“Veggie Tales” co-creator Phil Vischer says Christian filmmakers will have to start addressing LGBT issues and same-sex relationships from a biblical perspective because children are already seeing these storylines in secular movies and TV shows.
“Parents are definitely going to have to deal with a growing LGBT presence in children’s media,” Vischer told The Christian Post. “It’s going to show up more and more as the world has decided that LGBT issues are in the same categories as race and civil rights issues. So to say you shouldn’t have a same-sex couple on 'Sesame Street' is the equivalent of saying you shouldn’t have a black couple on 'Sesame Street.'"
Vischer, who today hosts "The Holy Post" podcast and "The Mr. Phil Show" on RightNowMedia, said when the PBS children’s show “Arthur” featured a same-sex wedding, there was a “shot heard through the Christian parenting world.”
“The most striking thing about that episode of Arthur wasn’t that they thought it was time to introduce kids to gay marriage; it was the reaction of all the kids on the show,” he said. “None of them asked questions about why two men were getting married. Their reaction was, ‘Oh, OK! Great!’”
“It’s such a strong message of, well kids, of course you’re fine with gay marriage, because there’s nothing to question about it,” Vischer continued. “That’s a little more concerning.”
A veteran in the world of children’s entertainment, Vischer said it’s only a matter of time before he and other Christian producers will have to address the issue from a biblical perspective.
“I think it will have to be addressed at some point; I do think it's a matter of time,” he said. “But right now, I think it would be difficult for a couple of reasons. First: the nuance of how to treat LGBT issues isn’t agreed upon within the Church; and secondly, some parents may want to have that talk with their kids. It’s tricky because it’s so divisive. It would be hard to do it in a way that works and matches everyone's expectations.”
“It would be easy to do it poorly,” he insisted. “It’s still so controversial; I'm not sure what I would add that would be helpful enough in the conversation that it’s worth the number of people I could offend.”
For now, Vischer said he will continue to present biblical truths in his TV shows, movies, and books in contrast to secular programming.
“If I get pressure from Hollywood to show two men getting married because we’ve all decided it’s right and correct, my pushback is: ‘No, I won’t. Because that’s not what I believe is best for kids,’” he said. “It’s more about what we show as normal rather than explicitly showing something and saying, ‘that’s wrong.’ I’m portraying the positive rather than the negative.”
“At least for now,” he added. “I do believe that at some point we’ll be forced to figure out how to explicitly address it.”
First launched 26 years ago, "Veggie Tales," now owned by NBC Universal, remains one of the most successful children’s shows of all time, spawning a franchise consisting of movies, books, and online shows.
“Bringing the Bible to life never goes out of style,” Vischer said when asked about "Veggie Tales"' enduring popularity, adding he’s currently helping to write a new version of the series, set to air this fall on TBN.
But a larger, more “unfortunate” reason for the show’s continued success is that nothing else has taken its place, he explained.
“It’s so expensive to produce content like that, and it’s getting harder and harder,” Vischer said. “The things I produce today have a fraction of the budget I had with 'Veggie Tales.' No one is able to spend that kind of money to produce that kind of Christian content today.”
“I’d love if something better came along because that would mean there was a vibrant industry,” he continued. “The fact that 26 years later, 'Veggie Tales' is still the crowning achievement of Christian kids media isn’t necessarily a good thing.”
Still, Vischer said that through content like "The Mr. Phil Show," he’s able to delve more deeply into Scripture. “I try to consistently go deeper into the faith and into the Bible,” he said. “It’s so easy to stay on the surface and make Bible stories fun — that’s what we originally did with 'Veggie Tales' — and that’s great, but it’s not all kids need to know.”
“We’re dealing with deeper issues, like why do we trust the Bible and why do we follow some rules in the Bible but not all of them,” he said.
In a culture inundated with secular TV, Vischer said he hopes his work encourages children to not just live out their faith on Sunday morning, but every day of the week.
“The thing that concerns me about the volume of kids programs out there is that it’s mostly secular, and in all those thousands of hours of TV that our kids are consuming, they’ll never see someone step foot in a church or bow their head in prayer,” he said.
This, he explained, “creates two different worlds for kids.”
“There’s the world where you go to church on Sunday and God exists, and then there’s the world of all your media where He’s gone completely missing,” Vischer said. “That has to have an impact of bifurcating kids' worlds into the sacred, which is Sunday only, and the secular, which is the whole rest of the week.”
“The goal with these shows is to take kids deeper into the Bible and also be a resource for parents,” he added.