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No plastic Jesus
It seems like just yesterday that the rugs in our house were little
more than camouflaged minefields.
Lurking in the 1970s-era shag carpet were hidden dangers: a sharp
little Barbie shoe, a GI Joe rifle, accessories of the many doll-type
creatures laboring under the label of action figure.
Of course it wasnt yesterday; more like 20 years ago. The shag
carpet is long gone; so are the kids. And though weve moved from
that house, I suspect bits and pieces of GI Joe are still hiding
in the corners waiting for an unwary toe to find them.
Why am I telling you this?
Well, the other day a new action figure crossed my desk, bringing
these memories flooding back. This one was
Its the Jesus Action Figure. With poseable arms, just right
for such pretend events as blessing the crowds at the Sermon on
the Mount or staging your own crucifixion. And the gliding action,
perfect, I presume, for walking on water or just rising above
And no, Im not making this up.
Besides evoking old memories (and sore feet from stepping on sharp
little objects), the Jesus Action Figure (lets just go with JAF)
elicited a deep spiritual groan.
The problem with GI Joe, Barbie and their buddies was that they
projected a warped sense of reality. The Joes never got hurt in
the make-believe wars, let alone died. Barbie offered young girls
an impossible physical image. (An image, though, quite overpowering
for young boys on the precipice of adolescence.)
OK, so they were toys and not supposed to be real. Still, parents
often had to correct the misconceptions created.
Fast forward to the JAF. There are no accessories, so no tiny
chalices or sandals or loaves or fishes to harass the soles of
the feet. Souls, however, could be another question. Neither
does this toy create a sense of reality. In fact, theres just
too much of the opposite.
From the list of other products offered by the firm, (www.accoutrements.com)
JAFs creators obviously have tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Why else the Wiggly Hula Girl, Trick Squirt Camera, Nunzilla
and the like rounding out their top 25? Still, there are more
serious JAFsin sets which include Moses, Mary, Goliath and othersdesigned
as biblical-education toys (www.trainupachild.com).
Thats not a bad thing, I suppose, but consider this: Jesus is
already too plastic. We need, instead, to make him less so.
In one sense, thats the goal of the renewed push to improve catechesis
in the archdiocese (see story). Faith shouldnt be plastic, anymore than Jesus is.
Especially among too many adults and young adults, faith has no
face except a plaster saint or empty phrase. There are entire
generations (and not just since Vatican II, either) for whom Jesus,
and religion, are not quite real. Except, of course, at special
events like baptisms, weddings and the like.
A plastic Jesus bobbing from a dashboard, or lurking like an apparition
from a golden frame in a the front room, may be signs of a nascent
faith, or one of ancient memory, though not necessarily a faith
that is truly connected.
The Jesus Action Figure (poseable arms and gliding action notwithstanding)
may be fun to take a journalistic poke at, but give me a flesh-and-blood-and-spirit
Editor and General Manager
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