I’ve recently become interested in religious toys –those that we buy for our children to play with, in order aid in their religious upbringing, or, depending on your outlook, their indoctrination.
I suppose that all the toys that we buy for kids have a larger agenda of some sort –I mean, who buys their kid a doctor’s kit or a chemistry set without a brief fantasy of bragging about "my kid, the doctor"? Children learn how to be adults by playing games, and by playing with their toys.
So what are children learning when the encounter God in their toy chest? And what kind of adults will they become when they only encounter their version of God, and their type of people, in their games? While there’s a greater diversity of religious toys available today, I doubt too many Jewish or Christian girls are playing with the two Muslim "Barbies" Fulla and Razanne. Of course, there’s an argument to be made that it’s better for a girl’s self-esteem,when she’s able to play with dolls that look like her, rather than living out her adult fantasies through a white, blond doll with a pert upturned nose. But since so much of racial tolerance is borne of interaction with people of different races, I have to wonder what affect it will have if dolls –and toys– become racial and religious ghettos.
Perhaps an early harbinger of the religious struggle over the toy chest is the conservative Christian campaign against American Girl dolls. It’s hard to imagine anything more fresh-faced than these dolls, but, on Monday, the New York Times reported that a Catholic school in Wisconsin canceled an American Doll fashion show, because the company donates money to Girls Inc., a nonprofit that anti-choice groups claim are pro-abortion and lesbian lifestyle. The Evangelical Underground, a blog, reports of apparent efforts to organize pickets of American Girl’s Chicago and New York stores.