One slice of Christian theology without so much puppydog in it, please.

One slice of Christian theology without so much puppydog in it, please. May 16, 2014

Here’s a  rightfully exasperated post on why we shouldn’t teach kids that Jesus is just playing teddybear switcheroo with us, like so:

PIC Jesus with even bigger teddybear

Urgh. She spells out what the problems are with this image (including that alarming blue necrotic tissue. Seriously, did The Big One fall, or what?), and what would have fixed them. She opens with something that rang oh-so-true:

when I first saw the pic, I actually thought someone was just making fun of us crazy Christians again. But then, I realized it was–likely–well-intended and promoted by a Christian.

It got 47 “likes.” I giggled painfully here, because the other day, I posted a graphic of a quote from my book:

(you can find it and other share-able graphics on my Tumblr page).  The inimitable Deirdre Mundy reminded me that, if I wanted the big-time social media shares, there really needs to be an adorably pathetic puppy involved. So I whipped out my Comic Sans and my blatant disregard for copyright laws, and posted this:

And damn your eyes, it got shared all over the place.

Christians. We are responsible for 90% of the western hemisphere’s greatest art and highest thought. We produced Aquinas and Michelangelo. GET IT TOGETHER.


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  • now I know what to do, add puppies!

  • Annie

    I completely agree Simcha, I found it so difficult to find books for my kids that would help them discover more about Christianity that didn’t involve needless images of puppies and kittens. I settled for
    bible worksheets
    , a good mix of activities without our furry friends!

    • Suzanne

      Better puppies and kittens than those Precious Moments figures. Not only are there Precious Moments Nativity sets, but I have seen Precious Moments illustrated Bibles for sale around Easter. Apparently, there are actual grown women who buy these things. I guess nothing brings home the awe of the Incarnation, the majesty of the faith, and the sweep of salvation history quite like a tear-drop headed kid with oversized eyes, all rendered in pastel colors.

      • Finally! Someone who shares my dislike (read: hatred) of Precious Moments! There are so many better, beautiful versions of everything they try to represent.

        • DeirdreMundy

          I think they’re kind of creepy. But we buy them for family members who love them. Oddly enough, I don’t mind Hummels…

          • Because Hummels are totally awesome and not at all creepy (shh.).

          • I actually like Hummels. Maybe it’s the nun thing?

  • Colet C. Bostick

    Just Trust Me….when you’re going to give me a bigger ugly thing? I don’t think so, “Jesus”.

  • Rakhi @ Pitter Patter Diaries

    Ha! I’m glad to know the inspiration behind the puppy post, because I thought you’d lost it. 😉 Just kidding…mostly. I find most of the art in children’s religious books horrid. A little too much hippie Jesus for me.

  • Mary Wilkerson

    Eh, I think it’s a pretty simple picture that gets a message across. I think just as sometimes we are overly ‘cutesy’ regarding faith topics, I think we also tend to be overly critical with our theological hats about things that aren’t that deep. Like, it’s a cute picture. To me, it says, ‘hey, sometimes you might be asked to do tough stuff, but try not to forget, God’s there with you’. It says it in a way a little kid would understand. I dig. I’d use it. And I am pretty much the farthest thing from a campy Christian homeschooler.

  • Vera Hough

    A bigger thing that looks the same as something I love is better than something I love?

    The “give to get” fallacy reminds me of the sacrifice in _Little Men_, when Demi gets the idea that the children should burn their most beloved toys in a big bonfire…

  • Kim Whelan

    I didn’t like the “meme” when I saw it yesterday floating around. I’m glad you put to words my problems with it. But you are right… even I might sail right past a post like your first quote and stop to take in the puppy image and quote. Thank you for the “snap” to reality. I will do better to take in the beautiful as well as the cute.

  • anna lisa

    Hahahah, you’re right, but it required too much thought. Campy, cheesy, Christian kitsch is never going to go away. My Mom has a 70s sun-shiny plaque in the children’s bathroom which says “God loves you so much, he can’t keep his eyes off of you.” At first I felt a little self conscious, (it was in the bathroom for gosh sakes!) That sentiment grew into a nice helping of guilt when I was a naughty teenager. Darn it, it worked though. It stopped me dead in my tracks on more than a few occasions. Now when a priest asks me if I practice “presence of God”, I’m slightly mystified how a Christian can function *without* feeling God’s gaze upon them.

  • Or, there’s this:
    For those who prefer the absurd over the campy and cheesy. My favorite is the one of Jesus patting stegosaurus. Mildly offensive website though.

    • anna lisa

      Sent this to my lonely college student who can’t give up his Fed Ex job and come home for summer vacation. It was worth the guilt.
      Did you see that talented Pug marking his territory? Just wow.

  • Andrea

    awesome post

  • JohnE_o

    That Jesus – always playing head games with little kids…

  • Kathleen M. Ritter

    But . . . but . . . The Prosperity Gospel, people! Start ’em early, don’cha know?

    And PUPPIES!!

  • Susan McMillen

    agree with this blogger. I was in a bible study that used this very
    same analogy only it was a dad asking a daughter to give up a beloved
    string of fake pearls for a string of real pearls as an act of trust.
    This and the other just doesn’t seem right. I had a family member who
    kept thinking that if he really loved and enjoyed something that God
    wanted him to give it up. Mustn’t love anything more than God! And of
    course, if you really love and enjoy something, God wants it so that you
    prove to him that you love him more. So, this family member gave up
    everything that he loved…and eventually gave up God and became an
    agnostic….How could you keep loving or believing that God was good
    when everytime you enjoyed something, God demanded you to give it up?
    He learned this from protestantism (lost his faith to a baptist
    evangelizer) Unfortunately, the place I heard this the second time was

  • Before we take out the shovels and bury the sentiment of the featured meme alive, it did put me in mind of the end of Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven”, wherein the’Voice above the Feet’ says, “All which I took from thee I did but take/Not for thy harms/But just so thou might’st seek it in my arms.” I know it’s not exactly equivalent, but still. Patheosi Dr. Pat McNamara did a fantastic post on this greatest of Victorian poems here:

  • Ezbs

    In Australian, on TV tonight, I saw an add for MenuLog- an online food ordering service- look up restaurant menus and order online and your food gets delivered. Get it.

    Well, MenuLogs add depicts The Last Supper- with ridiculous Neanderthal men in bad wigs goofing around the dinner table aka Jesus and his disciples ordering on MenuLog. Them out appears Leonardo da Vinci yelling at them to keep still as he tries to finish his painting.

    Crass? Very. Creativity gone cheap and nasty? You betcha.

    I naturally, filed a complaint with the governing body over the insulting ad. Not just because it insults the Chrstian in me, but because its very very cheap and nasty ideas disguised as creative advertising.

    Seriously, where has the intelligence in our society fled to?

  • I’ve been catechizing 6th graders for 10 years and don’t think I’ve ever given them any content I wouldn’t also give an adult. And that includes the art we use.

  • Deimos

    As the recent recipient of three little puppies (courtesy of my canine avatar and her husband), I can honestly say that puppies renew my faith in a very loving creator.

    Puppies work.

  • Leeandra Nolting

    I used to have what my friends referred to as “The Shrine,” which was a collection of sincerely-intentioned but aesthetically terrible religious art. Think Last Suppers made out of seashells and Modge Podge with a dead bug stuck in the glaze and tracts explaining salvation through use of crucified smiley faces and cross-eyed ceramic Jesuii with apparent impetigo.

    It was on display in my bathroom (I said that I wanted everyone who used the bathroom at my house to have a true religious experience, i.e., be struck with equal parts hilarity and terror). and as friends gave me more and more pieces for my collection, it reached truly awesome proportions. Like, covering all the walls around the toilet up to the 12-foot ceiling awesome.

    Sadly, my landlord’s a slumlord, the window leaked, and everything got wet and moldy and had to be thrown out.

  • Rebecca Cherico

    Not to get heavy-handed so late in the game (Interpretation: I am about to do just that), but I think there are some additional factors to consider here…All the puppy dogs and cutesy things have an appeal–we are, after all, an incarnational people. We’re not just people of the book, but people of the man-God…So we like faces as well as words. Your original quote was pretty long. And had no eye candy, just words. But your second, dog-version, of the quote is much shorter. And the eyes of the dog work as a surrogate for the eyes of God in the quote. Only God knows who is guilty [puppy eyes] and who is only wounded. it’s like the dog drives the eyes of God home to the reader. See? As incontrovertible proof, I offer you the fact that my cutesy image-hater self likes the second one better, too. Not convinced? Well, I tried!