Christian or Kitsch?

I went to a Christian book store yesterday to buy some books for the kids.   Apart from the books, other bits of merchandise with Christian themes were for sale.  These included a Christian version of Bratz dolls and Christian Ponies, for little girls.  Later, I found this illustration, with the associated blurb from a catalogue, online here.

"Tired of dolls with a worldly appearance? You'll welcome these "mom-approved" dolls with a perfect fit of faith and fashion! Whether your girls play with nature-loving Hannah, musical Abigail, or worshipful Sarah, they'll love the stylishly modest outfits featuring faith-affirming T-shirts. And you'll rejoice in the biblical message each posable doll communicates. Ages 4 and up."
"Tired of dolls with a worldly appearance? You'll welcome these "mom-approved" dolls with a perfect fit of faith and fashion! Whether your girls play with nature-loving Hannah, musical Abigail, or worshipful Sarah, they'll love the stylishly modest outfits featuring faith-affirming T-shirts. And you'll rejoice in the biblical message each posable doll communicates. Ages 4 and up."

Why did I, and the two other mums with me, find this disturbing?

If I found them being sold in a church I’d probably be reminded of Jesus in the temple, but this was a shop, a profit making business, so why should there not be Bratz dolls and Ponies marketed to us as well?

The Ponies were disturbing, as they seemed almost identical to those without a Christian theme.  There were three available, called ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’ or ‘Love’, with accompanying bible verses.  They seemed to be made by a different manufacturer to the ‘worldly’ ponies.  We wondered if there was a big copyright infringement there, which would have been a form of theft, which is not very Christian.  Presumably Mattel would have sued if there was a problem, so it was probably OK.

The Bratz dolls were similarly disturbing.  Why did a Bratz doll have to have  a Christian theme?  These dolls have been particularly criticised by some for aiding in the sexualisation of children at a very young age, with their sexy clothes and exaggerated figures and features.

Of course my next thought was to wonder if I was just being prudish in some way and should just get over it.  After all, my little girl wouldn’t care; it would probably all go way over her head.

Are the manufacturers Christian enterprises, or are they just cynically catering to a large niche market?  Why bother buying ‘Christian’ toys when you can go out and buy the ‘worldly’ one – if you wouldn’t buy it normally, why would you bother buying a ‘Christian’ version, particularly a toy that’s attracted criticism even in the secular world for its potential effect on little girls?

Is there something off about marketing this kind of merchandise to Christians?  Does it cheapen the Bible and our faith, or overcommercialise it?  Does it make our faith kitsch?

On the other hand, is it just a helpful way of introducing aspects of our faith to our kids?

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RavingPente


5 thoughts on “Christian or Kitsch?

  1. 2 things spring to mind …

    the first is, why not spend Christian cash on Christian merchandise? This is an example of Dominionism in practice, let’s take that ground in the Name of Jesus.

    Put Mattel out of business by keeping that money in Christian hands, etc.

    The second thing that springs to mind is that it is a complete waste of money. It makes merchandise of God’s people. Another example of twisted prosperity/Kingdom Now thinking.

    Someone wants to go into business selling toys? Fine. Someone wants to target a niche market? Fine.

    Someone expects me to pony up a lot of dosh for kitsch toys? Just cos they have a couple of verses of scripture?

    Good luck with that!

    Is a company going to be able to compete with Microsoft, Dell, Nintendo, Sony, etc? No.

    Stop it with this dominionist rubbish.

    Arrgghhh!

    Gonna get my first coffee of the day. Get more angry etc.

    Nothing beats praying with and for your kids. Nothing!

    Shalom.

  2. The Dominionist angle hadn’t occurred to me. Interesting.

    Sorry to make you angry, Bull!

    Know what you mean about praying with your kids. They make some interesting comments sometimes too. My 4 year old son was told at a Sunday School that when you light the candle, God is present, and you can pray. He responded, “But God is everywhere, so can’t we pray anywhere?” The teachers loved it!

    Hope you enjoy your coffee.

  3. My first emotional reaction was like Bull’s – what a waste of money (but I am critical of most products I see being marketed around me). Although I am reminded how if one walks through a well known Christian franchise that anything attached with a ‘spiritual’ label seems to sanctify (or justify) its appearance. (Forgive me for the loose use of the theological terms). But then I am reminded by Christ’s words that cleanliness springs from within and not what is observed from the outside.

    Therefore it all comes down to the motivation of the people engaged in the transaction rather than the product itself. Though we need to exercise discernment in the choices we make, it is equally easy to sit in judgment of others with whom we do not share the same preferences. We should not forget that we are children of grace not children of law. Or as Paul says in his letter to the liberal Corinthian church “everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial”

    The Bible also tells us that whenever we work we do so as working for the Lord. We may try to make specific distinctions between the secular or spiritual but God looks much deeper than this. We see compartments but he sees our hearts. We are witnesses of Him in everything we do; by the way we spend our time, employ our skills, derive our income and enjoy the spiritual (and material) blessings we has given us.

    With this in mind, perhaps this will be a better guide for the various choices open to us in this world.

  4. RE: I quite agree!

    The truth of the matter is that we don’t really know the motivation behind these particular toys. However, it must be possible to find out who is behind, running, supporting, promoting the company and toys.

    That would demonstrate conclusively the theology behind the toys’ manufacture.

    We do need to occasionally buy things for our children and it is good to have a Christian choice. We buy resources for kids work in the church and we have to exercise judgment on the materials we purchase.

    I have to say that the willow creek stuff (for tiny tots) is utter rubbish. Jesus becomes a cartoon and the representations of children come across as ‘gurning’ crosses between Wallace* and cabbage patch dolls. *(from Wallace and Gromit)

    I flicked through the book, which had no real teaching in it … shuddered involuntarily … and had to go and lie down in a dark room.

    Well, maybe not lie down. We won’t be using the resource book though.

    Shalom.

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