Last year, the news that a foot-high plastic Jesus doll that quotes Bible verses was being marketed to take on Barbie in America’s toy aisles during the Christmas season naturally got my attention. As religion editor of this magazine, I was fascinated with the argument that Barbie (and all secular toys, for that matter) was a bad role model for impressionable children. Barbie is a tart, an agent of Satan. Bratz, a kind of trailer trash Barbie, is even worse. G.I. Joe is a psycho. And My Little Pony is gay. But Jesus— or Action Jesus, as I prefer to think of Him— will lead kids not into temptation and deliver them from evil.
As you might imagine, the first retailer to get religion was Wal-Mart, which placed the “faith-enriching toys,” made by a California company called One2believe, on sale mainly in stores in the Midwest and South. Christian products had sales of more than $4.5 billion last year and business was apparently good for plastic Jesus last season. As The Virginian-Pilot noted in a headline, “Good Luck Finding Jesus: He’s Sold Out.” Nearly three weeks before Christmas, every one of those Talking Jesus Messenger of Faith dolls had been snapped up.
Well, I don’t care if it rains or freezes… Jesus vs. Barbie? No contest. Not if He uses his superpowers! Jesus can raise the dead. Turn water into wine. Feed the multitudes. Cure lepers and dropsy (whatever that is). Cast out devils. Plus He can return from the dead.
What can Barbie do? Shop.
Barbie can water-ski. Jesus can walk on water.
No wonder plastic Jesus was a hit.
Now, some may argue that Barbie has nicer clothes. Barbie has nicer hair. Barbie is hot. Barbie has action figure friends.
But Jesus could have nicer clothes if designers would give the Nazarene a whole new wardrobe! Plastic Jesus cannot seriously take on Barbie wearing that old bathrobe that He usually goes out in. No way. I expect we will soon see “Project Runway” meets “The 700 Club.”
As for hair, Jesus has always had great hair— even atheists recognize that. When have you ever seen any representation of Jesus in which His hair did not look good? He obviously uses a lot of product. Jesus is also pretty buff. He works out. We know for a fact that He walked everywhere except for a couple of donkey rides. The plastic Jesus doll looks a little like Chuck Norris, only smarter. Of course He’s smarter, He’s the Son O’ God!
As for Barbie and her so-called friends, who are her friends? Little plastic people. Ken, Skipper, Midge. These aren’t real friends.
Jesus has John the Baptist, Peter and Paul and his “entourage,” the 12 apostles. (OK, maybe Judas was a bad egg, but there’s one in every group.) Plus, there’s the whole gang from the Old Testament— Daniel, Sampson, Moses, Noah. Everyone wants to be Jesus’ friend. Ever hear the song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus?” I rest my case.
My biggest concern now is that the manufacturers of Action Jesus have not considered how complex things could get when they drag religion into the toy aisle. There’s always the chance that bad kids will try to get Action Jesus to turn chocolate milk into wine or perform unauthorized miracles. Day off from school? Test results disappear? School furnace breaks down? That’s blasphemy, kids. But I am pretty sure it’s going to happen.
What about the obvious question? I leave this to the metaphysicians and the devout, but some kid is definitely going to ask if action figures go to heaven. Better be ready for that.
I suppose in the end, the mission of Christian toy makers is pretty obvious at this special time of the year. They are spreading the gospel of Jesus and trying to make a buck. And when you put those two together in this great country, you can’t go wrong.
Can I get an amen?