Barney The Dinosaur, The Myth Of Progress and Holiness

One of the, er, pleasures of being a parent to tiny children is the current devotion to Barney The Purple Dinosaur videos. The current favourite on heavy rotation is Barney’s Good Day, Good Night. Much of it is harmless fun and subtly educational, encouraging good behaviour mixed with a lot of gentle demythologisation (there isn’t a man in the moon and there are no such things as ghosts).

It also contains a song about how children are growing every day. One interesting line thrown in is how they are all growing friendlier day by day. A quick Christian retort to this would be that this involves a lot of post-Enlightenment mythologisation – the myth of progress, to be exact, and that this is totally inadequate. As one teacher put it, “Anybody who doubts the doctrine of original sin hasn’t taught a class of five-year-olds”.

But maybe there is more at stake here. The line also sits with values in the videos where goodness is taught by presenting virtually faultless children. Perhaps the producers don’t want to induce negative copycat behaviour. But it reminded me how refreshing it is that the Bible paints most of its heroes, warts and all. Only one is presented as perfect, and yes, by the power of the Holy Spirit we are to imitate him. Which is more realistic, the values of Barney or the Bible?

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