Posted May 31, 2013
Written by: Michael Anderson
Most people are probably familiar with the show The Apprentice. It is not as popular as it once was, but what is interesting about it is the winner of the contest doesn’t just get a lump sum of money or a prize. Rather they get the opportunity to work under Donald Trump, who has been an incredibly successful businessman. You get the opportunity to learn the tricks of the trade under someone who has been there and knows what it takes to be successful.
“Justification? Forgiveness? Redemption? How can these great doctrines of the Christian faith – as well as others – be presented to children? Whitestone Media has found a way with their new animated series Theo. He’s an endearing (albeit animated) theologian who climbs down from the dusty ladder of his theological library to lead boys and girls on an adventure of discovery about Christian doctrine. And I recommend the series to the young ones in your care!”
– Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni and Friends International Disability Center
My name is Michael Anderson. I am on staff here at Whitestone Media and in September we released the first DVD of our animated series, Theo. We are all very excited about this project and it is a privilege to be working on it. I hope you will allow me to share my motivation as I do my (very small) part on this project.
When I was in second grade I took part in a school wide choir performance. I don’t remember much of the performance but I do remember singing a humorous adaptation of the song “Don’t worry, be happy”. In the version we sang, instead of “don’t worry, be happy”, we sang “don’t worry, get even”. It was meant to be funny and it was, every time we sang that chorus, I could hear laughing from the crowd. I bring this up not to be hard on my teachers. They gave of themselves every day to their students; they lived the exact opposite of the song’s message. But to a seven year old, who lives in a world that preaches self-satisfaction as man’s highest end, these words were dangerous.
We sometimes think of our beliefs as a kind of grocery list. An idea is presented before me, I weigh it independently and either place it on the “believe list” or not. This is overly simplistic because often the beliefs I have, shape the way I see the world and influence the ideas allowed on my “believe list”. Here’s a silly example, imagine Sally never learns that fire is hot. One day she sees Johnny jumping up and down shaking his hand forwards and backwards next to a lit stove. You or I might come to believe that Johnny has burned his hand. While Sally might believe that Johnny is practicing a new dance. Ideas are the lenses by which we see the world.
In my case, the chorus of that song we sang influenced the way I saw the world, contributing to an incorrect view. I bought into the lie that I should “get it while the gettin’s good” If someone wrongs you, get them back, if they owe you, collect, do whatever it takes to take care of numero uno. The more and more I saw the world in this way, the more that attitude was confirmed in me. But here is the big problem, this is utterly at odds with my Lord when He commands me to lay down my life for others. As I am being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, I am having to change my view of the world.
There is a great danger here, but there is also great opportunity. This is what excites me about Theo. Theo touches on biblical concepts like faith, justification, obedience, forgiveness, and much more. These are concepts that I eventually got around to pre-middle school, but how much more beneficial would it have been for me to be exposed to them earlier?
My great hope with Theo is that children would be exposed to the biblical ideas found in our episodes and those ideas would be shaping the way they see the world and their relationship to it. That is, I pray that their view of the world would be more and more conformed to that of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
No one knows what happens to a man’s soul in his last days here on earth. I am reminded of the thief on the cross to whom Christ promised paradise and I believe it is entirely possible that Steve Jobs could have come to a saving faith in his last days. As Steve Jobs’ biography is coming out, we learn more of his religious beliefs and they do not seem to be consistent with the core beliefs of Christianity. However, as a result of the fruits of his labor, God’s Word is able to go out into the world in new and exciting ways. In our case, Apple technology has allowed Theo to share Biblical truths to homes all around the world. For this reason, we are grateful for the work that Steve Jobs accomplished and grateful to a God who uses the labors, of even those who may not be His followers, to further His Kingdom.