Bad Theology or Bad Parenting?

wp_20170104_14_18_20_proAlrighty gang, our judgment on last week’s Bad Theology post was considered not harsh enough for some readers (though one defended the picture), and I pledged I’d condemn with greater vigor from here on out.

Later, I found myself saying, “Meh. I’ll do what I want.”

In any case, I want you to know it’s not that I’m waffling on this week’s entry. It’s more that I’m not sure how I stand on it.

Is it bad theology, or is it just bad parenting? See for yourself:


Product Description

Kids love to play make believe, but when they play with The Full Armor of God costume set, they’re learning something they’ll remember forever! As children role-play the adventure of being one of God’s young warriors, they’re memorizing the biblical principles of the spiritual armor described in Ephesians 6:13-18. Safe and fun for young children to play as they learn about important Bible principles that will guide them through life. Recommended for ages 3 years and older.
This multi-piece set includes:

  • Helmet of Salvation with movable visor
  • Breastplate of Righteousness with adjustable straps
  • “Shin Guards” of Peace that adjust to fit
  • Belt of Truth with adjustable Velcro closure
  • Spirit-of-the-Word Sword–the right size for little hands
  • Shield of Faith has easy-to-grip handle
  • Faith Parenting Guide with suggested activities and Scriptures

Honest and truly, this is an actual toy marketed and sold for children, ages 3 and up.


You know what my kids played with when they were three years old? Winnie the Pooh.

Not once did I think of sending them out to play dressed like little Crusaders. *shudder*

As for the Bible verses referred to in the description, they’re quite popular with people big on the concept of “Spiritual Warfare.”

Ever hear of it? Spend a little time with Google and you’ll come across some strange, scary stuff. Stories of people convinced they fought off demons, battled an invisible war, felt surrounded by a ‘presence’ of intense evil.

I’m fairly certain that’s not the theology behind this costume. I’m sure the thinking was, “Hey, these are the kinds of toys kids like. Let’s put religious meaning behind it!”

And that’s exactly what bothers me about it (besides the obvious Crusader look, of course). How much symbolism and metaphor can children understand? I mean, heck, there are adults taking this stuff literally. What’s a child to make of it?

And do parents really think that because it has a cross on it, the kids will play nicer than they would with, say, a light saber?

Tommy! Stop trying to lop your sister’s head off with the Spirit-of-the-Word sword!”

Oh dear.

Listen, I’m going to let you guys argue it out as to whether this qualifies as Bad Theology or not. Mostly, I think it’s just a bad move, parent-wise.

So to honor that, I’m adding a subcategory to our Bad Theology series: Truth is Stranger Than Fiction, with its own rating system.

The full Armor of God Costume Set earns itself:

funny-dogfunny-dogfunny-dogThree You-Gotta-Be-Kidding-Me’s


Until next week,
Vaya con Dios

25 thoughts on “Bad Theology or Bad Parenting?

  1. Whatever happened to the simple, “God loves you,” that children were told when I was a kid?

    Strap that on a little kid and you’ll get broken dishes, upset siblings, and other parents threatening lawsuits for bodily damage. The child will absorb zero of the metaphor and none of the theology. Likely, you’ll get a little one running around saying, “I am god and will smite you!, arrr”

  2. Oh My – just bad on any scale I think. Now we just have to wait for the “Devils Henchmen” toys to come out I guess. This just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I think your rating is spot on for this one.

  3. I’m reading John Dominic Crossnan’s book How to Read The bible & Still Be a Christian now. It deals with the vengeful vs the loving God as depicted in the different books of the Old and New Testaments. Crossnan is coming to our church to speak in March and I wanted to get an idea of what he has to say on this conundrum. I haven’t read your previous post yet, so, I’m heading there now.

    1. Sounds like a good book! I was talking with someone recently on how our childhood images of God are so ingrained, people have a hard time shaking them. So they either continue to embrace them, however illogical or hateful the beliefs, or reject God completely. (I suppose that’s true in many areas, not just theology.)

      1. Very true, C.J. I was brought up as a Catholic and endured 12 years of parochial schooling. Much brainwashing and dependency on faith to provide all the answers. Being a very questioning child and then adult, I found the whole experience had turned me into an avowed atheist; albeit, an atheist who believed in being a good Christian and respecting other people religious views. Having my curiosity curbed at a young age, I now feel free to read and explore thoughts and ideas on religion and philosophy and enjoy the process. Although I am still an atheist, at heart – and soul I would guess??

        1. I can definitely understand that. I’ve always felt lucky that I had a father who was so willing — encouraging even — to hear his daughter question EVERYTHING. He and I had many deep discussions regarding faith, God, the nature of God, etc. It never occurred to me until I was much older how unusual that was!

  4. You know, it’s the fact that you could throw together a Ben Hur costume using an old sheet (or pillow case for the littlest kids) and a common rope for next to nothing that gets me. Plus, you’d get to teach the kid about slavery in a religious setting as a bonus. If they had tricycles–or better yet–a Big Wheel they could reenact the chariot scene for fun. Yeah, no. Who needs to shell out for such mixed theological lessons as the crusades? Oh, and if you want your daughters to join in on the fun, Joan of Arc can get away with a sack dress and a field of flowers–but only if she’s Catholic, I think. I tend to get her mixed up with the nun who made Lourdes famous. Now let’s just wait for people to write in and point out how many things I got wrong.

    1. haha! No worries, if anyone tries to slam you, I’ll banish them to the spam folder toot sweet!
      I can’t count how many times my brother and I used the empty wrapping paper tubes as swords. Some of our best toys were homemade or figments of our imagination!

  5. I have racked my brains for two days and I am so emotionally, intellectually and spiritually stunned I’m still at a loss for words and as a professional card carrying smart ass that’s something — CJ Hartwell I am not worthy! cheers

    1. The shock quality of this ensemble is huge, I’ll grant you that. Imagine a troop of them coming to your door on Halloween night — no, don’t imagine that! Sorry, don’t want to mess with your sleep as well!

  6. Have you seen the doc Jesus Camp? This product makes me think of that movie. I think what turns me away from certain Christians is this blind xenophobia of what they perceive to be Christ’s teachings. In that same documentary, this woman actually says Harry Potter is evil solely because he’s a warlock. Nevermind that he fights evil or that those books are all about having high morals, sticking up for others, and being inherently good. It doesn’t matter because there’s magic and magic is devil’s play. What would this lady think if she met Jesus today? She’d probably think he was the anti-Christ walking on water and all that jazz. Ugh…

    1. No, I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard people talk against Harry Potter while admitting they never read the books! Also, they completely ignore the fact that J.K. Rowling has said she’s a Christian — though for them she’s probably not the right “type” of Christian. (I’m not either, come to think of it!)

  7. I found this both terribly amusing and terribly frightening. Our theologies always influence our ethics, and amusing as this toy might be, I am saddened that the theology underpinning it is one of violence. In essence, the practical outworking of this kind of toy is a belief system that legitimises religious-based violence.

    1. Yes, I agree completely. Ironically, the toy is sold as an “alternative” to violent toys. Instead of allowing your children to play with toy guns or swords, you put Bible verses behind it and presto! Suddenly it’s a-okay.
      But in reality it makes it much, much worse.

  8. In all fairness, I don’t know a lot about toys. Our son is severely autistic and prefers to build stuff out of plastic cups, cardboard and anything else in the recycling bin. I can’t imagine buying something that promotes violence, but especially one that basically says that you need to do it for God. Of course kids will use paper towel rolls as impromptu lightsabers, but buying weapons seems to like you are saying that violence is okay, in my opinion.

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