Sometimes Christians aren’t satisfied with the normal levels of scorn and ridicule heaped upon them by unbelievers. At least that’s my hypothesis. Why else would we go out of our way to attract more scorn and ridicule?
If you frequent Christian bookstores, as I do, you get a hint of what I’m talking about. Just look at the T-shirts. They’re awful. Tacky. Embarrassing. I saw one back in the Michael Jordan heyday: Jesus decked out in a headband, basketball jersey, shorts and tennies, slam-dunking a ball. The caption: Air Jesus.
I didn’t think anything could trump that for tackiness, until I saw the recent cover story from the Las Vegas Weekly, “Gifts that Blow.”
Jesus and Mary action figures, brought to you by Train Up A Child, Inc.
Now you can, as the Weekly put it, “turn … playtime into praytime!”
“What did people of the Bible look like? Scholars have debated this question for centuries, and opinions vary widely,” according to some promo copy on the company website. “Our purpose in creating Biblical Action Figures is to help children identify with the Bible characters represented, and to inspire children to learn the teachings of the Bible.”
For only $6.95, you can score any one of 10 action figures, including Jesus, Moses, Mary, Adam, Eve and David. The Job figure actually has boils! But, as cool as that is, I recommend going for Goliath – you get more for your money. Even better, with any one purchase, throw in another $4.95 and you can get a cute little angel.
I just wonder if anybody thought this out very well. How can kids learn reverence for Christ when G.I. Joe is busy putting him in a hammer lock? The plastic-molded messiah can only move his arms – while Joe has several moveable features. This is pitiful. “But you’ve got to figure Before-Christ toys just weren’t that exciting, either,” says the Weekly. The next version of Jesus should at least be able to cure a few lepers.
And then there’s the great and fun possibility of “Training Up A Child” into idolatry.
Theologian J.I. Packer notes that the Ten Commandments’ ban on “graven images” “also rules out the use of pictures and statues of Jesus Christ as a man.” While many Christians do use crucifixes and pictures of Jesus (most of which portray him as a very effeminate, pale and wimpy man), Packer argues, “there is no room for doubting that the commandment obliges us to dissociate our worship, both in public and private, from all pictures and statues of Christ, no less than from pictures and statues of his Father.”
Likewise, the experienced old demon, Uncle Screwtape, in C.S. Lewis’ incomparable masterwork, “The Screwtape Letters,” advises his greenhorn tempter nephew in sabotaging a Christian’s faith that he “must keep him praying to it – to the thing that he has made, not the Person who has made him.”
Now what do you do when junior has his little Jesus perched up on the window sill or clutching him in his hands, whilst saying his evening prayers? Is he praying to the magnificent Savior who died for the sins of the world or the diminutive runt that can’t even take on G.J. Joe?
And then there’s the basic WWJD question: Would Jesus make corny, little figurines of himself to stuff in children’s stockings at Christmas? While the makers of the toys would no doubt disagree (I can’t really see Jesus in Santa’s toyshop, painting the boil marks on Job’s tortured hide), I think just to ask the question is to answer it.
Jesus was very concerned about how he represented God on earth. He drew criticisms and scorn for standing for truth, confronting mistruth and never compromising in the face of – earthly speaking – great odds. Never would he risk bringing derision on God for anything less than preserving God’s very reputation, which his whole ministry did.
Not so Train Up A Child’s Biblical Action FiguresTM, as clearly evidenced by the fact that the Las Vegas Weekly packaged them along with gummy whips and handcuffs (for hungry sadomasochists, no doubt) and a smoking donkey that passes cigarettes out its, pardon the double entendre, butt.
If we really must bring scorn our way, let’s do it by standing for the grand and glorious doctrines of the faith – not playing with dolls.
Americans have been told for 200 years that drinking alcohol is bad news – but is it? “God Gave Wine,” a book by Kenneth Gentry and published by Joel Miller’s Oakdown Books, details what the Bible really says about alcohol. Get it at GodGaveWine.com.