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Craig von Buseck
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COMMENTARY

And A Veggie Shall Lead Them

By Craig von Buseck
CBN.com Contributing Writer

CBN.com -- I recently purchased another Veggie Tales video for my children. I think I enjoy "Bob the Tomato" and "Larry the Cucumber" (or is he a pickle?) as much, or perhaps even more than my children do.

Of course, I am of the opinion that computerized vegetables will lead Christian artists into the 21st century.

"Hold it," you're saying. "Stop the music (to do it right you need to use a thick British accent and sport a monocle). How will a bunch of silly, animated garden spuds lead the way?"

Veggie TalesWell, it's like this (now use a somewhat high-pitched voice with a slight lisp). Phil Vischer and his mad-capped band at Big Idea Productions, creators of Veggie Tales, have become very successful in their computerized, countertop world. Whether it's a giant fib from outer space who grows with every lie -- an asparagus who saves the "USS Apple Pies" -- or a dancing cucumber, singing in Spanish and taunting a tomato who can't dance or sing -- Veggie Tales is art that has captured the attention of both the Christian and secular world.

So what is the big idea? What is it that the Veggie Bunch is doing right that other Christian artists should be running through their salad shooters?

A positive message -- The days of Christian artists being confined to painting religious frescos in the chapel have long since passed. Don't get me wrong -- all Christians are called to evangelize. But not every Christian is called to be an evangelist.

Do we expect our dentist to share Christ with every patient? -- "Gargle, spit, and repeat this prayer after me."

Should a police officer read the four spiritual laws before reading a criminal his or her rights?

Why then do we, in the Church, expect that every artist should be required to be an evangelist? What is wrong with good, old- fashioned art for art's sake?

I believe excellent art reflects Christ just as much as an excellent lifestyle.

If the Church would give Christian artists some grace, and a market, we would begin to see art that would rival and exceed anything the world is producing.

Besides, it is usually a person that leads someone to Christ, isn't it -- not a song, painting, or even a tomato (which, as my 7-year-old son explained to me, is technically not a vegetable -- but we won't let the Big Idea people know that we know that).

3-2-1 Penguins!Excellent art -- Through the centuries, Christian artists mirrored the excellence of God's creation by producing great art. In the late 19th century, however, Christians were taught a distortion of the Gospel message when preachers implored them to "come out from them and be ye separate." In all spheres of influence Christians were encouraged to separate themselves from the sinful world.

Instead of shining the light, many Christians were hiding it under a basket and casting stones.

As a result, at the dawn of such powerful technologies as radio, motion pictures and television, Christian artists had excused themselves from the table. A shift by Christians back to artistic excellence began in the 1960s, but we have a long way to go to compete once again with the world.

The good news is that it is happening -- in music, literature, film, television, video, and yes, even the Internet, it's happening.

State-of-the-art technology -- In order to present a credible message, Christian artists must be willing to purchase and utilize cutting-edge technology. The Gospel is the Gospel -- it doesn't need packaging. But art needs to be done in a manner that will attract people's attention.

We live in a media-savvy world. Christians must be sophisticated artists.

Good stories - Memorable stories, in any medium, are essential to conveying a message. Jesus understood this. Dickens understood this. Spielberg understands this.

In Amistad, a movie produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, John Quincy Adams tells a man, 'You don't know someone based on where they're from --you know them based on their story.' Spielberg is a master storyteller.

Veggie Tales succeeds because Vischer and his group are also master storytellers.

Veggie Tales has heart. Veggie Tales has passion. Veggie Tales is, in short, excellent art. Sure, it's art for kids, but it is art, nonetheless. And if adults pay attention, there is always an underlying message (and quite a bit of humor) designed for the parents as well.

If singing and dancing vegetables can succeed, just think what possibilities are available to other Christian artists.

I want your feedback. What is your favorite Veggie Tales video? Why do you like it? Why is Veggie Tales so popular? Send me your e-mail

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Craig von BuseckCraig von Buseck in Ministries Director for CBN.com. He is a graduate of Regent University's College of Communication and School of Divinity.

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