Throughout the years, many people, including myself, have fallen in love with Bob the tomato and Larry the cucumber. These two memorable vegetables join a host of other produce for Christian television programs of reenacted Bible stories, most of which are from the Old Testament. The original creator of VeggieTales, Phil Vischer, owned the popular series until 2003, when he sold it and moved on to other ventures.
VeggieTales has received criticism from multiple sources, for teaching children moralism rather than the gospel. Moralism is the practice of doing “good” or obedience.
Moralism is dangerous because it teaches children to do “good,” rather than to trust the One who is good. It teaches them to act good, rather than the biblical view that there is no one good but God alone (Mark 10:18). The problem with solely teaching moralism is that it does not show the true message of the Bible– that we are sinners, who in fact cannot do “good,” and are in need of a Savior to be seen as righteous before God.
In 2010, radio commentator, Todd Friel, referenced Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis) and addressed the issue of moralism in VeggieTales. While I may not agree with his negative opinions on using “vegetables” to tell the biblical stories, he makes several valid arguments concerning the moralism issue. Listen to his comments in the video below. It’s definitely worth the brief amount of time.
In 2011, Phil Vischer, himself, explained in an interview with World Magazine that he had come to realize that he had been teaching moralism in VeggieTales, instead of the gospel.
“I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, ‘Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,’ or ‘Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!’ But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . . .
And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart. I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.”
First, I want to say that I highly commend Mr. Vischer on his decision to move in a different direction with his latest children’s programming, What’s in the Bible? What God is using him to do with that program is truly amazing. Also, it takes a genuinely humble person to repent of something such as this, especially to do so in the public eye.
That being said, episodes of VeggieTales are still widespread in Christian bookstores, church libraries, and on streaming services such as Netflix.
So where does this leave us, regarding VeggieTales? I personally watched VeggieTales as a child, and I honestly do not believe that the show distorted my view of the gospel. However, I have intentionally left out my thoughts on this issue. I want to hear your opinion in the comment section, below.
Do you think that kids should watch VeggieTales, and if so should they be able to watch them stand-alone? Should someone explain how each VeggieTales story fits into the big picture of the gospel as kids watch them? How can we be on the lookout for other children’s ministry resources that mistakingly teach moralism?