WWJD Bracelets, Veggie Tales, and Evangelical Culture

One thing about being evangelical was that you didn’t believe in any of those sacred objects or rituals that Catholics did. Evangelicalism was all about faith. Sort of. See, just because we didn’t believe in actual sacred objects or rituals didn’t mean we didn’t actually have objects or rituals. Have you ever been in a Christian bookstore? Have you ever worn a WWJD bracelet? Have you ever listened to Christian contemporary music? Have you ever played the Bible edition of Apples to Apples? Yeah…

I’ve done a fair bit of reading about evangelicalism, and one thing I’ve found very interesting is the problem of definitions. One scholar has defined evangelicals by their beliefs: biblicism, crucicentrism, conversion, and activism. Another defined evangelicals as “anyone who likes Billy Graham.” A third said something I found extremely interesting: evangelicals are those who know where to find a Jesus poster and who show their children Veggie Tales. In other words, she defined evangelicals by their religious culture rather than by their religious beliefs. Fascinating.

So this got me thinking. Because, she’s right.

First, Veggie Tales. So much Veggie Tales. I remember splitting my sides I laughed so hard watching them – and the adults liked them too, because there were cultural references hidden all over them. But they filled a specific function: the kids found them entertaining, and the parents knew that the messages their children were receiving were “safe.” You can think of Veggie Tales as a sort of evangelical version of Sesame Street.

YouTube Preview Image

And then there were the Bibleman superhero adventures, and those movies featuring three teens/preteens who went back in time and tagged along on Bible adventures. I can’t remember the name of them at the moment, but there were a bunch and the animation was awful. And then of course there’s Focus on the Family Radio Theater and Adventures in Odyssey, which was primarily a radio show but also included movies.

Next of course was clothing and accessories. There were T-shirts, oh so many Christian T-shirts! I’m not even going to get started on the T-shirts. There were so many. And then there are cross necklaces and earrings. Some people (though not us of course) got Christian tattoos. And of course, anyone who spent time as an evangelical in the 1990s knows of the WWJD bracelet fad. The idea was that wearing it was supposed to make you remember to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” and let that guide your decisions and actions.* These bracelets were so ubiquitous that I doubt any evangelical child made it through that decade without owning one. I once had a professor who continually emphasized how adaptive evangelicals were, so I guess this proves that evangelicals have adapted to the fad. Because fad it was, and a big one at that!

And then there are evangelical board games and card games, such as Keys to the Kingdom, the Bible version of Apples to Apples, and Bible trivia games. Bible trivia games were awesome, mostly because I was so darn good at them (and with all the time spent at AWANA and the daily Bible time and Bible studies, combined with my competitive nature, it was no wonder!). Keys to the Kingdom was a pretty hilarious board game, and led to demands such as “quick, someone give me a faith card before I get stuck in hell!” or “darn it, I backslid into the world, someone hurry up and save me again!” From the rulebook:

OBJECT OF THE GAME

(1) To become “born again”
(2) Through the Holy Spirit draw closer to God
(3) To love your neighbor as yourself
(4) To put off the deeds of the flesh and walk according to the Spirit

Also, I actually highly recommend playing the Bible edition of Apples to Apples, but not by itself – that’s actually really boring, really boring. Instead, mix the cards with a regular edition of the game and play it like that. Trust me, having to consider cards like “Goliath” and “Madonna” against each other is worth it. The combinations and possibilities are hilarious.

Evangelicalism isn’t just a system of beliefs. It’s a subculture striving to be a counterculture. It has its own music, its own movies, its own board games and identifying clothing. Some of offers a great sense of belonging and purpose (WWJD bracelets for instance), some of it does what it’s designed to do fairly well (Christian contemporary music, for instance), and some of it falls on its face (Keys to the Kingdom was good for a laugh more than anything else). But it was a subculture I belonged to, the subculture of my childhood, and there will always be something bittersweet about remembering all that. And really? I think that last scholar has a point.

What are your experiences regarding this sort of evangelical culture?

*Somehow an entire generation of evangelical parents missed the fact that their children were wearing bracelets representing an idea that originated with nineteenth century Christian socialist. But I guess that didn’t matter, since their children were clueless about this too.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    What about mixing the bible version of Apples to Apples with “Cards Against Humanity?” Now that could get interesting…

    The first time I ever got a glimpse of Veggie Tales was some time in high school. I thought it was one of the weirdest things I’d ever seen BEFORE I was told that it’s evangelical propaganda and then I was just like “Wow, I didn’t realize Christians were allowed to do drugs.” lol. This video brings it all back. And what’s with the 5 mentions of how embarrassing it is to see a cucumber wearing a towel? It’s not even necessary to the plot for him to be wearing a towel so having all that in there is just…awkward. I guess the overall message is that you should re-evaluate what you really need and give the things you don’t need to people who do? There are certainly worse messaages but still…so weird…

    • http://www.subparker.com Neal Edwards

      This. Is the best. Idea. Ever.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Yeah, I think I’m going to have to try it. I’m already imagining some of the possible combinations…

    • Rae

      That was my first thought, too!

    • escape-key

      Yes. Mixing Bible Apples to Apples with Cards Against Humanity is officially the Best Idea Ever.

  • http://campuskritik.blogspot.com Malte

    I wasn’t raised evangelical – I became one as a sixteen-year-old. But I *still* managed to be immersed in the culture (which, in Britain, is heavily dependent on and reasonably similar to the US original), wearing a WWJD bracelet and listening to CCM – albeit only for a while, until my musical tastebuds rejected it.

    • http://stuckinthered.blogspot.com Evelina

      Malte, I was the same, except I was 15. It’s weird, isn’t it? Definitely its own little world that seems normal when you’re part of it and then incredibly odd when you’re not. (I’m assuming that you no longer identify as evangelical, but correct me if I’m wrong.)

  • Cimorene

    My husband was forced to watch that same poorly animated movie series about time traveling teens when he was a kid. He says it was called The Greatest Adventure: Stories From the Bible.

    • Emily

      I remember those! The one about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being put into the fiery furnace was pretty scary.

    • Uly

      Enchanted Forest much? God, I love those books.

      /tangent

  • Cathy W

    When Daughter was around the right age, oddly, we were kind of into Veggie Tales despite being atheists. (We usually stopped the tape before the tomato expounded on the Bible verse of the day…) One thing that struck me as weird (or possibly telling) was how often you could delete “God wants” and “The Bible says” from the story and still end up with the same moral… lying and spreading rumors can cause harm to you and others; help people in need no matter what kind of silly hat they’re wearing; just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t make it right…

    If you are prone to earworms, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT expose yourself to Silly Songs with Larry – although if you don’t mind earworms, Silly Songs with Larry might be enough justification for the whole existence of Veggie Tales.

    • Christine

      The only Veggie Tales I’ve ever seen is a Silly Songs clip. When I expressed confusion over my husband singing the “Where is my hairbrush?” song every time he can’t find his brush (well… not every time, only every couple of weeks or so), he was shocked that I’d never seen Veggie Tales, so we found the relevant clip on YouTube. Given that our connection barely lets us watch videos at all, this is a very big deal.

    • RowanVT

      At the graduation party my program put on for all us newly minted veterinary technicians they played the video of the “Yodeling Veterinarian of the Alps” for us. We were all terribly entertained. XD

    • A Reader

      I watched so much Veggie Tales when I was little, and Silly Songs was my favorite. I live in a really conservative, religious area, so at school, anyone could sing any Larry song & everyone would know it. Their theme song (“there’s neverever been a show like Veggie Tales…”) was also damn catchy.

      • Mogg

        Yes, the theme song is running through my head right now! My best friend rejected Catholicism as a small child many years before I was born, and was isolated from any kind of religious sub-culture for decades. Nothing I’ve ever told her about living in an isolationist, evangelical sub-branch of Christianity has made her eyes bug more than my sister and I giving her a performance of our version of “The Dance of the Cucumber”. To this day, the only Spanish I know is because of that song.

    • BabyRaptor

      The first time I ever spoke to my boyfriend, we were in a group call on Skype waiting for a last person to play a couple rounds of L4D2. I said something about being unable to find my hairbrush, and he started singing the song. I knew I had to start talking to him after that.

      We’re coming up on our one year anniversary in October.

      I dropped christianity at about 17, and 10 years on still love those songs. They’re just addictive.

  • http://lotsoftinyrobots.blogspot.com Collin

    Along the same lines as Adventures in Odyssey, I listened to a show called Jungle Jam and Friends the Radio Show. I knew and still know most of the shows by heart and am only now starting to look back at some of the messages and laugh even harder.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Oh yeah! Me too, we listened to that too! Also, Patch the Pirate.

    • Danielle

      Collin, thanks for reminding me. I loved Jungle Jam and Friends. I would wake up early on Saturdays, but stay in my room so I could listen to the Answers in Genesis show (I think it was called Creation Science Update), then Jungle Jam and if mom didn’t come make me wake up I would get to listen to Adventures in Odyssey too.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Oh yeah, Saturday mornings! It was one kids Christian radio program after another. And that was when they always broadcast the NEW episodes of Adventures in Odyssey. I have way to many memories of eating pancakes at the kitchen table with the family with us kids begging mom and dad to please, please not talk so that we could hear the brand new episode on the radio!

    • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

      I loved Jungle Jam! I still have some of those tapes, and they’re even funnier now that I’ve been exposed to evil worldly entertainment and actually get all the pop culture references. :P I have a love/hate relationship with Adventures in Odyssey. On one hand, the writing was usually pretty good, and it was one of the most entertaining things that was deemed acceptable even at my family’s most conservative point. But I will never forgive AiO for that Dungeons and Dragons episode that, in hindsight, rivaled Chick tracts for sheer ridiculousness.

      Now, Patch the Pirate…kill it with fire!!! Mostly because of this song, which creeped me out even as a fundamentalist teen. (Trigger warning for blatant emotional incest) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMsEcFn8DK8

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I actually remember loving Patch the Pirate. Especially the Evolution Revolution episode, lol. My WORD. The way they portrayed the scientists as totally stupid, and eventually converting through the kids’ witness! They had the scientists sing a song about how they’re monkey’s cousins that included lots of monkey noises! I need to dig that up…

      • Rebecca Newman

        My sisters and I LOVED Patch the Pirate but our parents forbade our listening since they were against child evangelizing. When we discovered Adventures in Odyssey we’d listen to episodes on the sly, recording it every day and listening to it that night after we were in bed…Oh, yeah, we were wicked!

  • http://lotsoftinyrobots.blogspot.com Collin

    Also, I highly recommend the “Lord of the Beans” it’s the Veggietales remake of Lord of the Rings and is actually pretty funny.

  • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot JW

    I made my own trinkets back in the day. i.e. I took a nail and tied it to string and dipped it in red finger nail polish and used it as a necklace. I still have it and it looks like dried blood. I find it cool and a good talking piece if someone asks me about it. Is there something wrong with this idea of me doing so? I think only to those who have a disdain with what Jesus was and the mission thereof.

    I also used to listen to alot of ‘Christian’ heavy metal back in the 90′s. I still have the ‘tapes’ yeah , those old things. but I don’t listen alot anymore. Sometimes I find the lyrics a bit immature. I also have some CD’s as well but I don’t listen to alot of music anymore. I get music’d out. I don’t even have music on my IPOD. Just news apps and podcasts of sermons as well as more liberal ideology. Sometimes I feel as if my mind is going to blow up with the contrasting ideology.

    Otherwise I never went after what you might call the trendy stuff. I found it ridiculous and none of it focused on a persons heart although it gave the appearance that it does. I always used those trendy things against those who engaged with them by asking them pointed questions to find out what their game is. I always found those who were trendy gave me the usually commercialized lines along with their ‘stuff’. I never wanted to play that and those games because a person becomes robotic instead of authentic. When it comes to a religious belief if a person doesn’t have a genuine belief in God and that belief doesn’t show God to be real then they fool themselves and others see right through them. Trendy helps add to this nonsense.

    JW

    • http://stuckinthered.blogspot.com Evelina

      I was into the Christian metal & punk scene too. It’s funny to me how much it defined itself as anti-trendy and yet was totally trendy.

  • http://standardspicywhatnot.blogspot.com/ Nome

    I was really not raise in any religion but my sister and I watched ‘The Flying House’ which was a time traveling bible cartoon. It was on afterschool and we only got a few channels.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/permissiontolive Melissa @ Permission to Live

    I was aware of veggie tales., but we were not allowed to watch it, because they changed the bible story too much from the original king james or something like that.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/permissiontolive Melissa @ Permission to Live

      Also the focus on the family stuff and odessey and what have you was too liberal as well.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I’ve heard of people saying they won’t let their kids watch it because making Goliath a giant pickle is, well, not scary enough. And the French peas guarding Jericho? Come on! Not dire and threatening and real enough!

      • A Reader

        OMG I forgot about the French Peas! Other than Silly Songs with Larry, they were my favorite part of Veggie Tales.

      • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com Ubi Dubium

        One of the first Veggie-Tales videos that my Fundie brother-in-law gave our kids was “Josh and the Big Wall” I remember looking at the cover and thinking “OMFSM, that wall looks like the castle in Holy Grail. Woudn’t it be hysterical if those peas were French, and hurling silly insults?” And when they actually were, we laughed so hard we nearly fell out of our seats.

        Then we took the moral of that story, “Do it god’s way, even it if doesn’t make any sense” and used that as a jumping off point for a discussion with the kids as to whether that was really a good idea. They decided that this moral was a really really bad idea, and I don’t think my brother-in-law would have been pleased with that result. (We also made sure to mention how they left out the part about Josh killing all the peas, and their pets.)

        But the Silly songs are still wonderful: “Oh we’re the Pirates who don’t do anything….We just stay at home and lie around…And if you ask us to do anything…We’ll just tell you………We don’t to anything!” Serious earworms!

  • Froborr

    My nephew had a tape of Silly Songs with Larry when he was a wee lad. They were most entertaining!

    I was quite disappointed when I found out what the rest of Veggie Tales was like…

  • Anonymouse

    My son’s babysitter plunked him down with a tape of Veggie Tales when he was 3. My son’s take? “Mom, this is really stupid.” I borrowed a tape of it, was turned off by the heavy-handed propaganda, and that was the end of Veggie Tales.

    • Noelle

      Heavy-handed propaganda? I don’t think we’ve watched the same ones. Rabid cheese puffs? Evil sporks who like cookies? It’s funny stuff.

  • Emily

    This video made the rounds via facebook when the 90s Christian kids were able to look back and laugh at all the corniness of the Christian culture of our youth.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iUU6jTqB6k

    I’m interested to see where the grown-up Christian kids of the 90s go with Christian material culture. From what I can tell, anything that smacks of Christian consumerism and overt Christian messages (e.g. anything for sale at Lifeway, and most stuff at Hobby Lobby, and movies by the Fireproof people) is WAY not cool. However, jewelry made by women rescued from sex trafficking in Laos is the good stuff. Greek orthodox icons on your wall are in, paisley crosses are out.

    • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot JW

      Emily
      The video you posted just feels embarrassing!! I don’t know if it is the song or the dress they are where or the whole thing put together. It leaves me feeling embarrassed for these people.

      I was in my 20′s in the 90′s and it was 1990 when I became a believer. I often went into the local christian bookstore to get a book as well as some christian metal music every few weeks. Never bought jewelry and only bought a shirt if I found it to be very creative and to the point. No flowers in it, lol. I eventually made my own because even the catalogues the stores had were awful for shirts. In 1998 My life took a turn and I went through some dark days and ran away from anything having to do with God. Fast foward some 14 years – although I am not involved in the church as I once was I still look for things to stir my soul in regards to God. I haven’t been in a christian bookstore in a LONG time but the internet becomes that bookstore but more for discussion boards and podcasts.

      I never heard of this fetish thing of wearing jewelry made by women escape from the sex trade or the Greek Ortho icons. Personally, I think the latter is silly but that is just me. How did you hear about this jewelry thing?

      • Christine

        The statement about jewelery was to make a point. A lot of people believe that materialism is ok as long as it’s for a cause. But now that they’ve realised that the t-shirts and bracelets and etc are actually a sign of consumerism, they’re moving to a different cause. After all, it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, unless, of course, the rich man bought lots of fair trade goods.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Er, I detect a false equivalency here. I don’t know a whole lot about the bracelets in question but, from what I understand, they’re the result of efforts to set up women who have come out of the sex-trafficking industry in a trade so that they can support themselves and start a new life. That seems like something worth supporting to me. I am not a flashy, ostentatious person but I do like to wear jewelry and the same can be said of many people. If you’re going to spend money on jewelry, why not spend it in a way that actually helps people as well? Consuming within reason is not the same thing as consumerism. Or do you think we should all be ascetics with no possessions at all?

        Why is there so much suspiction cast on the motives of people who simply desire to spend their money in responsible, socially conscious ways?

      • Christine

        Similar to how the Christians that most people are familiar with are the most annoying kind, the people who get the most exposure are the ones who forget that it’s about “if you’re going to buy jewelry anyhow” and think it’s a case of “everyone should buy this”. I admit it’s not as backwards as throwing out your old appliances while they still work well to buy the more energy efficient ones, but if you’re talking about it from a Christian perspective (stewardship and simple living both) it’s in the same vein.

      • Emily

        I would probably call the practice of buying/wearing products that support causes a kind of conspicuous consumption that sends a message about where your values lie: in this case, with empowering the oppressed/seeking justice. Other values include shortened supply chains (i.e. consumers feel a connection to the artisan 2,000 miles away, mediated by few middle men), handicrafts (not mass-produced goods), and international flair. It’s in the realms of social entrepreneurship and fair trade. Really all I was trying to say is that this is the WWJD bracelet of my 20 somethings generation who wore the WWJD bracelets 15 years ago and cares more about the stories (Jesus’, sex trafficking victims, our own), than about slogans.

        Here’s an example:
        http://www.eternalthreads.com/redthread/

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

    I love the idea of mixing the Apples to Apples cards. I had never heard of the Apples to Apples Bible version (I must have left the culture before this really caught on.), but now I’m a huge fan of the regular game.

    I’m also thinking that it might be fun to turn Keys to the Kingdom into a drinking game.

    And don’t these people realize the way these games trivialize their beliefs? This is very different from the icons and the Catholic sacramentals, which have been around for ages and are indeed a form of worship. Evangelical kitsch is mostly a marketing ploy, a way for Capitalists to make money by offering Christian games, books, and tv shows. It’s very different from Catholic rosaries and scapulars which are used in prayers. The WWJD bracelets may be comparable because they serve the same function as Catholic sacramentals–reminding Christians of their “calling.”

    • Emily

      I get what you’re saying about the fundamental difference between Christian games and media and Catholic sacramentals. Because of the emphasis on belief, evangelical Christians don’t see much physical stuff as holy. That doesn’t make it trivial, however. Most of the games, books, and tv shows are promoted as educational (t shirts are identifiers and evangelistic). They reinforce and educate the next generation about beliefs and this is taken very seriously. So, no, evangelical people don’t think games trivialize their beliefs. Playing Bible Apples to Apples isn’t seen as a form of worship, like, it’s a way to integrate faith values education into family fun.

  • Jenn

    I grew up watching the Donut Man. Basically, a group of kids would sing songs depicting various Bible stories or describing various aspects of morality. The format is actually almost identical to that of Barney, the dinosaur. I remember the main theme song’s chorus consisted of, “Life without Jesus is like a donut….’cause there’s a hole in the middle of your heart!”

    • ArachneS

      I remember that one! It would be on EWTN sometimes when I was 12 or 13. I was too old for it at that point, but it was when my parents owned their catholic goods store and we “home schooled” while helping run the store and EWTN was always on.

      I remember the wwjd thing being big with my older sisters youth groups, and my parents sold them in their store too. I never got one. They were kinda old news by the time I got to be a teenager.

  • http://sobersecondlook.wordpress.com xcwn

    Love the rainbow WWJD bracelet… though I suppose that its gay-positive vibes are unintentional.

    • Christine

      Have you ever heard of “taking back the rainbow”? I apologise for depressing you if you hadn’t, but short form: it’s quite possible that the rainbow bracelet wasn’t intended as gay-positive, but was done with awareness of what the rainbow often means.

      • A Reader

        I had no idea this was a thing. Wow I’m sad now :(

  • Lauren F

    I used to really like Veggie Tales too! I probably still would like some of them, at least. I agree with Cathy W. above that most of them are pretty a-religious (until you get to the end with Bob discussing the Bible verses or whatever). I do remember the first time I got *really* annoyed, watching I think something about St. Patrick? I know they were depicting Celts of some breed worshiping sticks – like, literally sticks. And it just seemed so amazingly condescending I couldn’t stand it. I had the idea that the series was trending that way in general, as opposed to the fairly innocuous “good behavior moral with God tacked on the end” that there was in the beginning, so I haven’t seen any of the recent ones.

    I got a bunch of people into it in college though. We’d sit around and watch the ridiculousness and laugh at the silly songs. I still like the silly songs. I have to teach some of them to our little guy.

  • smrnda

    I recall having a conversation with an evangelical Christian who was trying to claim that unlike Catholicism, Judaism, or Islam (or any number of religions) the evangelical strain of Christianity was NOT bound up in culture the way the other religions were, but this shows that it’s definitely a distinct culture that’s unified by a whole mess of cultural artifacts that have no currency outside of the subculture. In a sense, it’s kind of an attempt to build a culture, though the results seem (to me) forced a lot of the time, as if production was being rushed on getting more cultural artifacts out there.

  • Kat

    I think the W.W.J.D. bracelets definitely went beyond evangelical and even Christian culture to become a full-blown “90s trend.” Growing up, I had friends that did not practice Christianity that still wore them and said that to them the “J” stood for “justice” (which is cool, but actually I suspect they just wanted to be part of the trend…as did I, I was nominally Christian, but I didn’t give a flip “what Jesus would do,” I just wanted to wear a bracelet like my friends). Does anyone remember an old Simpsons episode where Homer threw his bracelet against the wall when he found out the “J” stood for “Jesus” and not “Geppetto?” I remember watching with my parents when that originally aired and cracking up like crazy at it with my dad and sister, while my mom tsked about it being “disrespectful” (all the while, trying her best not to laugh of course!)

  • http://www.seditiosus.blogspot.com Schaden Freud

    Ah yes, this brings back memories… Every so oftem my mum’s church would sit us kids down in front of Veggie Tales or some animated dreck that was probably Bibleman. For the teenagers, cross necklaces made of two nails welded together (more authentically pious than the traditional metal cross shape because the nails symbolised Christ’s suffering) and the abomination that was Creed were very much in vogue.

  • Falls Apart

    I’ve never been involved with Evangelicalism on any level. I don’t think I’ve ever actually known an Evangelical. I don’t know many Christians, for that matter. However, I have run into aspects of the culture. I listen to some Christian bands, like Thousand Foot Krutch, just because it’s good music. I did watch Veggie Tales as a kid, and still find them charming, for the most part. Pizza Angel is the only love song I can relate to…

  • Rosie

    I left the faith before this really got going, but I did listen to a fair amount of Christian rock when I was in high school. Petra, Whitecross, Stryper…ahh, those were the days! Later, toward the end of my college career, my friends liked to get together and watch Veggie Tales while *ahem* “under the influence”. Somehow I missed out on that, though, and only heard about it later.

  • Makoto

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but every time my friends and I have played Apples to Apples, it fairly quickly degenerated into snickers and boisterous laughter as couples and long time friends were using double, triple, and quadruple entendres with their answers. I can’t imagine this changing with a biblical version of the game – if anything, it’d probably be even worse, knowing my friends. This is part of why I love them all…

    • smrnda

      I love that game. It’s funny to me because everybody thinks they *know* how you’ll respond but you can always just go with whatever seems most out there and then try to come up with a justification. It’s like a game where you can’t win, but which is wonderfully enjoyable chaos.

  • Cristi

    Wasn’t there another cartoon called SuperBook? I think I remember watching that one. In the 80′s Christian culture there was also Psalty and Colby.

  • Elizabeth

    “Evangelicals are those who know where to find a Jesus poster and who show their children Veggie Tales.”

    I think there’s a lot of truth to the ideal that what people consume reveals their beliefs, but I’m not sure about the specific examples (or the ones that you give) being accurate markers of evangelicalism. I was raised mainline Protestant, and my parents were pretty careful about reminding us that certain aspects of evangelicalism didn’t match our beliefs (for instance, that we didn’t need to be “saved,” because we’d already been saved through baptism and grace). But I had a WWJD bracelet, given to me at a youth gathering for our denomination. I actually knew it was from In His Steps, a book my parents owned and recommended to me (I doubt anyone else around me knew the origin). We also had many religious or biblical games–we wouldn’t have purchased Keys to the Kingdom, but Bible Apples to Apples sounds like it would have been at home in our games cupboard. We purchased many books, videos, etc. from Christian catalogs or stores (mostly from our denomination, but also from some more general Christian sources). I think Veggie Tales would have been welcome in our house, though I haven’t watched enough to know if it’s overtly evangelical. And I had “cool teen” posters with Bible verses, though none that portrayed Jesus, I don’t think.

    I guess my point is that Christianity-related consumerism alone doesn’t mean someone is evangelical–it depends on what specific products they’re consuming.

  • JeseC

    Veggie tales gets a lot funnier when you watch it with a bunch of college freshmen. “Cucumber” jokes, anyone?

    • http://www.seditiosus.blogspot.com Schaden Freud

      Cucumber jokes are just one of the reasons why I never really fit in at mum’s church.

  • Ana

    Oh, the subculture! First, for us, living in a catholic country, we REALLy felt it as a counter culture. And also because here the more fundamentalist movement never took (I mean, try selling censorship only a couple of decades after our last dictator…not gonna fly) so what was left for good old evangelicals was to submerge us in their own “pure” subculture as far as they could. Let’s go down memory lane! (and sorry for any translation errors)
    When I was really young I listened to something called “Bia the butterfly” which taught the Bible Stories in song form. It was a whole set of tapes with a colorful butterfly on the cover, and I still remember some of the songs.
    Then there were the songs. Song is like a password among evangelicals, here: if you see someone singing in the street with a big-ass book under the arm, you can bet he’s evangelical. I spent so long listening to music, and it was such a “spiritual” experience, sometimes I find it hard to enjoy normal music because it doesn’t call me to do anything! And sometimes I still catch myself singing or listening to christian music. There were three types of Christian music: the tiny tunes you could sing to yourself at home, with only one or two lines (my grandmother taught me, for example, that saying Satan’s name brought his attention to yourself and the way to avoid it was to sing one of these. Also worked with nightmares, supposedly.) Stuff like “brother I love you, brother I love you, brother I love you because I love Jesus” or “Only three words I have learned by heart: God is love, lalalala”. Then there were the church songs, from the Hymn book, most of them written in the 50s (some people from church still remembered the first edition of the Hymnbook and how scandalous the songs were then!). These included the classics like “Silent Night” and “Almighty Grace”. Finally, there was the “Christian Rock”, which by the time I was in my teens was pretty common at Sunday: from Michael W. Smith to Hillsong, we played and sung them (the translated version, of course), and I remembered the thrill of going to a “retreat” and having all the worship times in the services from the latest CD that had come out from a big name. Oh, and if we were evangelizing and wanted to reach “the worldly people” we’d pick up the rap or hip-hop. And I still remember the POD fad, when “Satellite” came out. xD
    Oh, and the retreats. It’s great to be talking to my friends and listening to stories like “one time in the Scouts camp” or “one day in beach camp” and saying “well, I never spent vacations in camps, but I did go to the retreats…one time, I started a new bible study group and the Pastor told me I had to stop it and go play! And the other time, they almost sent me home because I decided to fast for 3 days, I was 10! Oh, and do you know “The Weakest Link”? I won “The Christian-est Link”!”. Of course, after a few years I knew the schedule by heart. The “debate” about drugs and alcohol, and the one about sex, and the one about being “out” as a christian (it’s so easy to debate when the whole room agrees!). The “revival” service, at night around a bonfire, where everyone was baptized in the Spirit, and the “celebratory” last one when you could dance to the worship music.
    Now, I was always a big bookworm, so the books I remember most fondly. I remember the saga about “Yuri”, an evangelical kid in Soviet Russia that played to all that yesteryear nostalgia and persecution complex evangelicals oh-so-love. I read all of my grandmother’s book collection, books like “The Cross and the Switchblade” (Teen Challenge is pretty big here, and I still remember when Wilkerson came here to talk. That man has eyes that burn!) and other likewise “Miraculous” testimonials. Then there are the magazines, “News of Joy” and “The Good Seed”, for children, being the most widespread. My grandmother buys them in bulk and puts them in random mailboxes and inside my schoolbooks if she can. xD
    So, yeah, I still remember pretty much the evangelical subculture, even if I was never fundamentalist. It’s pretty much like being an emigrant, speaking a somewhat different language from those around you, remembering different things. It gives you a fuzzy feeling when you find someone from your “homecountry” and can reminisce for a bit, even if you would never go back there.

  • Rae

    Oh, all of that –
    I had a WWJD bracelet, I was jealous of my friends whose parents bought them those cheesy Christian t-shirts that were takeoffs of pop culture, I remember dying of laughter when Adventures in Odyssey spoofed the Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast (even today, considering how few radio dramas there are, I still think that was an absolutely brilliant move), I remember the Pat Whats-her-name talking about why you should be abstinent, I can still sing so many Veggie Tales songs, the Focus on the Family magazines for teen girls that had a lot about eating disorders and modesty, the Left Behind kids’ books that were even worse than the adult counterparts and infinitely many (my mom got so sick of me begging her to buy them that she just eventually said “These are better” and handed me the original book), True Love Waits rings being much more desirable – and expensive, of course – than generic purity rings with hearts or crosses, The Prayer of Jabez and every other Christian book that got onto the bestseller list, the way that there were “kids” and “teens” and “men” and “women” and “couples” and occasionally even “teen girls” and “teen boys” and “college” versions of everything, Frank Peretti books, Thomas Kinkade paintings, and eagerly going through those newsprint magazines full of all of the above…

  • http://louisebroadbentfiction.wordpress.com Louise Broadbent

    I was raised Church of England and maybe it’s because a few of my friends started attending an evangelical church in their teens or maybe it just permeated all denominations of Christianity, but I definitely had a WWJD bracelet. I think I had a few, actually. And there was a different one – PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens) anyone else remember them? Oh and the Youth Bible. Did you have that? Had loads of case stories in it about teens facing challenges to doing the right thing.

  • Am

    Is this ridiculous or what that Pimps, Politicians and Powerlords are in the Pulpit and then their Prostitutes? Get Book, eBook and Audiobook @ http://zeal-book.com. 
If you were ever turned off by organized religion you will find the reasons why in this book! Please share with as many people as you can think of that might feel the same.

  • lucrezaborgia

    I have to admit, we cringed when we found out the foster parents of my stepdaughter are showing her Veggie Tales. I’ve only seen it once and I wasn’t happy with the moral of “never tell a lie” even when being threatened with death. Of course, Jesus saved them.

  • AnotherOne

    You know, my parents weren’t into most of this stuff, and they wouldn’t let us be either. They saw it as an extension of worldly fads and worldly youth culture. Basically, they saw it as evangelicals aping the “world.” So we couldn’t have WWJD stuff, and we had almost none of the Bible-themed cartoons, shows, etc. (Actually for much of my childhood we didn’t have a television set). In some ways I’m sad about that. Even though I see this stuff as insanely cheesy at best, and promoting patriarchy and other systems I oppose at worst, I still kind of wish we had been allowed to partake in it. As it was, not having it was one more way that we were deprived of taking part in a culture larger than our family. Our family became a cult of sorts, precisely because we were denied the ability to take part in anything larger. I think full participation in even an evangelical/fundy church would have been healthy for us. As it was, for the a large chunk of my childhood we withdrew more and more from the “world”–even AWANA, our church mission-focused group for kids and teens, and wearing jewelry or t-shirts with evangelical messages on them were seen as entry points into the world of peer pressure and worldliness.

  • AnotherOne

    Oh yeah, I meant to add that another facet of it was that my parents just saw all the Christian bookstore paraphernalia as stupid and unoriginal, and as a kind of hyper-sanitized version of larger pop culture. Which it is. But I wish they hadn’t been quite so insightful about it, because participating in pop culture, even its most unoriginal, copy-cat, sanitized form, is part of what binds you to society at large. And being severed from society at large has some pretty big drawbacks.

  • Pingback: You better get yourself together

  • The_L

    I was raised Catholic in Alabama, so I got the Catholic subculture and the Evangelical subculture at the same time. Highlights:

    - I still know how to do all the hand motions to “Awesome God.”

    - I had (and I think my parents still own) an Adventures in Odyssey video. It’s the one with the parrot and the lesson about responsibility, and frankly I think it hits the maximum amount of Bible-quotes-in-a-non-Bible-story that I can tolerate.

    - I saw all the episodes of McGee and Me and thought they were pretty funny. I was disappointed that the “My Life As…” series by the same author wasn’t nearly as good, though that may just be that some writing is funnier when you’re 5 than when you’re 12.

    - The only VeggieTales song I like is the “Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything” by Relient K. I only know it because of an anime music video using the characters from Cowboy Bebop. It was at least a year later that I found out that Relient K was a Christian-brand band, and VeggieTales was a Christian-brand show.

    - At age 8 or 9, I got my very own copy of The Answers Book. I don’t think my parents realized what it was, or they probably wouldn’t have gotten it for me.

    - I was an adult before I understood why Mom didn’t like me quoting those anti-evolution T-shirts. I still like cheesy T-shirts, Christian and otherwise.

    - We had a copy of Catechíc, the Catholic trivia board game. Dad hadn’t been to CCD since around Vatican II, and Mom converted to Catholicism as an adult, so I won both of the 2 times we played it. It’s still gathering dust in my parents’ closet.

    - I had so much cross jewelry–both the crucifix and the plain cross–you would not believe it. It was only as an adult that I decided not to wear those around anymore. A lot of them were classy, but some were downright ugly.

    - I got in trouble in Bible class at (conservative private Christian) school for arguing with the substitute. Basically, she said drinking any alcohol was a sin. I asked about Communion wine, and refused to accept that my parents were drinking grape juice, because I knew my parents wouldn’t lie to me about something like that. I got sent to the principal’s office for correcting an adult, and she was never hired to substitute at that school again.

  • escape-key

    I grew up at a small, liberal, Lutheran new mission church in liberal Minnesota in the 90s, and even there I am amazed to look back and see how much of the culture that we tend to ascribe to conservative evangelicals surrounded me. WWJD bracelets, playing the victim game and talking about our mainstream, liberal, Lutheran selves (90% of our town… okay maybe an exaggeration) as a persecuted minority, Christian board games and music at youth group (the Bible version of Outburst is a thing I remember)… Veggie Tales, although to a lesser extent. In my Sunday School years, I was actually quite ignorant of the existence of Veggie Tales until we visited some Catholic family friends whose daughter watched them. I knew it was a thing that the younger kids watched, maybe I was spared by being part of an age group that had just missed it?

    All this at a church whose pastor believed there was nothing wrong with abortion for financial reasons, who quoted Monty Python in sermons, and who believed that there was definitely something more than “friendship” going on between David and Jonathan. Not quite sure what to make of this all. As a congregation we were definitely more liberal than most (still ultra-liberal) Lutheran congregations in the area… is evangelical culture really so pervasive? Apparently.

  • Jessica

    My family is Catholic, but we watched VeggieTales all the time, and I’m certain that I’ve had at least one WWJD bracelet. Now, however, I’m a little too old to be watching VeggieTales (but I still love the silly songs), and my morality is a little more WWJKD (What Would Jim Kirk Do).


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X