didn't do a crucifixion VeggieTales...duh! However, if you want real people stories, the Story Keepers are great!

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