Friends, I found this article on the San Antonion Express Webpage rather interesting and before I discuss my reaction I’d like to hear your reactions to it. I’ll give you a preview of my reaction: Disturbing on several levels. More to come. I am genuinely interested in your reaction and response.
American popular culture’s two favorite whipping boys — Wal-Mart and Christianity — have joined forces. The world’s largest retailer, on a trial basis, is stocking shelves in a few hundred stores (including a half-dozen or so in SA) with Bible-themed toys.
Made by Valencia, Ca.-based One2Believe, the toys include a foot-tall, talking Jesus who recites Scripture; battling Samson and Goliath action figures; and dolls whose accessories include “a Bible lesson (based on Proverbs 31:20), two cookie-cutters, a cookie recipe.”
If you don’t see a problem with that, good for you. I don’t either.
If you have trouble with this — concerned that the forces of Christianity are trying to capture impressionable minds and steer them in a certain direction — then you need to get a grip. Also, you’re right. That’s exactly what they’re trying to do.
Religion in America:
I am not a Biblical scholar, but I go to church. To me, church is a soothing place. In fact, I feel so soothed that I sometimes doze off. My favorite part of the Bible is that part where it goes “In the beginning, something, something, something God.” It’s near the front. You know what I’m talking about.
I’m the perfect example of blind faith; I believe, but I don’t have a shred of fact to support my beliefs. And while I desperately need to know why Orange Julius is so devilishly delicious, I don’t need any proof of anything to make faith work for me. It just does.
Faith is deeply personal, and most people don’t like to talk about their personal lives like that, much less hear about someone else’s. (I’m excluding 50 million MySpace losers from this, of course.)
That’s the problem with any mention of religion &mdash there are people who want to talk about it non-stop, and then there are the rest of us.
These religious hobbyists are the folks who wear Jesus on their sleeve and yak about religion 24/7. They don’t make things easier for anyone because they won’t shut up about it. (We get it. You go to church and you like it. Good for you.)
They’re yapping, and it makes a lot of us hinky, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t object by saying “Hey, stop with the Jesus stuff, will ya?” for fear of giving the impression that we’re anti-religion. And anti-religion people won’t object because they don’t want to be burned alive at the stake.
Add it all up and it creates a climate in America where religion is a touchy subject. That’s why there was a flurry of news stories over the summer that Wal-Mart, a corporation of Biblical proportions, announced it will carry the One2Believe toy line.
Why? There are never stories when Wal-Mart decides to carry “Chain Smoking Barbie” or “The Bratz Extra-Slutty Collection.”
Assume that Wal-Mart feels there is money to be made on this deal, or the company wouldn’t give One2Believe its corporate blessing.
Selling toys to sell Jesus
“We want our toys to be an alternative to toys that are more readily available in the market,” said One2Believe’s Josh Livingston, “and we want to promote values that build up children, rather than tear them down.”
“We’re trying to reach children at an age when they’re impressionable,” he continued, “and putting out a product that engages kids in Bible stories.” Poring through the Bible is daunting for smaller kids, so this creates an opportunity to teach those values through a hands-on, imagination-driven method.
For the company, the slogan “The Battle for the Toy Box” has several meanings.
It’s the first time a major retailer has flirted with the idea of selling faith-themed toys. It’s also a pass-fail test for this niche. If they sell, it’ll open the market for other similar toys from other manufacturers.
Typically, these toys are sold at smaller, independently owned Christian stores, so this opens up the company’s products to millions of potential customers. They will go head-to-head with the over-hyped, heavily marketed, possibly toxic toys of major manufacturers.
“We’re not saying there aren’t good toys out there,” Livingston said. “But we’re just trying to offer an alternative.”