Unmasking a Fear-Based Scooby-Doo Theology

In the last couple of years, my five-year-old son has become something of a connoisseur of animated fare. He and I will occasionally kick back and bond over an afternoon or evening given over to movies and/or cartoons. Our collective tastes range anywhere from SpongeBob SquarePants (on the lowbrow end) to theatrical releases such as Toy Story and Despicable Me on what I would classify as the higher end of the scale.

Trying as best he can to somehow connect the fanciful world of animation to what you and I would call “our real lives,” I have noticed that his observations – utterly lacking in guile – are becoming more and more insightful as the days and weeks go by. Sometimes, as the late Art Linkletter famously observed, “kids say the darndest things.” Other times, the things they say are the things that we should be saying to ourselves…and believing.

One of several fictional worlds that my son has chosen to study at close range is the baffling world (and brain-dead storylines) featuring Freddie, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and their talking dog, Scooby-Doo. If you were born prior to 1970, or spend any time at all watching The Cartoon Network or Boomerang, chances are that these savvy, go-getter junior crimefighters need no introduction whatsoever. Just one of several animated series produced by the legendary production team of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? not only asks us to suspend our disbelief that a bunch of teenagers would quickly solve crimes that have baffled local law enforcement for years, but that these successful sleuths would always wear the exact same clothes wherever they go. Then, of course, there’s the small matter of the title character being, as noted above, a large talking dog (and one who competes with Shaggy for pizzas, milk shakes and Scooby Snacks, at that).

Just this past week, after a couple of episodes had been screened, our son wondered aloud as to why Shaggy and Scooby-Doo are seemingly always terrified, constantly afraid of what might happen next, in stark contrast to the bravery exhibited by Freddie and the rest of the Mystery Inc. gang. Eli turned to his college-aged sister, hoping she could help him understand: “Why are Shaggy and Scooby-Doo always scared? Don’t they know that God is always with them?” As a parent or older sibling, the typical response is to attempt to answer a child’s simple questions quickly and rationally, even when the question is completely illogical: “Why is this crime-solving talking dog always so scared?” On this particular occasion, his sister offered the plausible explanation that maybe Shaggy and Scooby didn’t know about God, and this is why they are always afraid, to which Eli promptly ratcheted his concern/indignation up a notch: “WHAT?! How can anyone not know God?”

As adults, we are endlessly amused by stories such as this, the aw-shucks cuteness of a small child’s as-yet-untested faith in an all-powerful, all-loving and all-good God, a God Who wisely ordered the physical creation and Who sits enthroned above the heavens, completely in control over all that occurs within His universe. Secure in the knowledge that God is good, and that everything that happens to us is ordered and controlled by Him for our best interest (Romans 8:28), a simple childlike faith in the goodness of God – and the idea that surely everyone knows this God – is something that is able to stop the most hardened adult in his or her tracks and cause us to reconsider.

Most of our problems, I am convinced, stem from a hard-heartedness that refuses to allow the most basic truths about God to penetrate our inmost beings. In my life, this shows itself to be true simply by the number of times that fellow believers have interceded in my latest episode of craziness and drawn me back to the well of the most simple, Gospel 101 truths about Who God is, who we are, and how He loves us and gives Himself up for us as an atoning sacrifice. “God is good.” (Exodus 34:6-7) “God is sovereign over all creation.” (Isaiah 46:9-11) “God knows the plans He has for your life.” (Jeremiah 29:11) “God loves you deeply.” (John 3:16)

While the storylines, dialogue, music, and animation technique behind most of the Hanna-Barbera ouvre is decidedly cut-rate, and several notches below what modern audiences have come to expect, I suppose I should be grateful to Shaggy and Scooby for provoking this question out of my five-year-old and casting a harsh light on my own heart of unbelief. When our daughter told my wife and I about this recent exchange, my first response was to smile. My second response was to wonder what our son might say to me if I were ever to articulate to him the various fears and uncertainties that dominate my own thought life. “Dad, you are acting just like Shaggy and Scooby. Don’t you know that God is always with you?”

Yes, I do, son. I do believe. Still, I must forever look to Jesus to help me with my unbelief (Mark 9:24). And thank you, by the way, for the helpful/flattering comparison to Scooby-Doo at his most cowardly; it really does serve to help me set my own fears in the proper perspective.

Matthew 8:26
And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Matthew 14:28-33
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 16:5-9
When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?”

Matthew 17:14-20
And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Mark 4:35-40
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

John 14:8-9
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

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