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steve tomkins
crows nest
By Stephen Tomkins
More Crow's Nests here
The church militant
November 2008

It's the doll with a life of its own. Give her a fistful of batteries, and she gurgles and coos, and says "Mommy". Then she grows up and converts to Islam.

The Fisher Price
Little Mommy Cuddle 'n' Coo is a doll with a hidden agenda. Her stream of burbling cunningly conceals the message that (if you really, really want it to) sounds a bit like "Islam is the Light".

So those people that all good, right-wing newspapers call "concerned parents" (and the rest of us know as nut jobs), complained. Fisher Price assured them that the doll was not an agent of Islam, she just had a shoddy speaker, but Wal-Mart have removed her from sale to be examined by experts, presumably at Guantanamo.

The latest news is that even more seriously concerned parents have heard the doll saying, "Satan is King". I call that mixed messages.

From the slave trade to the Teletubbies, there's little that Christians do quite so well as protesting. Just a shame they're not a bit more selective.

There's art, for a start. Here the power of protest varies geographically. In Moscow,
Forbidden Art 2006 (featuring Christians praying to Mickey Mouse) got the museum curator arrested. In New York, an ecumenical barrage of complaint got My Sweet Lord (a chocolate Jesus) removed from display.

In Italy, the Pope's complaints about
Feet First (crucified frog with tankard) brought out pickets, but the exhibition continued. Meanwhile, in Britain, Gone, Yet Still (a plaster Jesus with erection) is currently facing private prosecution without a hope of success by Emily Mapfuwa; and an unnamed piece in Alexandra Park (a crucified Ronald McDonald) got the exhibition organiser, Tony Peakall, a haranguing from a group of teenage girls. "It was scary," protested Mr Peakall.

Then there's nudity. The Dutch Christian naturist organisation, Garden of Eden, cancelled a nude Mass this summer after being deluged with complaints from garment-wearing branches of the church. A clothed priest was to have ministered to the defrocked congregation. They've even had to close their website, "because of the negative publicity and the lurid curses in the guest book."

A group of Mormons have tried to change their image by making a topless calendar. The models are all male, and they're also all Mormon missionaries, and I think it's fair to say they are almost invariably studs. Church authorities, however, clearly preferred their old image and have excommunicated the organisers. The organisers admit they've received plenty of hate mail, but also say it has "created interfaith dialogue", though how far beyond the "Hey, big boy" level, we're not told.

None of which, of course, is to say that our colleagues in the world religions have nothing to add in this area. Sheikh Muhammad Munajid has come out against that enemy of Islam, the mouse.

"The mouse is one of Satan's soldiers and is steered by him," Munajid told viewers of al-Majd TV, according to the London
Daily Telegraph. "According to Islamic law, the mouse is a repulsive, corrupting creature. How do you think children view mice today – after Tom and Jerry?

"Mickey Mouse has become an awesome character, even though according to Islamic law, Mickey Mouse should be killed in all cases."

Finally, if all this makes you feel religion is for nuts, where can we turn for reassurance?

Where else? Richard Dawkins, we hear, is working on his latest book, exposing the evils of fiction. The main evil being that fiction isn't, he alleges, true. The book will examine the effects of fairy tales and Harry Potter books, which are "bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards", Dawkins told More4 News. "I think it is anti-scientific".
also see
hubris 2
Mark Howe's regular rant about Internet culture
strangely warmed
Andrew Rumsey's regular column about the religious life
loose canons
Stephen Tomkins' regular round-up of the saints of yore who were one wafer short of a full communion
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