Toying with God
Nikki Bado-Fralick and Rebecca Sachs Norris, Baylor University Press
Toying with God looks at a world that I had never thought about: religious toys. I don’t know if it is because aren’t that many inAustralia or that I just haven’t looked closely. However, when I thought about it, I thought of a Bible trivial pursuit I was once given for Christmas, Nativity dolls and scenes and colouring in books of biblical figures.
The book describes all sorts of religious toys; board games, dolls, action toys, mints, soap, bubble bath, soft toys and lunch boxes. The most interesting of which (to me) was the Buddha Wheel, where the aim of the game is to escape the wheel of rebirth and become a Buddha. However, once you have achieved this goal, and it may take days, you may choose to continue playing the game by helping the other people playing the board game. Apparently, it is a very difficult game to win or end.
The authors analyse the role and influence of these toys. They also provide information on the role of play and the history of toys. Did you know that hopscotch is thought to have been a Christian adaptation of an ancient Roman practice? Their research is excellent, they write well — often with wit. There are a lot of very strange toys out there designed by people hoping to educate and keep the children in their flock. Toying with God is aimed at an academic audience, so it’s helpful to have a rudimentary knowledge of the major world religions to read the book.