When I bought Jesus for $14.99, I knew there was something wrong with him. He was appearing on a shelf at Wal-Mart. That might not be the same as hell, but it's surely no heaven for the people who have to work there.
Jesus is part of the Tales of Glory toy series, now available for the first time at 425 Wal-Mart stores across the country. That's less impressive than it sounds; after all, the retail giant has more than 4,000 stores in the United States.
But this is a big deal to One2believe, the company marketing the Bible action figures.
"This is the first time that a national retailer like Wal-Mart is carrying Christian toys," says Josh Livingston, spokesman for One2believe.
I bought Jesus at the store in Fort Wright; no Wal-Mart stores in Ohio are among the elect. I found him far from the tobacco aisle, near the Power Rangers dolls. I knew I had to hurry.
"The Jesus doll in particular is selling incredibly well and, based on current sales, will be sold out before Christmas," Livingston says.
Able to talk, with hands and fingers that can grasp and hold, Jesus repeatedly kicked ass when matched up against action figures of monsters, dinosaurs, space aliens and other unholy types.
I can hear the devout rending their garments: Those are non-biblical scenarios. But then what are we to make of the exciting video at www.one2believe.com? There we see the Samson action figure wrestling with the Goliath action figure. Exciting? Yes. Biblical? Not at all.
Surely there are limits on how far parents want a toy set to go in maintaining biblical authenticity. Some of the stuff in the Bible is outdated at best and a negative influence at worst. Consider another of the company's product lines, the P31 dolls.
"P31 dolls are specifically designed to provide a Bible-based, Christian alternative to other secular toys on the market and to encourage young girls to pursue biblical womanhood," the company's promotional materials state.
P31 is a reference to Proverbs 31, which warns men, "Do not spend all your energy on women, nor your loins on these destroyers of kings." The chapter then sets out the characteristics for an ideal wife: "She is always busy with wool and with flax. She does her work with eager hands. ... She gets up while it is still dark, giving her household their food, giving orders to her serving girls. ... She puts her back into work and shows how strong her arms can be."
It's no coincidence that the manufacturer's specs for the female biblical figures -- including Mary and Esther -- note "14 points of articulation including a multi-directional waist." In other words, the women action figures can all bend over. They're a humble lot, those biblical women.
The point of it all is what One2believe calls "The Battle of the Toy Box." It seems that Christians are tired of secular toys that promote unwholesome values for children.
The Jesus doll tells the miracle of the loaves and fishes, in which a huge crowd came out to here him speak.
"I wanted to feed everyone, but I had no money," Jesus says.
At least a redeeming quality: Jesus portrayed as penniless and homeless. How did they ever get that past Wal-Mart? ©