Home Christian News VeggieTales Creator Phil Vischer Calls Evangelicalism a ‘Hot Mess.’ He Hasn’t Given...

VeggieTales Creator Phil Vischer Calls Evangelicalism a ‘Hot Mess.’ He Hasn’t Given up Hope.

“This is my family,” he said. “I’m not going to curse my forefathers. I think, for the most part, they were trying to do the right thing.”

Vischer argues that there’s always been a countercultural side to the evangelical subculture. One of his favorite songs in the 1980s was Steve Taylor’s “I Want to Be a Clone,” a sarcastic look at church culture. And among the early Christian musicians Vischer listened to were Keith Green, Larry Norman and the Resurrection Band.

“These were people who lived in communes,” he said.

During last summer’s protests against racial injustice, sparked by the death of George Floyd, Vischer released a video  that unpacked the history of racism in the United States. The video begins with Vischer asking, “Why are people so angry” and then tries to answer that question in about 17 minutes, packed with data from a talk on race in America that his brother gave at the Okoboji Bible Conference.

“The average Black household has one-tenth the wealth of the average white household,” Vischer said in the video. “This didn’t happen by accident. It happened by policy.”

The video on race — and others that have followed — was another step in Vischer’s evolution from trying to be the next Walt Disney to trying to be the best Phil Vischer he can be. That evolution is ongoing.

Until two years ago, most of his income still came from “VeggieTales.” But production on a Trinity Broadcast Network version of the show wrapped up last year and that might be it, said Vischer, at least for the foreseeable future. So he is back to the drawing board, looking for his next projects.

“Every year, I spend about six months making stuff and another six months looking for financing for the next thing I hope to do,” he said. “It’s can be frustrating but it is not a bad life.”

He does still feel the word “evangelical” matters. It represents a kind of Christianity that still resonates with him, one that owes more to “Christianity Today” and Billy Graham and his great-grandfather than to Bob Jones University or Republican politics.

“When I think of the word, I picture something different than most of the world pictures, and I think it’s worth fighting for,” he said.

What gives him joy these days?

“Making stuff,” he said — whether that is creating a show for kids about the Bible or writing songs or researching a video about church history. He enjoys the process of research and writing and then picking up his guitar and ukulele and getting to work. It’s been like that ever since he was a kid.

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Bob Smietana is an award-winning religion reporter and editor who has spent two decades producing breaking news, data journalism, investigative reporting, profiles and features for magazines, newspapers, trade publications and websites. Most notably, he has served as a senior writer for Facts & Trends, senior editor of Christianity Today, religion writer at The Tennessean, correspondent for RNS and contributor to OnFaith, USA Today and The Washington Post.