Headlines from First Thoughts

Monday, October 15, 2007

Jesus Doll

If you haven’t heard about the latest curiosity on Wal-Mart’s shelves, you will. After all, it’s just a toy. But this product has all the trappings of religious wolves. If the retailers don’t promote the product, the manufacturer is sure to garner your attention. Brace yourself, friends, for the arrival of the “Jesus Doll.” This toy is a talking Jesus designed ostensibly to teach kids about him and make a lot of money for the company.

I hoped that the action figure would go the way of all jokes. I actually received a promotional piece from the company (one2believe.com) asking me to ask you (they were so polite) to “take back the toy store shelves” in the “name of Jesus.” Yes, dear ones, this was a true “battle for the toy box” and the weapons would be your wallets, and of course, your sanctuary. I’m serious about their request; I just ignored it. Trying to follow Miss Corden’s maxim from kindergarten--ignore bad behavior--I saved the letter thinking that it would be a fodder for a humorous anecdote one day. Now the joke’s on me. Local station WATE and CNN Headline News have asked me to comment on the product. Apparently, the character will just not go away until Santa Claus has come.

What’s really going on here? Apparently, the company missed Jesus’ marketing campaign that he shared with the rich young ruler: “Go sell all your goods and give them to the poor.” This toy is another example of a company insulting the intelligence of the American consumer and using Christianity as a marketing label. The battle is not between G.I. Joe and Jesus. My concern is that the company treats Jesus as a product to be sold at the lowest retail price rather than a person who invites us into a relationship. The company illustrates the height of consumerism, commercialism, and materialism that has poisoned the witness of 21st century Christianity. The best way we can teach kids about Jesus is to learn the stories from the Bible, tell them using the God-given imaginations of adults and children, and share his story through our lives. The last thing we need to do is cheapen the image of the Son of God with another action figure.

Certainly there are toys I do not plan to purchase for Parker or Drake. This imaginary battle, however, is not waged over the selection on a shelf but the decisions made by parents when they realize that Jesus does not fit into a box or a brand. Instead of buying more toys, maybe we could just purchase a blanket or a pair of pajamas for the Christmas brunch. That would be money well spent and a story worth repeating: “I was naked and you clothed me.”

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