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September 28, 2007

Rollerblading Jesus?

Rollerblading Dave Shiflett has a great piece up at the Wall Street Journal about the "growing phalanx of religious action figures," including a Jesus figure that "comes in several incarnations, including a football player, skier, roller blader and the best-selling 'Baseball Jesus Sports Statue.'"

While the figures may, as one toy company claims, remind children that "Jesus is with us in everything we do, watching over us & involved in all of our acts & activities," Shifflett notes that one can only too easily imagine "a play session in which Jesus is sent rollerblading past Moses . . . perhaps screaming 'Out of the way, you geezer!'" (As the mother of two sons who used to enjoy playing with action figures, I can easily imagine far worse scenarios--boxing matches between Jesus and Goliath, for instance, or Samson getting his head twisted off and fed to the dog.)

Chuck had a few things to say about "Christian merchandise" a few years ago in this BreakPoint. More and more often, he said, we are finding Christian underwear, outerwear, knicknacks, rubber duckies, and other tacky artifacts in Christian stores:

The problems with these "artifacts" is not that they are inconsistent with people's beliefs. It is that there is something vital missing from those beliefs: an appreciation of taste and beauty. . . . Pursuing beauty is as mandatory as the pursuit of truth and goodness, which is why aesthetics has historically been considered a branch of moral theology. St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and C.S. Lewis all wrote that beauty, like truth and goodness, has its origin in who God is, in His very nature.

On the other hand, Chuck writes approvingly of Christian action figures called "Holyland Heroes" that matched Biblical bad guys and good guys--David and Goliath, Samson and a Philistine soldier, Moses and the Egyptian Pharaoh--and which come with a booklet providing the appropriate story from Scripture.

The Holyland Heroes are "based squarely on the scriptural stories about men who responded to the evil around them as God led them to do, for the higher purpose of His kingdom, for their families and their country," Chuck notes. And, he adds, such toys "just might inspire your children to become courageous men and women of God themselves."

Personally, I'd give a thumbs up to the Holyland Heroes--but a thumbs down to a rollerblading Jesus. There is something sacreligious about the idea of a little plastic Jesus wearing skates and kneepads, sporting a football helmet or waving a ski pole. Can't parents find some other way to teach their kids that "Jesus is with us in everything we do"?

(Image courtesy of CatholicSupply.com)

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Kevin McDonald

The concern in this whole issue, and a plethora of similar others, is that context is part of the meaning of people and actions.

Portraying historical and religious figures within their context is honest and valuable. Representing anyone or anything out side of its relevant context is dishonest, insulting and (in the case of religious people and articles) blasphemy and heresy. This applies to Christian and biblical images and stories, as well as Hebrew, Muslim and Hindu. It applies to national images like the American flag and swatzka. It even applies to words, like yankee, n____, or yuppie. Even these can be used by some without disrespect, but have mean and demeaning intent in other contexts.

Such evils are thinly disguised as free speech to confuse the feeble-minded while providing cover for the evil-hearted. But it is not 'free speech' in any way. It is a mean, disrespectful, antagonistic, and destructive effort to destroy goodness by confusing one moral principle by distorting another.

Civilized people understand and respect the context as well as the people and the images. The few evil-hearted people distain and disgrace them. The many foolish and feeble-minded people are the ones that protect and enable such evil with their conflicted confusion, and worse, their heartless indifference.

This stuff isn't rocket science; it requires nothing more basic common sense with a base of moral character.

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