PAW Patrol and the Gospel??
Everything we watch and read and listen to and play with helps shape us in some way. Culture all around us inevitably affects what and how we think; I recently had to write an essay for my study course thinking Christianly about some aspect of culture and I chose PAW Patrol. I hope what follows is a helpful summary of some of my essay, useful for parents as you think about how to help bring Jesus into the conversation when thinking about Ryder, Chase and the rest of the team.
1. A danger to be aware of PAW Patrol was created by a toy company as a means of them selling lots of toys and merchandise etc. Now clearly there is nothing inherently wrong with having PAW Patrol toys but we want to help children from the earliest age see that ‘life does not consist in an abundance of possessions’ (Luke 12:15) but that true life and true satisfaction are found in Jesus and him alone. The prevalence and ubiquity of PAW Patrol stuff means this is an area to be on our guard about but it provides a great opportunity to begin discussions about contentment and the place of worldly possessions.
2. The theme of rescue
Rescue is a clear theme in PAW Patrol. This is great on a number of fronts. Firstly, unlike many shows for toddlers, PAW Patrol acknowledges that the world is broken - even if it is only on the smallest scale, each episode recognises a problem. This provides a great way-in to talk about the brokenness and sin in the world, a world where things go wrong is not the world that God created but that it is not beyond rescue. Secondly, each episode kind of follows a similar pattern to the overall story of the Bible. Creation - things are great - all’s well in Adventure Bay. Fall - things are bad - a problem arises that needs solving. Redemption - things are fixed - the pups rescue the situation. Restoration - everything is put right - Adventure Bay is safe and happy again. The high point in each episode is the Rescue, the redemption - so it is with the Bible’s story, the high point is our rescue at the cross. Again, this provides a way to help connect what the kids are watching with the gospel message we want them to believe. Yes the gospel offers a far bigger problem of sin and death but also promises a far better rescue and most importantly, a far better rescuer.
One of the key differences though to point out though is that Jesus’ rescue is sacrificial - a theme that is not often explored in PAW Patrol, and how Jesus’ rescue is entirely down to him and him alone. He does not rely on man- (or puppy?!) -made technology to fix the issue - it’s he himself who does this. We can use this kind of thinking to help show kids that the one to whom we “yelp for help” is not merely a puppy with a civic duty and a technologically suped-up kennel, but a personal God who loves and cares for individuals and calls people, even toddlers, into relationship with himself.
3. The teamwork
PAW Patrol involves the whole team in rescuing Adventure Bay, each of the pups with their different skills and abilities but working together to serve and help others. I think this is a good metaphor for how church should be - unity and diversity with a bigger purpose than itself. And the wonderful thing is that, unlike the pups that, in a sense, have to be the rescuers to justify their own existence; we can be those who really do seek to good to others purely because we have been so loved by Jesus. This way we can encourage such virtues without them becoming moralistic.
Those are just a few thoughts that I hope might help you think a little bit about how the good news of Jesus affects something, even as simple as PAW Patrol. All TV/films/books/music show elements of God’s grace, whilst also distorting and twisting God’s truth into something that is not praiseworthy. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to think about unpicking some of these things and seeing how the good news of Jesus tells a better story that connects and challenges some of the things we enjoy in our culture.
If you want to chat about any of this sort of stuff, please do get in touch. There are also some great resources that I would recommend (I have a copy of both books and would be happy to lend!): Plugged In - Daniel Strange