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Last Friday, Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby and Pokey, passed away at the age of 88.  It was only while reading the report of his death that I learned that Clokey was also responsible for some other clay animation characters that I vividly remember from my childhood.  The success of “The Adventures of Gumby” in the 1950s led officials from the United Lutheran Church in America to approach Clokey with an invitation to join them in producing a Christian-themed, children’s television series using his highly successful stop-motion animation techniques.  The result was “Davey and Goliath.”  On those few occasions when illness kept me home from church services on Sunday mornings when I was a child, one of the upsides was the rare opportunity to watch an episode of Davey’s adventures with his talking dog named Goliath.  Yeah, I know: too sick for church, but quite well enough to watch tv!  Whatever.  You did it, too, I’m sure! 

Even at that young age, I recognized that “Davey and Goliath” was different from the other children’s programming that I watched.  While certainly not “preachy,” the storylines included lessons about behavior, attitudes, and treatment of others that sounded a lot like the things we talked about in Sunday School.  I was too young, however, to pick up on the fact that the music at the beginning of the show was Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

Clokey’s passing gave me an opportunity to reflect on those who have contributed their creative, artistic, and technical abilities in order to communicate, illustrate, and “bring to life” the message of Scripture and share lessons about Christian ethics and morality.  These efforts range from the Sistine Chapel to VeggieTales (i.e., Michelangelo to Mr. Lunt).  Do you remember the illustrated Bible story books that used to be found in doctors’ and dentists’ offices?  Flannelgraphs?  Flip charts?  Film strips?  Then came materials on VHS, and now DVD.  Recently, there have been successful, church-funded and produced films like Facing the Giants and Fireproof.   Many of us can remember when Hollywood spent millions to put Biblical epics on the big screen.  I recall a teenager excitedly asking my father one day if he had seen Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments.  “No,” Dad replied, “I haven’t.  But, I read the book!”  That’s my Dad!

To the great artists of ages past, the teachers’ workroom coordinators of the present, those who paint murals, those who “puppet,” those who cut and paste,  those who “cartoon,” those who produce feature films, and those who use computer animated vegetables to teach us Biblical truth: Thank you!  Thank you for helping us “see” what the Holy Spirit has revealed in Scripture.

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January 2010