When Jesus is a Cartoon

By Kara Murphy published at Highlands Ministries

A Cartoon Jesus in Children's Bible StoriesChildren’s Bible Stories

In the Sunday school classrooms in which I taught years ago, each weekly lesson had a main idea that we repeated over and over. Platitudes such as “God loves me,” “I am special to God,” and “We are kind to one another” filled the teacher’s manual. Curiously, we did not see “God is angry at the wicked every day.” Unfortunately, twentieth century American Christians more often take our cues from Frobel and Montessori than from the Word of God. If we are to train up a generation of God-fearing Christians, we must change both the methods and content of what we teach our children. Yet, how can we communicate the immensity of the Word of God without overwhelming our little people? There is a tension between simplifying complex concepts and trivializing life-changing doctrines of the faith.

We must begin by choosing our children’s Bible story books carefully. As a former editor, I have had the opportunity to evaluate dozens of new Bible story books. Frankly, most are abysmal. Before choosing a children’s Bible story book, look to see if the writer uses words like “sin” and “judgment.” If the illustrations pass your family standards, be sure to emphasize that they are an artist’s representation of a real story.

We must fight against the “cartoon-ization” of the Bible and its message. Although there is nothing wrong with the medium of animation per se, if our children do not understand the difference between the account of Jonah and the story of Nemo, we will continue to see the generational breakdown that has characterized the last few generations of American Christianity.

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