Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Theological Toys and the Beginning of Faith?

Okay, now I know I shouldn’t. I got some flak the last time I wrote about Jesus junk, holy hardware, whatever you want to call it. But today, not even looking for anything on that topic, I received a catalog from a company advertising its “75 years of fun & faith.”

Fun and faith sounds like a good combination to me, so I decided, in spite of the fake-smiling kids on the cover (the kids were real, just their smiles looked fake), to take a look. I found some things that were sweet and not too hokie, especially in the crafts for kids department – rainbow cross craft kits, religious sand art magnet kits, prayer box craft kits, prayer journal craft kits. All very nice stuff – the sort of stuff I would have loved as a kid – especially if working on them had meant less lecturing by my Sunday school teacher.

But going deeper into the catalog I found stuff that just plain gave me either the heebie-jeebies or a Pentecostal experience (I’m still trying to sort out which it was). Things like “God is awesome” temporary tattoos. I mean, I think I read somewhere that, “You shall not … tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD.” Oh yeah, I guess it was in Leviticus 19:28. So what kind of believe the Bible example are we teaching kids if we ignore the Levitican injunction? Especially if we use an earlier one, Leviticus 18:22, to support the condemnation of homosexuality?
Then there are things like “Build With Jesus” footballs, tiny plastic race cars with crosses emblazoned on the windshield, Bible tins filled with cross shaped mints, and ”Walking with Jesus” flip flop accessories. Aren’t these somehow covered in by the biblical injunction “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain?” These things seem pretty much doing that to me.

If I was the purveyor of this stuff, I’d be pretty worried about the second part of that verse, “… for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

The vain part, I think, comes in two very distinct ways – one, the commercialization of spiritual experience and two, the trivialization of spiritual experience. These are not satirical products – they are serious. The satirical I can take – for one they remind me not to bend my experience of faith into what is normative for all experiences of faith and to respect the experiences of others. But how can we teach our children Godly reverence by using “religious goldtone coin medals” embossed with praying hands or “mini-religious yo-yos”? Do we need such cheap “fun” things to introduce kids to the amazing experience of God? I guess I’ll go ask my “Magic Bible 8-Ball” for the answer.


PS I made the last one up…


cath said...

Brent, do not diss the Magic 8 Ball, you never know who and where it's friends are. :)

Anyway, I remember that my grandparens had a picture on their wall of the Last Supper which changed into the Praying Hands when you sat down. So, of course, all of my cousins and I had a habit of tring to find just the right level of bending our kees that would allow us to see *both.*

OK, I got us to bend a knee (LOL) but it did nothing for our faith.


Brent Bill said...

Oh, that's much cooler than the creepy picture of Jesus my grandmother had -- his eyes seemed to follow you around the room. And, knowing the stuff I was probably up to, I had reason to worry that HE was watching!