VeggieTales brings together produce-aisle cabaret characters with Sunday-school favourites to create fantastically loveable and annoying Christian kids education. While there is much that is commendable about these episodes (leaving aside their flagrant use of two of my least favourite pronunciations: ‘Gaad’ and ‘Izreel’), they occasionally fail to understand the stories that they’re teaching. My four-year-old watched The Toy that Saved Christmas a handful of times this season — an episode aimed at teaching the true meaning of Christmas — and concluded that it’s all about giving. Um…
So they mucked up the Greatest Story Ever Told a little bit. They really managed to befoul the Sunday-schoolest story of them all, David and Goliath.
There is some indication in scripture that David may have been small. He was the youngest of however many brothers, and possibly not as immediately obvious a warrior as some of them. He also eventually gets to try on Saul’s armour, but decides against it, because he was ‘not used to it’. We usually conclude from this that he was a little chap, but this is far from obvious (and even if it was because the armour was too big, Saul was said to be a head taller than anyone else). Being the youngest, David was the ‘herd-boy’, but he had also managed to kill a bear and a lion. He soon became commander of the army. He was a far cry from the quavering, pre-pubescent little broccoli guy on VeggieTales (he seems pre-pubescent, but I have no way of ageing anthropomorphised vegetables).
We tend to fall so in love with the little-underdog-who-could aspect of the story, that we miss the larger point. VeggieTales did this beautifully. The message that they taught from the David and Goliath story was that you can overcome, no matter how small and insignificant you may be. They make the all-too-common mistake of allegorising Goliath into a symbol of personal trouble, and we then become ‘David’, the faithful battler against adversity. How do we manage to take such a magnificent story of God’s deliverance, and then make it all about us?
David himself goes to great pains to point out that there is no reason to fear Goliath seeing as God is the warrior who fights for Israel. An untrained, unprotected, virtually unarmed boy comes out against the world’s best and wins with a single shot not because David was a bit of a ‘trier’, and not even because he was especially faithful. It’s because ‘the battle is the Lord’s’. If we want to identify with someone in the story, it’s the chicken-hearted, undeserving Israelites on the sidelines who can’t help themselves and who have stand and watch while the Lord’s anointed — the Messiah — does all the work for them.