My daughter is a toddler. You know what that means? Endless amounts of children’s programming. To the disgust of my wife and I, our daughter has developed a little bit of a Dino-crush on that big purple dinosaur we all know so well.
Barney has become a fixture in our home. Our once peaceful abode is now overrun with Barney dolls (from grandparents, not us), TV screens full of children with major over-acting tendencies, and endless choruses of that stupid “I Love You, You Love Me” song.
If you’ve never watched an episode of Barney let me feel you in on the plot.
The show usually begins with a group of kids playing in a room or local park. You’ll usually see the Barney stuffed animal sitting suspiciously in the background watching the kids waiting to make his move.
Eventually, one of the kids will run into a problem. Typically, it involves one of the kids losing something, wanting to visit somewhere, feeling left out, or experiencing anger issues with the parent that told them that being on the Barney show would make them cool.
Before you know, Barney magically appears, springing into action to solve the problems and make the kids feel loved again.
Barney sings songs about shapes and numbers, friendship, and, most importantly, love. I know…creepy, right? I mean, he’s a purple dinosaur for crying out loud!
The biggest realization for me when watching Barney is that it is not real. Yeah, I know…Of course it’s not real. It’s a talking dinosaur. What I mean is that the interactions that Barney imitates are other-worldly. When does life really work like that?
I think a lot of people’s idea of Jesus is a lot like Barney. He mainly sits in the background while we go about our daily lives, watching and waiting until we have a problem. All of sudden, in a flurry of sparkles, Jesus the Purple Dinosaur appears to make our problems go away.
Jesus the Purple Dinosaur has no desire to actually change you. He simply wants to change your circumstances to something a bit more pleasurable. And who are you to argue? What else would a purple dinosaur that loves you unconditionally do?
Jesus the Purple Dinosaur also teaches us how to be good friends. Friends are great! They’ll say nice things to you when you’re feeling insecure. They’ll share with you when you feel left out. They’ll even remind you of how great Jesus the Purple Dinosaur is when you’re feeling sad. “Don’t worry,” they’ll say. “Jesus the Purple Dinosaur’s ways are not our ways. I’m sure he has a plan.”
Finally, Jesus the Purple Dinosaur really just wants you to know that he loves you. You don’t have to worry about a thing. He’ll always be there for you if you’ll just use a little imagination. Won’t you say you love him too?
Honestly, I can put up with Barney for a few years. What really scares me is that my daughter will develop an unrealistic expectation of how the world works and what it means to truly love people as Christ loves people.
Perhaps even more frightening is the thought that one day she will put her faith in Jesus the Purple Dinosaur.
In what way does our culture caricaturize real life?
How can we give our youth experiences that prepare them for real life relationships and events?
In what ways are you portraying Jesus as a Purple Dinosaur in your youth ministry? Personal life?
On a personal note: Does anyone have suggestions of good children’s programming?