.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sometimes I Wish That It Would Rain Here

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

rejecting jesus dolls

Toys for Tots recently rejected a donation of 4000 Jesus dolls that quote Biblical passages, such as "Love your neighbor as yourself," and (somewhat less neutral) "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." the purpose of these dolls is pretty obvious. now, I'm not disagreeing with TfT's refusal to accept the donation, but I find it rather interesting.

I can't think of a single toy, or any artifact, for that matter, that doesn't have values either explicitly or implicitly built into it. taking an example from the defamiliarization work of Bell et al. (2005), as well other folks, look at all the kitchen appliances that have efficiency as a built in priority, as in fact the most important priority. my food processor will slice an onion in 20 seconds, puree garbanzo beans in 45, and mince 3 garlic cloves in under a minute. how long does yours take? what isn't focused on in the design of these appliances is the important familial and social roles that cooking can have in home. the artifacts incorporate certain values, and disregard others.

or, if you want to go with toys, just look at traditional action figures (obviously aimed at boys) and dress-up dolls (obviously aimed at girls). even the action figures and dolls themselves and predominantly male and female, respectively. I'd say there are some pretty strong gender-centered values built into those toys.

similarly, the Jesus dolls focus on certain values, namely Christian ones, and not others, i.e. values from any other religion. TfT's actions are interesting on two grounds. first, it seems to implicitly state that other toys don't carry implicit values, or perhaps that the values they implicitly carry are not ones with which the Marine Reserves (the organization behind TfT) disagree. you don't see them turning away Barbie dolls because of the unrealistic impressions they could give young girls about body image, do you? the second interesting aspect is that, by rejecting the Jesus dolls, the Reserves and TfT are stating that religious values are of an entirely different nature than other values. yes yes, separation of church and state and all that. why is it that I should separate my religion from my government, but not my philosophical or moral values? if a toy somehow posited the existence of objective truth (which it might be argued the Jesus dolls do, in addition to their religious message), or supported a phenomenological approach wherein the child was encouraged to recognize their own construction of the object rather than the object's a priori existence, would these charities be so quick to reject such toys?

furthermore, who's to say that children would, upon hearing the pre-recorded voice of a Jesus doll, accept as irrefutable truth that "no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." perhaps children would just dismiss it as the silly thing the doll says. or perhaps children might question, what is this "kingdom of God?" what does it mean to be "born again?" it might even lead them to an early discovery of, thinking about, and questioning of religious ideas than would have otherwise occurred. but no, our children's fragile minds our world view must be protected, lest they be corrupted by the things with which they come in to contact in daily life. we don't believe that children can actually think, let alone think for themselves. do we?

Bell, G., Blythe, M., and Sengers, P. 2005. Making by making strange: Defamiliarization and the design of domestic technologies.
ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 12, 2 (Jun. 2005), 149-173. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1067860.1067862


  • I would say that the refusal of jesus dolls is evidence of the new political correctness "religion" of non-religiousness. It's pretty obvious that a large chunk of America is disparaging (particularly) of religion, as part of its "everyone is equal and no one's opinion is better than anyone else's" message. I'm not really religious, but my opinion is way more correct than that of most of the chumps out there (as explanation of why I did this mini-rant).

    By Anonymous alex, at Sunday, November 19, 2006 3:59:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home