Toy Conspiracy

There is a conspiracy in our culture, and I’m only half way kidding. I’m no big fan of ‘Christian kitsch,’ that is, junky little items like bubble gum with fish symbols on them. But besides this one plush church set (above) and Rev. Lovejoy from the Simpsons, there are virtually no church playsets for children. You can go to any toystore and buy toy police officers, teachers, doctors, nurses, business people, garbage workers, fast-food workers, neighborhood people, black families, Asian families, Hispanic families, disabled folks, etc. But there are no toy clergy or religious leaders to be found. Not even in ‘Chirstian’ retail stores. Online I found some blocks that can be fashioned into a Cathedral, but they have no crosses.

I guess we can pretend that no one goes to church and that there are so such thing as priests, pastors, monks and nuns. Maybe then we’ll be officially done with religion in the West. Or maybe I’m just a sensitive priest who also likes my kids to imagine that church actually matters and is real–even in their playtime (the most real time of all!).

15 thoughts on “Toy Conspiracy

  1. Fatherneo…I dont think u are sensitive. But I dont know if the best that can happen to religion is to become part of the market offer of toys u know?

    Religion is beyond this world issues, so maybe if we find more toys it would lead to the trivialization of all spiritual matters.

    Feith is to fight consumerism, not to be included in it.

    And I dont really think God needs cheap and frivolous advertising: He is in another level…what do u think?

  2. In my opinion, themed “play sets” are poor play value no matter what the subject matter. A big box of dress-up, pots and pans, sundry cast-offs, etc. and then let the spirit move them. What’s bred in the bone will out in the flesh. If it’s in them to play “church”, they will. I’ve known kids like that, who will set up entire masses with stuff they find around the house. And if it’s not in them, it’s not.

    I’ve got one really churchy kid and one really un-churchy kid. I trust that God leads both of them into his own purposes.

  3. Reminds me of the Jonathan Rundman song (don’t know if your familiar with his work):

    At the Christian bookstore there is product to be sold
    Over there in China there’s some little 8-year old
    Working at the factory and rarely going home
    Assembling pencil sharpeners with the words to that footprints poem

    I wonder if those kids who buy the Bible action playsets
    Ever stage a cleansing of the temple reenactment
    Now I’m not certain but I think it’s safe to say
    If Jesus hadn’t risen, He’d be rolling in his grave

    May not have gotten the lyrics exact, but it goes something like that. I know you’re not in favor of the cheesy stuff, but I still think its good that you can’t find a church playset. Just my 2 cents.

  4. I think you have a very marketable idea Fr. Neo, and I’m looking forward to the first Fr. Neo action figure…tee hee.

  5. Yeah, I’m with the others who are suggesting that they’d be more turned off than turned on by “church toys” – I don’t really want Mattel giving us the Holy Father action figure.

    Besides, what would kids do with a church setting playset? “And here’s the pews where the kids take a nap while the Serious Man talks and talks – sometimes yelling and interrupting their sleep”…?

  6. Wow, here does all the cynicism come from.

    My kids love church (we have 6 ages 2-9). They worship with all of their hearts. They dance. They bow and pray. They confess their sins before communion. Sure the sermon part is a bit over their heads but in the end they can usually draw a picture about what it taught them about Jesus.

    I don’t think that the good padre is addressing the “sub-culture” question of virtues of christian candy and bubble gum. Rather, his point seems to be, why do we have easy bake ovens? Because kids see their parents cooking and want to cook. Why do we have play grocery stores (talk about a boring place for a kid)? Because it is part of their life. So then why is church excluded.

    Oh what would it matter anyway, they’d still be sitting in the impossible to open plastic packaging with the other Christmas presents.

    peace ya’ll

  7. Toy makers are out to make money. I am surprised though, with America being what it is, that nobody has come up with an exclusively Christian line of toy stores.

  8. “There is no doubt that religion can be made entertaining. The question is. By doing so, do we destroy it as an ‘authentic object of culture’?”
    Neil Postman

  9. Neil Postman was (he’s adios amigo, now) a god–he was a social critic par excellence. His “Amusing Ourselves to Death” is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. It covered the gamut related to discourse, but his critique on religion was particularly spot on.

  10. I don’t think that having church related toys reduces church to entertainment in the eyes of children. As A child I played teacher all of the time, and guess what? I’m 42 and have been working as a teacher or teacher’s assistant for 13 years now . . .
    Toys are instrumental in the development of children. I would much rather have them play church than Grand Theft Auto. …speaking of inappropriate material for entertainment.

  11. My wife grew up Catholic; she and her older sister regularly partook of communion in the basement playroom, using those crummy Necco (sp?) wafer candies as the host. Older sister alway hogged the celebrant role, a bone of contention to this day. I grew up in sterile Evangelicalism, so I all I could muster was a “play pulpit” from which to preach Dispensationalism to my terrier. Sadly, that terrier did not survive to experience the Rapture. With or without Mattel, kids have unfettered imaginations that find ways to reherse many of life’s rituals and mysteries, including their faith and church life.

  12. Welcome John!

    Try playing ‘left behind.’ Scary stuff! My girls love to play church, in church. Even Luke gets a hold of the mike and sings or yells or something.

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