A Funny Watchdawggie!When I need to find out the news beyond the headline story of the day, I have found that one of the best places to go to get a pulse of what’s news and what news is actually interesting for discussion, I often go to FARK.  (Warning: If you go there, you’re best bet is to avoid the comment threads on the RH side, which can be vulgar.  Additionally, some actual discernment is needed when selecting the stories to read, so it’s not something I recommend to children or immature adults, either).

Imagine my surprise last summer when I checked out the list of stories and found this one:

(Some Tomato) ”Christian” website declares war on the Veggie Tales. What will QWERTY say about this?

[NOTE: The link is dead, but you can see the source being linked to.]

After reading the story and the sad comment thread beneath it, I braced myself and decided to read the FARK comment thread about the article.  It was truly sad to see how the outside world viewed this intra-church sniping and foolishness.  (mild examples: Wow. Someone there disses “Adventures in Oddysey” by Focus on the Family. THAT is hardcore. or It’s gotta be tough to write for Landover Baptist when the real sites are this unintentionally satirical. )

Well, it’s not uncommon to expect such foolishness to repeat itself, and so it has… and I have to say that I’m still a bit perplexed on a number of items:

Cartoons and Artistic Adaptation

This article takes issue with the upcoming Veggie Tales adaptation of The Prodigal Son, set against a Wizard of Oz meme.

The producers of these Veggie Tales movies desecrate Holy Scripture by perverting it into upbeat do-good stories completely absent the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Read that sentence again. Holy Scripture. That’s what we teach our children that the Bible is. Holy. Untouchable. Sacred. Must not be tampered with. But we are considered freaks in a world where nothing is sacred. Nothing is holy. Nothing is untouchable, particularly if there is cash to be made. These people are getting wealthy off the mistreatment of the Word of God.

First off, I’m failing to see where such hysteria is warranted.  It is not as if Phil Vischer (producer of VT) is claiming that Veggie Tales is scripture, or a tool aimed at evangelizing children with a full outlay of the plan of salvation.  Rather, it is, and always has been, a modern method of relaying some scriptural stories and parables to children, typically pre-school and lower elementary school aged.  Additionally, enough (clean) pop-culture and catchy music is woven in so that adults aren’t bored to tears, but will be conversant and interested enough that good discussion might arise between parent and child on the topics presented.  There is no ‘mistreatment of the Word of God’, despite the screeching hyperbole to the contrary.

This goes without saying, though, that if a child’s sole (or primary or secondary) exposure to scripture is to Veggie Tales, he or she is sorely lacking in biblical instruction.  No argument here.  However, in a marketplace of mindless, violent or vulgar media choices, I can’t think of many better children’s ‘entertainment’ for this particular age group than Veggie Tales and Adventures in Odyssey, both of which adapt biblical texts and stories into a format for children (though AiO is aimed at an older contingent).

So the question becomes: Is it acceptable for artistic works, be they for children or adults, to adapt parts of scripture in non-literal renderings which may include humorous devices?  Assuming that scripture is not mis-interpreted or treated as irrelevant or mocked, I see no scriptural basis for arguing the contrary. 

The Use of Humor

The mindset accompanying this blog article also has consistently posited that Jesus had no sense of humor and that comedy has no place in a Christian lexionary.  I would severely disagree, and the primary key to my disagreement is acknowledged and lauded in the opening paragraph of this particular article:

When Dr. John MacArthur was here in Milwaukee for one of our VCY America rallies earlier this year, his message was on the powerful Bible story of the Prodigal Son. He didn’t skim over the surface as so many preachers do and hit all the obvious points. He went deep into the Middle Eastern context of the story which enabled us to understand even more just how amazing the response of the father in the story actually was. Each detail of the Bible’s account took on new significance as we were taught about the social rules of the day and what the father’s condescension because of love for His son really meant. There is so much depth to this story as you carefully study it.

That is the key to understanding Jesus’ humor – the context!  (Side note: Ironically, I have heard JMac’s sermon on the Prodigal Son and on the Good Samaritan, both of which drew their first century details from the a source like Brad Young’s The Parables, an excellent resource I highly recommend, and were almost verbatim as taught by Rob Bell and Ray VanderLaan…)

In narrative, the two primary thematic directions are drama and comedy.  Drama is seated in the emotion and easily translates across cultures, because of the similarity of the human experience.  Comedy, on the other hand, is seated in the intellect, and is highly contextual.  Apart from slapstick (considered the lowest form of comedy), it does not translate well across cultures, because of its contextuality.  So, the key to Jesus’ humor is in knowing the culture.

One example lies in the story of the Good Samaritan.

A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.

This is pretty funny, don’t you think?  No?  How about I add this detail: Jesus places this story on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.  This “road” is about 2 – 3 feet wide, with a steep wall on one side of it and a steep, 100+ foot drop off on the other side.  It still exists today, and people still die falling off of it today.  In Jesus story, the priest and the Levite to “pass by on the other side”.  There is no ‘other side’!  So now, imagine what these two figures had to do to avoid dealing with the half-dead man in the road.  This mental picture is very similar to other humor found in other contemporary Jewish works.

There are numerous other examples, particularly laced in Jesus’ parables, which have been identified as humorous elements in his stories and in his life.  Additionally, some of the chief commands of the Old Testament dealt with the seven Jewish festivals, five of which were to be joyous occasions, not solemn remembrences.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon teaches that everything, when taken apart from God, is meaningless.  In it, though, he notes:

There is a time for everything,
       and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
       a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
       a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
       a time to mourn and a time to dance,

And this is true – there is a time for everything, including humor and laughter - especially when it is used to glorify its creator, rather than denigrate Him or to tear down those made in His own image.

  • Share/Bookmark
This entry was posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2007 at 10:56 am and is filed under Humor, Ingrid, ODM Responses, ODM Writers, Original Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
+/- Collapse/Expand All

43 Comments(+Add)

1   Rick    http://gottabuzz.typepad.com/coffee
August 30th, 2007 at 11:36 am

Isn’t it “Phil” Vischer? Just checking :) – and I agree with your well-stated disagreement. There’s a narrow blinders-impaired view that keeps us sometimes from considering any other possibility, and that’s what I see happening so many times in these pieces. There’s an unwillingness to discover something new, even though “new every morning” is one of the promises we have.

2   Tim Reed    http://theotstrikesback.com
August 30th, 2007 at 11:48 am

If Chris L keeps publishing stuff like this I’m going to have to either quit writing or start using performance enhancing drugs.

3   jazzact13    http://jazzact13.blogspot.com/
August 30th, 2007 at 11:50 am

Almost any story done for children is simplified. It has to be, or while one is going into the details, the kids are bouncing each other off the walls.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. MacArthur spoke to a group of adult people at VCY, and so going into such details should have provided some useful insights. For children, though, I would suspect that even the good Doctor (not being facetious at all) would speak differently.

Considering how Veggietales did the Good Samaritan, I’m kind of eager to see their take on the Prodigal.

4   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
August 30th, 2007 at 12:09 pm

Isn’t it “Phil” Vischer?

Yes – it was a case of thinking one thing and writing another. I’ve fixed it now!

Thanks!

5   keith    http://fivepts.blogspot.com
August 30th, 2007 at 12:15 pm

Side note: Ironically, I have heard JMac’s sermon on the Prodigal Son and on the Good Samaritan, both of which drew their first century details from the a source like Brad Young’s The Parables, an excellent resource I highly recommend, and were almost verbatim as taught by Rob Bell and Ray VanderLaan…)Are you saying that JM ACTUALLY used the source you cited or should we read more or less into your use of the word “like”? Is the implication that JM, Bell and VanderLaan used the SAME, exact source for background material?

6   Houston John    
August 30th, 2007 at 12:16 pm

I think it was very funning when Samuel asked Saul if he had destroyed all the Amalekites live stock as commanded and he replied ***cue bleating goats and sheep*** “I destroyed all as commanded”

7   Houston John    
August 30th, 2007 at 12:18 pm

It was also pretty funny when the Lord told Peter that He must wash his feet if Peter was to have any part of Him and Peter said “not only my feet but my head and everywere!” Gotta love him!

8   nathan    http://www.nathanneighbour.com
August 30th, 2007 at 12:21 pm

That article is sad and rediculous. I can only imagine ingrid’s kids holding a huge study bible before their big quiz that day. And having her kids read the good ol’ KJV?

I couldn’t believe how many times she referenced “the past”. “We need to do it like we did in the past”…”in the past we”…”books from the past are the best”. By holding on to insignificant things in the past, she is basically telling her readers that the future is a bad place. sucks for them.

9   Houston John    
August 30th, 2007 at 12:24 pm

And when the kids called Elijah “Go up old baldhead, old baldbald head ” and two shebears came out of the woods and tore them all up”

Oh wait is that allowed to be funny since children were harmed?

10   Matt    http://matbathome.blogspot.com/
August 30th, 2007 at 12:34 pm

It’s actually quite funny when Jesus tells his disciples to feed the 5,000 men with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. The disciples must have been baffled.

11   Houston John    
August 30th, 2007 at 12:39 pm

OK grossest things in Scripture:

(1) Nekked old prophets.

12   Houston John    
August 30th, 2007 at 12:40 pm

Grossest things in Scripture:

(2) cooking food with human – well you know.

13   Houston John    
August 30th, 2007 at 12:43 pm

Grossest things in Scripture:

(3) Having young lass get in bed with scraggly Old King david to warm him up.

Sorry, guys I’m in a weird mood today! :-)

14   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
August 30th, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Keith,

Is the implication that JM, Bell and VanderLaan used the SAME, exact source for background material?

No – it’s that Bell and VanderLaan get accused of using first century Jewish sources to draw context for parables and other teachings of Jesus, but it’s laudable when MacArthur does the same thing.

15   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
August 30th, 2007 at 1:11 pm

I’m not one way or the other on the VT genre, but sometimes the reverse can be a hinderance. Ten years ago I attended a Sunday morning service where MacAurthur was the speaker as they were dediacting their new audutorium. The church had advertised extensively and the place was packed with all kinds of people. The church had about 75 members and the service had about 250 visitors.

So MacAuthur got up, and with several hundred visitors available to hear the gospel, he began an indepth chronology of the metamorphosis of the medieval church, through the formalistc period, through the hyper-litergical period, and he delved into the dangers of the charismatic movement, and finally landed with a self serving proclamation that the reformed understanding of Scriptures is the most authentic version of the New Testament church.

Almost no gospel presentation, and since the pastor was a Master’s graduate he said to the congregation:

“(City’s name) doesn’t realize the wealth of Biblical knowledge that this man has brought here”

That was his exact statement. It was way above everyone’s head and the common people who came due to the advertisement went away without understanding almost anything. To be honest, they might have gotten more on that day from Veggie Tales. Yes, you can dumb down the Scriptures, but you can also be so enamored with your Biblical knowledge that you become…look out….irrelevant.

16   chris    http://agendalesslove.wordpress.com
August 30th, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Last year I heard Phil speak at the National Youth Workers Convention (yes I know they lead people to hell, thanks way of the master) this man is such a sincere, honest, and deeply humbly about what God has done in his life it was awe inspiring to want to know God the way he does. BTW he no longer owns VT he is only the creative force behind it. He had to file for bankruptcy and sell the company. Why? Because his pride was huge and God “knocked him down a few knotches”. Anyways I would take Phil telling me about scripture before I would ever sit under anybody at Slice or C?N or AM

17   Matt B    http://matbathome.blogspot.com/
August 30th, 2007 at 2:56 pm

From the article that Ingrid refers to:

It is very obvious from the movie that the man Jesus called “the prophet Jonah” is the one who is depicted as arrogant and uncompassionate. In other words, he is the one with the problem! For instance, in the movie after Jonah delivered his message of “stop slapping people with fish,” he is later seen gleefully awaiting the destruction of Neneveh. He coldly tells his friend Khalil, “Now it’s time to watch the fun and watch God wipe them off the face of the earth!” Of course, it is Khalil, described in The Washington Times as “the good guy,” who ends up putting the prophet in his place. Khalil says, “Would you look at yourself?” … “God is compassionate” … “Did it ever occur to you that God loves everyone?” … “You are pathetic!” … “God wants to give everyone a second chance, and so should we.”

That is the exact point of Jonah, isn’t it? That Jonah directly disobeyed God and didn’t want to see the Ninevites repent, even at the end of the story. The critic shows her ignorance of Scripture.

18   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
August 30th, 2007 at 3:10 pm

Matt,

You really shouldn’t let scripture get in the way of a good (negative) review…

/removing tongue from cheek

19   Houston John    
August 30th, 2007 at 4:25 pm

Matt,

Good point. Jonah was the reluctant prophet until the end and a very uncompassionate person. I think his story highlights the sovereignty of God more than anything else. Jonah is not exactly the Christian role model. He certainly was not the “good guy” of the story!

All together now: “Oh where is my hair brush? Oh where is my hair brush? Oh where, oh where , oh where, oh where is my hairbrush?”

20   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
August 30th, 2007 at 4:31 pm

Hey HJ – I know you are a free will troll but sometimes I find your humor somewhat obtuse. In the original language that means “Huh?”.

Are you still making waves over at …OTB?

21   chris    http://agendalesslove.wordpress.com
August 30th, 2007 at 4:37 pm

Can I ask a silly question?

22   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
August 30th, 2007 at 5:05 pm

If I had a water buffalo…

23   Russ N.    http://russ-ramblings.blogspot.com
August 30th, 2007 at 5:13 pm

I’ll just come out and say it — I’m a huge Veggie Tales fan. they have handled the Biblical accounts in a fantastic way that speaks to the kids (and *cough* their parents) in a way they can understand.

I’m also glad that Veggie Tales is featured on NBC on Saturday mornings…..yes, it’s without the direct references to God….but tons of kids (and parents) are now exposed to something their kids enjoy (and would not otherwise ever be exposed to), so the parents go and purchase the Veggie Tales DVDs….and get the complete show….with the direct references to God and the Bible.

I do agree with Chris – if your entire Biblical exposure is through Veggie Tales, then, well….time to get to a church/small group where this can be brought out in more detail.

There have been times where snippets of a Veggie Tales video has been the best way to bring home a point….to adults…and teens…and young children….

No need for hysteria SoL 2.0 ….move along….there have been times where I’ve said “do you remember when Larry (or Bob) did/said….?” and then showed from the Bible what they did/said. The kids get it. Getting it – even in a way that makes Ingrid uncomfortable – is better than not getting it.

24   Russ N.    http://russ-ramblings.blogspot.com
August 30th, 2007 at 5:14 pm

Everyone’s got a water buffalo….your’s is fast and mine is slow…

25   nathan    http://www.nathanneighbour.com
August 30th, 2007 at 6:02 pm

I especially loved the comment from the reader who said that her kids watch tv three times a year… wow

26   Jimmy@RelevantChristian    http://www.relevantchristian.com
August 30th, 2007 at 7:17 pm

I wonder what they would say about Jesus using parables?

These people never cease to amaze me with their…well….never mind.

27   chris    http://agendalesslove.wordpress.com
August 30th, 2007 at 9:04 pm

Okay I’m back to ask my silly question. Consider this a complete thread hi-jack. I really think we’ve gotten as much traction as we can out of Veggie Tales.

Continually I see from the ODM sites that they vehemently oppose this so-called ego-centric state of the church today. But every prayer group I’ve ever been in people continue to pray for things such as “Lord bless my job” or “Lord heal so and so” etc… So isn’t most of our christian conception of God based on Gods willingness/ability to reach down to us and meet our need? Is that not ego-centric? I know this is an over simplification but I hope you get the gist of my argument.

28   Julie    http://www.loneprairie.net/lp_blog/blog.htm
August 30th, 2007 at 9:48 pm

I think of it as such: Scripture is the Truth. And truth has a funny way of showing up in good art, good music, and good writing. Even when the creators aren’t Christians, or aren’t trying to tell a Bible story or whatever…it gets in there.

I could ramble on here, since this is just a kind of introduction to about a hundered different books by everyone from Schaeffer to L’Engle, but I’m seeing this not as desecration but as a form of the above concept.

Though I admit the Veggie Tales drive me crazy, and not in a good way.

Cucumbers.

Bah.

29   kp    
August 30th, 2007 at 10:35 pm

If Ingrid’s lips ever left her mouth…

packed their bags and headed south…

Vic’d be so sad, he’d be so sad…

wow, it’s late.

30   Houston John    
August 31st, 2007 at 6:49 am

Rick,

“Oh Where Is My Hairbrush?” is one of the hit songs from early Veggie Tales”. The cucumber sings it I think.

I got put on the moderation list at OT for some reason, but still drop in from time to time. My main gripe with OT is for them to at least stay consistant within their own world view. I think the moderate Calvinists want lunch and dinner with Calvin but still breakfast with Arminius. For example, they say “whosoever will may come” is true and a sincere offer, it’s just that the unelect are unable to positively respond to God due to their total depravity (i.e., inability) and chose not to. However, if limited atonement is also true then NO PROVISION has been made for the non-elect to come so by definition the offer CANNOT be sincere. It’s internal inconsistencies like that that drive me nuts. (Of course they retort that I just don’t get it). But I actually agree with a lot of what they post it just usually makes more sense in a non-Calvinist world view. I understand you got banned?

31   Houston John    
August 31st, 2007 at 7:00 am

I dont’ have a problem with things like Veggi Tales per se but I do have problems with Biblical Action Figure toys that feature a Jesus doll. If Jesus is God, which He is, then I don’t think it appropriate to let a small child think He can be directed and manipulated by their own imaginings, not to mention the whole graven image thing.

32   Houston John    
August 31st, 2007 at 8:08 am

P.S. Although I did think it great fun to poke my Samson doll’s eyes out, not to mention cutting off my Goliath’s doll’s head. Mom did get somewhat upset, however, when I ran around the house screaming “take that you uncircumsized Philistine!” and I did get sent to my room when I snuck the John the Baptist Head on a platter on the dinner table that one time.

33   Ian    http://lostintheheartofsomewhere.blogspot.com
August 31st, 2007 at 8:13 am

Oh man – the dolls – I remember seeing these ‘Bible Action Heroes’ at the Internaitonal Christian Retail Show a couple of years ago. I showed a sample to my (then) 7 year old who said “why would I want a Bible character to beat people up?’ – lol.

“We are the Pirates who don’t do anything ….”

34   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
August 31st, 2007 at 8:20 am

Hey HJ – You are very clever, why don’t you have a blog?

35   Houston John    
August 31st, 2007 at 8:21 am

And then there was the time when I flooded the bathroom when I left the tub unattended when filling it for the Noah’s Ark panorama, not to mention almost burning the house down when I ignited the Sodom and Gommorah fire and brimestone kit. (Whew, that thing should have come with larger warning labels – man the smell!).

Then there was the time I got my sister sick by feeding her the manna I made from the “Authentic Holy Land Manna Bread” kit. She also got pretty upset when I took one of her Barbie Dolls and “modified” it with the “Rahab the Harolot Extreme Makeover Kit”.

36   Matt B    http://matbathome.blogspot.com/
August 31st, 2007 at 8:23 am

HJ-

Yeah, yeah, and next you chopped up one of your sisters dolls and put the twelve pieces in the mail. :)

37   Houston John    
August 31st, 2007 at 8:26 am

Rick,

“Hey HJ why don’t you have a blog?”

Becuse the world would never recover if I did a mind dump?

But seriously, the whole “Christian” Marketing scene today. I don’t know. I mean I have bought several Christian themed T-Shirts and bible covers along the way, but I guess anything can be taken to an excess. Should one make their living selling religious trinkets? Sort of Romanish and pagan in a way. But my motto is moderation in all things.

38   Houston John    
August 31st, 2007 at 8:27 am

Matt B – Good one!

39   Houston John    
August 31st, 2007 at 8:28 am

Matt B – Just don’t try runnin out of the kitchen yelling “Poison in the pot! Poison in the pot!”

40   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
August 31st, 2007 at 8:32 am

OK, HJ, you’ve gone from clever, to very clever, to Dr. Lecter.

41   Houston John    
August 31st, 2007 at 9:03 am

Russ N.

Good observations. Again, it’s all in the balance and in parents taking the God directed responsibility in training up their children. There is room for both “catechisms” and “Veggie Tales”.

42   Houston John    
August 31st, 2007 at 9:12 am

Nathan,

We were fairly strict with our son in regards to TV. MTV was definately out. But again, we tried to maintain balance and we tried to discuss things. I remember a Xena episode (OK, OK no jokes please) once where she encountered “Jehovah” and I had a great talk with my son about the ramifications, i.e., this show paints Jehovah just like one of the many other gods Xena encountered on the show. Then we discussed how God is the only true god and that while we can enjoy such fantasy shows we have to filter everything through the Bible and be careful we don’t buy everything they are selling. Then again we explained that some shows are just so lewd that they have no redeeming values and can in fact be detremental to our spiritual growth (e.g., MTV, Scheuler’s Hour of Power) and so we totally avoid them.

43   Houston John    
August 31st, 2007 at 9:36 am

Rick,

Your comment about McArthur was very interesting. Again, it’s balance and self examination. For example the blogs in question parody the “cookie cutter” mentailty of the purpose driven hipsters but if they are honest they will have to admit that there is a standard “uniform” cut and look for conservative churches also. In the South you can tell what kind of church it is just by the architecture in the majority of the cases and the SBC’s of old certainly had their play book everyone followed (and that is not necessarily a bad thing) And if you look at the picture of the attendees from one of the latest MacArthur conferences you will find a sea of clones. Again, not necessarily a bad thing. The point is that it’s very hypocritical to point this out in others when your party is guilty of the same thing. Every movement has a “play book” and “how to” guide including the Reformed. Every movement has its “stars” and “heros” which everyone else tries to emulate including the Reformed. I am not a Rick Warren fan by any stretch, but don’t try to take away my Hawaiian shirts!

One Trackback/Ping

  1. Fishing The Abyss    Aug 30 2007 / 10am:

    [...] Posted in Religion/Philosophy, Arts & Culture, Responses to Slice | Trackback | del.icio.us | Top OfPage [...]