Sunday, March 27, 2005

Paddle Ball Spirituality


I had to post a photo of this. What do you think? Making the resurrection accessible to kids is commendable. Reducing the resurrection to a novelty toy is troubling.

In my mind, the negatives seem to outweigh the positives. The trivializing nature of the toy contributes to the steadily diminishing wonder of the resurrection in our culture. Hallmark, Cadbury, et al., have leveled the playing field and rendered all holidays equally banal. Similarly, I imagine that upon recieving her "Jesus Is Risen!" paddle toy, the spiritual benefit imparted to the child is quite miniscule.

Perhaps I am being too narrow minded. Maybe there is a profound spiritual symbolism in the paddle toy that draws us deeper into the mystery of the resurrection. Yes! Just as the ball snaps back every time you smack it, Jesus "bounces back" from the grave!

My inner cynic retorts, "You just know that somewhere in rural Arkansas there's a remote warehouse with boxes and boxes of "Merry Christmas," "Be My Valentine," and "National Pretzel Day" paddle games. It's nothing more than a chance to sell more worthless crap."

In any case, I suppose it could be seen as benign. I just don't want to find myself trivializing the crux of history.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Joel said...

Chris,
I'm interested in knowing your opinion regarding at what point commercializing the resurrenction begins to diminish it. For example, does purchasing and wearing a cross diminish the resurrection? What if it is a particularly gaudy cross? What if it is simple? What about making movies about the death and resurrection that turns a healthy profit?

In general, I agree with your sentiments. Profiting from the resurrection, or other important aspects of Christianity, reduce the important roles they play in the Faith. However, I would not limit my aversion to tacky products such as the paddle ball set you provided.

8:47 PM  
Blogger chris said...

That is a tough call. Here are a few thoughts. . .

First of all, INTENT would have to be a key factor to examine in any alleged case of "crossing the line." What is the primary intent of the company manufacturing and marketing product X? Is it $$$? That would be line-crossing and dishonoring to Christ. Why did Mel Gibson make that movie? Was he primarily after $$$? It doesn't appear so, but I could be wrong. Why does someone wear that cross? Why did the manufacturer make it so gaudy? (Of course, the word 'gaudy' is a tribute to Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi, whose creations were rather outlandish. I have heard that his motives were noble and spiritual, however.)

Secondly, even if someone has altruisitc motives for creating some religious product, they may still be guilty of bad taste. This is simply unfortunate (like the paddle game). This is somewhat harder to pin down, but I think we can usually recognize it. Many in the evangelical/protestant tradition can be guilty of such utilitarian thinking. "Who cares if it's tacky -- it works! People hear the gospel!" That concerns me.

These are great questions. This is exactly what I had hoped for in this blog.

10:49 PM  
Anonymous joel said...

I agree. Intent does seem to be the variable of most interest. Your statement, "Who cares if it's tacky-- it works! People hear the gospel!" reminds me of the mindset Brother Jeb had. Brother Jeb was a preacher I would see on campus at UF and then later at LSU. He would call people names and be generally offensive while preaching the word. I came to understand that his phiolosophy was that all he had to do was expose people to the Word and God would do the rest. The easiest way to generate an audience was to be confrontational and insulting. "Who cares if it was demeaning -- people heard the gospel." I tended to ignore him.

9:00 AM  
Blogger chris said...

I have seen Brother Jeb on several different campuses also. Very misguided and a little sad. I think the guy really beleived he was doing the Lord's bidding. "Perfectionist" theology to boot (he doesn't sin anymore).

I must admit that I have been utilitarian at times, though unintentionally. Tact and good taste often come only with age.

7:45 PM  
Blogger general said...

Repetition is, of course, key to learning...especially for children. If one has a choice between a paddle with "Jesus is Risen" and "Jesus is still dead", I'm pretty sure which one you'd pick.

Sure, commercialism is crass...but sometimes that's not so bad. I'd probably pick a "Jesus is Risen" paddle over a blank one, to be honest. What's wrong with kids seeing that message a few thousand times?

3:40 PM  

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