SpongeBob Phobia

The phones were ringing off the hook one morning at the public relations firm where I worked several years ago. The Associated Press had just filed a story that Jerry Falwell, our client, had “outed” Tinkie Winkie, the purple Telletubbie.

Falwell’s Liberty Journal had run a seemingly harmless news item about major mainstream dailies that had over the years acknowledged that the homosexual community had embraced the purple character that carried a purse as its own. AP had interpreted this as Falwell outing the Telletubbie.

This is the kind of story that you simply laugh about, perhaps issue a statement, and let it go away. Don’t give it another day of air. That’s the advice we gave, but Jerry has never met an interview he can walk away from, so he appeared on the Today Show and other major programs to explain how he hadn’t really said Twinkie Winkie was gay, etc. etc.

You may remember the cartoons and much laughter that followed. Actually, I still laugh about it.

So now it is James Dobson’s turn. Last week at an inaugural week event in Washington he picked up the refrain started by Don Wildmon’s American Family Association about a new video to be distributed to 61,000 schools across the nation in which AFA says homosexual activists are using popular children’s TV characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Barney the dinosaur to surreptitiously indoctrinate young children into their lifestyle.

The headlines are Twinkie Winkie-like. “It takes a sponge to brainwash a child,” a NY Times columnist chided.

Welcome to Washington, Dr. Dobson. It is probably wise for evangelical leaders to stay away from children’s characters, particularly if they intend to be politically active. Politics is mean and ugly. If Dobson had made the same comments a few months ago, before he began issuing political ultimatums, it would have gone unnoticed. He is now finding what Jerry Falwell has experienced for years: a conservative evangelical who becomes a political player is open season.

Maybe Dobson should have stayed out of politics, the Wesley Blog says.

Sonspot suggests that the Dobson vs. Squarepants pairing could have been avoided. He writes:

“Why bring up the cartoon at all since it’s only the vehicle for the message that is at issue. This only makes Christians look like a bunch of paranoid fuddy-duddys.

What needs to be answered is This: How can we protect our children from being presented with a view that homosexuality is a normal variation in man like skin color or height? Answer: We can’t. That particular train has left the station. Our children are going to get presented that message somehow, somewhere. What do we do then? Approach this the same way you approach the teaching of evolution, drugs, sex etc. Give the children a solid knowledge of the Bible and pray, a lot.”

The We Are Family Foundation (from the song We Are Family) is trying to start a We Are Family Day, on March 11. Here’s more on the We Are Family CD that will be sent to the schools, which involves SpongeBob and many other characters. Evidently something in the school lesson plan will direct participants to this online Tolerance Pledge.

It reads:

Tolerance is a personal decision that comes from a belief that every person is a treasure. I believe that America’s diversity is its strength. I also recognize that ignorance, insensitivity and bigotry can turn that diversity into a source of prejudice and discrimination.

To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.

AFA says the objective of the school program is to get children to the foundation’s website, “and there they’re given the full pitch about homosexuality.” Here’s the Website. I don’t see any pitch for homosexuality.

All in all, I’d rather my kids would spend the time working on their reading comprehension. But I haven’t seen anything yet that would make me worry about SpongeBob and his cohorts. Perhaps AFA has more evidence, or they may be over-reacting.

And once again, with Dobson now in the lead, we just look like a bunch of “krabby patties.”

–James Jewell

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About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
This entry was posted in Cartoons, Christianity, Evangelicals, Family, Jim Jewell, Leaders, Public relations and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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