Okay, I'm not necessarily suggesting that Mattel come out with Buddhist Monk Barbie or Sikh Leader Ken, but religious Barbies would sure make religious literacy more fun for Barbie-obsessed little girls, wouldn't it? Catholic Nun Barbie could keep her long, beautiful hair hidden beneath a habit. Mormon Elder Ken would come with his own bike and, whenever you pressed the button on his back, would say "May I talk to you about the Book of Mormon?" (To which Nun Barbie would decline politely before shutting the abbey door.) Point is, religious literacy isn't nearly as daunting as people make it out to be. Simply saying religious words out loud and in context goes a long way: God. Gods. Bible. Heaven. Meditation. Baptism. Mosque. Sabbath. 10 Commandments...
My daughter is 7, and I'm realizing she is at an ideal age to drop these words. She's like a sponge, rejecting virtually nothing — absorbing it all. She's a captive audience, too. When we're in the car and she's literally strapped into her back seat. Or at bedtime, when she still adores been read to. Or at playtime, when she still invites me to share in her imaginative games. Slipping religious concepts her way is just so darn easy. (And a little scary when you consider how easy it would be to abuse this natural openness.) Anyway, the point is, if you want to discuss religion with your kids in an easy-breezy manner, working it into honest play is a great way to do it. "Pray" is one word I want Maxine to understand, so this week, after we made a house of blocks for her Barbie family, I put the dad in a prayer posture and announced to Maxine, "He's religious!" She loved it. She laughed at first — because she had no idea he was religious! — but then she sort of studied his posture and helped me keep him balanced so I could take a picture for you guys.
I'm certainly not the first to have this idea. A few years ago, an Episcopal priest came out with Episcopal Priest doll, which is no longer being sold. There is also a rather huge market of Fulla dolls — Barbie-like fashion dolls for Muslim girls. And let us not forget the fleeting controversy over Barbies in full burkas being auctioned off for Mattel's 50th anniversary in 2009. (Whether or not you agree that Burka Barbie was a good idea, the last line of this Jezebel column says it all:
"At the end of the day," the column read, "all Barbies are going to end up in the same place — naked and spread-eagle on the floor."