The Berenstain Bears are Christian November 26, 2008

The Berenstain Bears are Christian

Just looking at these actual book covers, I now feel like my childhood was somehow tainted… who knew the Berenstain Bears were evangelical Christians?

The books are selling quite well, with over 100,000 copies sold since their release on September 30th.

Mike Berenstain, who has authored the Berenstain books with his mother Jan (his father Stan passed away in 2005), said the family has had an interest in doing faith-based books for some time. “For many years, we’ve received requests from folks from traditional, religious families who liked the values in our books,” he said. These fans wanted additional titles that were more specifically religious. A couple of years after the authors moved their frontlist general-market publishing exclusively to HarperCollins in 2005, the idea for the faith-based books became reality through Harper’s Zonderkidz subsidiary. (Original publisher Random House continues to sell backlist titles.)

Eight more religiously-themed books are in the works as part of the “Berenstain Bears Living Lights” series.

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  • Yeah, but Yogi Bear is a Hindu.

  • Well, atheist that I am, I still can’t argue with the premise of the last title.

    Why does mamma bear always look like she’s ready for bed?

  • Kate

    I agree – can’t argue with the last title.

    However, I’m intrigued that as many of those books as I read, I’ve NEVER seen any of those covers. Perhaps my mom did a bit of selective choosing? 😉

  • Siamang

    As a parent of a kid who loves these books, I can say that these titles aren’t ones you run across in libraries and bookstores and classrooms. I think you have to go to religious bookstores to find them.

    They’re pretty moralizing books anyway. But my daughter likes that side of them… she likes watching brother and sister bear get busted.

    I’ve never read her a religious themed one. In fact, I’ve only seen one, called “Berenstain Bears and the BIG QUESTION.” That one alone is enough to make just about anyone an atheist, since it never gives any specific questions or answers, but intones with lots of knowing looks by the characters that the REALLY BIG QUESTIONS are the ones that you get answered at Church!

    RIGHT! Church is all about STRAIGHT ANSWERS, right gang? Can I get a hollaback?

  • How is the Golden Rule Christian? Or even religious?

  • Ian

    Every religion preaches the golden rule – Christianity just really loves quoting it from Jesus.

    I think I have seen these books in bookstores, my (atheist) girlfriend was appalled, but from that news story quote it looks like they’re a recent addition to the Bears’ line of books.

  • Further proof that bears are the #1 threat to America.

  • grazatt

    I didn’t think bears even had souls! Why do they need to go to church?

  • Jim

    How is the Golden Rule Christian? Or even religious?

    In general, it’s not. But in this particular case, the quotation on the cover is from the bible.

  • Suggested titles:

    “The Berenstain Bears Participate in a Boycott”

    “The Berenstain Bears Sanitize History”

    “The Berenstain Bears Are Not Descended From Apes”

    “The Berenstain Bears Spread The Word”

    “The Berenstain Bears Picket A Clinic”

    “The Berenstain Bears Support Israel”

    I’m making some assumptions about the type of Christians they are, I freely admit, because it’s much funnier if they’re “Values Bears”.

    So here’s a question raised by the “Sunday School” title. Was Noah a bear? Did he bring two people on the ark then? And regular bears, or no?

  • I’m not surprised because Stan and Jan Berenstain wrote this non-bear book back in 1971:

  • I’m surprised that anyone who read Berenstain Bears would be surprised they are evangelical Christians. Wasn’t that always fairly clear?

  • This bugs me as much as Spire’s Archie series did. Just plain wrong. The original Berenstain Bears books are packed full of good healthy values to teach children. They don’t need a pro-god message besides.

  • Oh, I forgot about Christian Archie! Thanks for the laugh….

    The Christian comics I remembered where the really awful ones from Jack Chick.

  • grazatt

    The Archie Christian comics were not a great deal better than Jack Chick

  • JimboB

    I used to love Berenstain Bear books…


    another childhood memory tainted…

  • Beetle

    I am glad to see them much more in open about their religiosity. There was always this weird undercurrent, what with them calling each other “Brother” and “Sister”. The books also have a less than subtle message that fathers are idiots. Not too long ago, my daughter came home with one of older books that teased Sister about how many children she would have, a game of “On the Way to Jerusalem”, and the parents supervising a game of spin the bottle. At least we only had the book and not the video

  • Shane

    The Berenstain Bears “Lynch Some Queers”

    The Berenstain Bears “Burn those Witches”

    The Berenstain Bears and “Father Moriarty’s Secret”

    Fun for the whole family.

  • And I always thought they were Jewish ….

  • Josh

    And I always thought they were Jewish ….

    Me too…

  • But Goldilocks was an atheist.

  • beckster

    I noticed a Baby Bear on one of the covers. Did Mama Bear decide to go off the pill now that she’s catering to the evangelicals? Are they going to be a quiverfull bear family and start homeschooling?

  • Our public library has several copies of “The Big Question” that they seem to consistently stock front and center among the paperback picture books. I think I’ve also seen “The Golden Rule” there.

    This looks like a newer series of stories? I remember the moralizing from when I was a kid, but not the god stuff. And we’d have had the god ones at our house if they were available, I’m sure.

  • MH

    “The Berenstain Bears Are Not Descended From Apes”

    Well that one is actually true. Bears are more closely related to seals than monkeys.

    I really don’t have a problem with these books, although I wouldn’t read them to my kids. I would read the other Berenstain Bears books to my kids. The book on strangers was actually pretty good as was the one on junk food.

  • Christd D

    Somewhere on my h/d is a picture of “The Bearenstein Bears go to Camp”, with the driver in full SS uniform and a big swastika on the side of the bus.

    I love the internet.

  • Elsa

    “The Bearenstein Bears Maul Some Youths”

  • llewellly

    Your parents were Jains, weren’t they? So they probably skipped the explicitly Christian Bererstain Bears books, and picked up those without an obvious Christian theme (there are several).
    My mother, a devout Mormon, didn’t skip any of the explicitly Christian Bererstain books (although when I was child I’m fairly sure there were only 2 of these), and I never mistook the Bererstains as anything other than Christian.

  • Jen

    What next, are the Care Bears Republicans? Are the Popples racist? Are the Smurfs heavily involved in child porn? What else can be done to ruin my childhood?

  • Loren Petrich

    As to “The Berenstain Bears Are Not Descended From Apes” I think that a creationist bear would say “I’m not descended from no weasel!!!”

  • Brooks

    Someone tell me I’m not the only one disturbed when kids do those Noah’s Ark coloring activity book things.

  • Anfractuous

    Good’s only good if it comes from the Bible.
    Those other books? They just cannot
    Explain our “real” values, as anyone knows,
    Because our salvation’s been bought

    By a guy in the Bible named Jesus, you know.
    He is god; he is lord; he’s the man.
    And he comes from his father, that Jehovah dude
    With morals just like Ku Klux Klan.

    So only that god-dude can show you the way-
    Subjugation of mom and of sis.
    ‘Cause nefarious homos have execrable plans
    In which atheist types get to piss

    On our “values” – paternal pro-marriage, pro-birth
    (That’s why Mama Bear has one more.)
    Other books would most surely present a world view
    Of godless stuff we just abhor,

    Like reason and goodness dependent on man’s
    Empathy – That Satan stuff.
    No, it’s prayer to the ceiling that we must implore
    Or us fundies go off in a huff!

    So we need us some books where the obvious message
    Is devoted to Jesus and god,
    That illustrate clearly some biblical scenes
    Where child rearing requires a stiff rod!

    (Yup, the pun is intended; I’m so bad, I know.
    I just can’t resist such temptations
    As poking some fun at those fundishy folks,
    For their serious sexual frustrations.)

  • meadowrue

    I’ve watched the cartoon with my kids and I’m not really surprised. I often found The Berenstein Bears so annoyingly preachy that I’d turn it off. They tend to hit you over the head with their message so I can only imagine how bad the explicitly Christian ones are.

  • Craig

    They should’ve renamed them the Born-Again Bears.

  • Drew

    The Golden Rule of theists is inferior to the Platinum Rule of Humanists.

    The Platinum rule is “do unto others as THEY would prefer done unto them”. In other words, find out what people want, rather than just assuming they want what you want.

    But then, it’s only natural and normal that something the religious claim can be improved upon by the non-religious.

  • Pete

    Looks like I am several months to late in this discussion. I saw these books in the bookstore and was quite surprised myself. The father of two young girls I have read every Berenstain Bears book in existence . . . several times each. I have been doing a little digging and though I haven’t unraveled this yet I think I have a few meaningful comments.

    For one, the reason you have never heard about them is because they are bran spanking new. Indeed, they were published just a few months before the original post. Also, I DON’T think Stan and Jan Berenstain are evangelical Christians, I think they probably are Jewish. There was never anything overtly religious about their books though there was at least one reference to saying bedtime prayers. What seems clear to me is that they have little if anything to do with these new books. Stan has been dead since 2005 and Jan is in her 80s. These books are being written by their son, Mike, who does appear to be evangelical. And finally, one thing that is clear from the original series is that Stan and Jan are not young earth creationists. I distinctly remember a moment where the brother doesn’t want to go to bed because he has just set up a battle between his Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs, and Papa Bear then remarks that it never would have happened because they were separated by millions of years.

    I love the Berenstain bears. Though one commenter above said they were always kind of preachy, I find their lessons a bit more down to earth and willing to see the world in shades of gray as opposed to the black and white of most children’s books (and Sunday school lessons). They always have these beautiful run on sentences where they qualify that perhaps something isn’t totally wrong but . . . or perhaps the blame could be shared among more then just brother but . . . My only complaint about them is the common one, that Papa is almost always the bumbling idiot who needs Mama to straighten him out. He is often worse then the kids.

  • Thanks for the extra info Pete. What do you make of their book “How to Teach Your Children About God”? (There’s an Amazon link in my comment above.)

    There’s a copy at my parents house so I can’t look at it now. I don’t remember it being overtly Christian but there was a Sunday school in the story. (Sunday schools aren’t Jewish, I think…)

    I guess they were religious, but not as extreme as their son as you surmised.

  • Pete

    Well, you might be right then. I don’t own that book but when I glanced through the Amazon page I didn’t see anything that identified it as distinctly Christian. But I can’t speak for whether the Jewish community has any sort of Sunday School. Perhaps they were Christian.

  • I think this might be a fairly new development/change of heart.

    It sure wasn’t like that when I grew up.

    In fact, it was the opposite.

  • Also, I DON’T think Stan and Jan Berenstain are evangelical Christians, I think they probably are Jewish

    You’re half right. I’ve read their autobiography, and Stan was definitely Jewish. He grew up in a very secular, assimilated Jewish family. Jan was from a Christian background, but I don’t know how religious she was (or is) or how they raised their kids.

    The series seems to have been hijacked by their evangelical son. As for their 1971 God book, it seems a bit spoofy to me. They did a similar one called How to Teach Your Children About Sex.

  • mario

    how come as soon as you know it was written by someone with more morals than you you say the books suck

  • Mario, first of all, no one is saying the new books “suck.”

    I am simply dismayed by the fact that a beloved series from my childhood is now being used for purposes of religious indoctrination.

    I have read one of these books: The Berenstain Bears and the Big Question. Despite the title, there’s absolutely no room for questioning. Here is a direct quote:

    “Now, Sister,” Mama said as she began weeding her garden, “all you need to remember is that God made everything — the birds, the flowers, the sunshine. They’re all God’s work — all part of God’s great plan.”

    In addition, Bear Country is portrayed as explicitly and exclusively Christian. No religious diversity allowed.

    As for morals, why do you think that religious people have better morals than atheists? What does belief in a deity have to do with morality?

  • Jess

    As a Christian, I believe the fear of god does well to keep kids in line. If you’re arguing that religious values hurt childhood development because they are a false understanding, then Aesop’s fables, Disney cartoons, and Mother Goose do just as much to damage to a child. If you are against teaching children religious morals then you must also be against the general values they contain, or you are fighting religion for the sake of fighting religion. Futile at best.

    Here are some rules that should be up for debate:
    Respect your parents, Don’t kill others, Stealing is bad, Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

    Please formulate specific reasons why you think this is bad for others before you blog about it and make yourself look ignorant. On a side note, do you believe all religious texts should be banned from public libraries? That would be the same kind of ignorance shown by the book burners.

  • PCS

    @Jess: I think it isn’t necessarily Christian values that atheists find so disturbing as the source of those values. (I don’t know this for certain as I am not an atheist.) The natural man cannot accept an eternal, sovereign, holy and righteous God. Instead, many tend to view God as made in our image, rather than the other way around, as the latter is much more difficult to understand. And a God made in man’s image would be objectionable by any practical standard, so I can understand what atheists are saying. However, it is my opinion that many atheists reject God because they have not really understood who He is or what His attributes really are. I think there are also more than a few Christians in the same boat.
    As the hymn goes, “God is His own interpreter.” And I say amen to that!

  • “Instead, many tend to view God as made in our image, rather than the other way around, as the latter is much more difficult to understand reconcile with the evidence.”


  • Simon

    I always thought they were Jewish…

    But, what annoys me is that it happened in the years just after the author’s death.
    Like he opposed the change (as one could expect if he was a secular Jew) and they waited until he was out of the picture to redefine the ‘franchise’, not very respectful.

  • Patrick Phillips

    I thought atheists were supposed to be more intellectual. And yet here they are crying because some children’s books show a different point of view than theirs. I thought it was religious people who can’t tolerate other views. After you’re done lamenting your sad childhoods and how it was all wrecked, maybe you should have an old fashioned book burning to make yourselves feel better.

    I see stupidity, intolerance, and most of all hypocrisy is not exclusive to the religious. Must just be a human condition.

  • FB

    So what. If you get offended by a book don’t buy it. Since when do we judge the world as of faith or no faith, or buy only atheist material.

  • CJ

    Wow! This was a huge surprise. I found these newer books by accident. I read most of the Berenstain Bears books when I was a kid, and have a handful for my son as well. I was just browsing around to see if there might be an anthology or something, and “Berenstain Bears: God Loves You???” So bizarre, as there was never any obvious religious connotations in the older books. I wonder if now they’ll republish “Berenstain Bears and The Truth.”

    These books always had such good lessons to teach, great artwork and neat stories. I wonder why they decided to cut out non-Christians from their readers, did we do something to piss them off? You don’t need to reference religion to write a story about dealing with moral or ethical dilemmas.

  • Eve

    I notce, that as soon as the father, Stan died, the Living Lights books started to appear. I guess it depends on how preachy you like your bears. The Living Lights books have a different tone. They are long winded, wordy ,and the illustrations are just illustrations, not spread out and broken up, as before. This new series is not as playful.

  • Brenda

    “If you get offended by a book don’t buy it” writes FB.

    That’s good advice. I went to the bookstore with my two sons to treat them to some more B. Bear books and found a whole shelf of new titles. As we have almost all of the older ones, we were very excited to find new ones to enjoy. We bought three new ones. At home, when I read”Faithful Friends”, I was flabbergasted by the specific references to the Bible. I’m disappointed that I purchased the books, but I won’t make that mistake again. Everyone has the right to believe what they wish about the existence of a God but I will not financially support the dissemination of evangelical ideas through children’s books. If I want to read the bible, I will. I am not interested in the “Berenstain Bears Go Bible Thumping”.

  • Lomgi

    “I thought atheists were supposed to be more intellectual. And yet here they are crying because some children’s books show a different point of view than theirs. I thought it was religious people who can’t tolerate other views. After you’re done lamenting your sad childhoods and how it was all wrecked, maybe you should have an old fashioned book burning to make yourselves feel better.

    I see stupidity, intolerance, and most of all hypocrisy is not exclusive to the religious. Must just be a human condition.”

    Sorry, but atheists don’t publish books for children titled “God doesn’t exist”.

  • Maggie

    How about a few atheist versions of the books to balance things out? Like “The Berenstain Bears Kill Millions Through Marxist Social Engineering” or “The Berenstain Bears and the Agrarian Revolution: Death to the Intellectual Class.”

  • Everyone seems to be hating that the authors paralleled their own beliefs in their books. Wouldn’t you? The authors are distributing books with a positive message. Why all the negative response?

    Not all Christians are the hateful lynch-mob that you all enjoy stereotyping to bolster your own bias. How would you like tasteless stereotypes depicting amoral atheists?

    Also, there is nothing wrong with homeschooling. The brief time I spent in public school was a depressing nightmare of mediocre education and half-hearted teaching. I know my kid will go either to a charter school or be home schooled.

    It’s sad that so many people seem to think that folks of faith (which is a personal choice, as is one to be an atheist or Buddhist or Sufi or Sikh) are all picketers and warmongers and judgmental pricks. My family is made up of atheists, nondenominational Christians, Buddhists, and agnostics. We all love each other, as should all humans love one another.

    Maybe my parents just taught me to be more open-minded.

  • Steve

    The problem is that they are indoctrinating children. Or at least helping parents to do so.

    Targeting religious books at adults is one thing. Filling the minds of impressionable kids with this crap is a whole different matter. They’ll just eat it up without reflecting on it properly.

    You can teach your kids good behavior and morals without resorting to religion

  • Audrey

    Susan B. Says:
    November 26th, 2008 at 10:43 am
    How is the Golden Rule Christian? Or even religious?

    The Golden Rule is Christian, because the bible says “Do unto others as you would have them done to you. It’s the way Christ’s love should be shown. That’s where it comes from 🙂

    Also, i agree with Tiana, So what if the author connects his books with what he believes in? Children don’t think about that. They love his books, that’s what matters. It’s a bonus that they’re learning good morals coming from the bible.

  • This is, indeed, a surprise.

  • Anonymous

    I remember seeing this at a bookstore and thought “they’re getting them while they’re young,” That’s some messed up Orwellian stuff right there. O.0

  • Anonymous

    I’d like to point out that the “Platinum Rule” has two immediate problems.
    1) People who follow it will end up being servants to those who don’t.
    2) People can claim that they wouldn’t want to be offended, and it is your job to not say things that offend them. An example would be muslim fundamentalists saying that your speaking of the “prophet” Muhammad in less than worshipful terms would constitute offense, and you should therefore hold your tongue.

  • CarolC

    “cut out Non-Christians”

    Ummm, it’s just some books, if you don’t like the subjects, don’t read, just enjoy their other books for everyone.

  • Carol

    I agree, I noticed quite some comments here that are hostile to the books, for “indoctrinating” children.  Those are just books, the books know it aims for young Christians, and the other Bears (secular) books knows that it aims for everyone. 

    No, non-religious may be more tolerant, but many of the secular users here somehow use “rationallity and intellectual” to be a mask to for hostility.

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