What Would Jesus Sell?
By George Anderson
You may have seen one worn on the wrist of a co-worker, perhaps by someone in a social setting or
at a Christian worship service. You might even own one yourself – the WWJD (What would Jesus do?) bracelet.
Back in 1989, Janie Tinklenberg was reading the novel, In His Footsteps, written by Rev. Charles Sheldon with the youth group she led at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan. Characters in Rev. Sheldon’s 1896 work constantly ask themselves before acting, “What would Jesus do?”
From a humble beginning, Ms. Tinkleberg wanted to make bracelets for her group as a reminder of what they learned, WWJD became a marketing phenomenon as Christian stores and then secular stores stocked up and sold out of all types of goods with WWJD imprints.
Fourteen years later, the sale of Christian-themed merchandise of all types has become a huge business and companies are rolling out new products to meet demand.
A case in point is the new talking Jesus doll, part of the Messengers of Faith line of Biblical characters from the One2Believe division of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co.
The new blue-eyed, foot-tall Jesus doll will be able to recite five verses from the Bible and initially, at least, will be sold directly to consumers over the Internet (http://www.one2believe.com/). The Jesus doll along with Moses, David and Mary models will retail for $24.99. The company said it would offer discounts to churches and on orders of three or more dolls.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News, David Socha, one of the founders and executive officer of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear, said, “It’s been on my heart to do these for at least three or four years. We are targeting the inspirational market, to do good things for children, something that adds to their quality of life and doesn’t corrupt their minds. Our company has always created very conservative products.”
Mr. Socha, explained the decision to sell the Messengers of Faith directly to consumers and not seek distribution in stores selling toys to CNN/Money. “In the beginning we don’t feel it’d be right to put it in Toys R Us and be next to a Barbie or a Bratz,” he said.
Joshua Livingston, who heads the One2Believe unit told RetailWire, the company expects to sell 50,000 dolls from the line by the end of the year. It already has plans to introduce new Biblical characters moving forward.
The company has no plans to make direct contributions to charitable organizations from the sale of the Messengers of Faith line, but Mr. Livingston said supporting worthy causes with proceeds from its business have been a part of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear’s “culture since the company was founded.”
Mr. Livingston also said his company is in communication with churches for feedback on the line. One of the possible changes in the future may include Jesus having a change of
eye color from blue to brown.
Moderator’s Comment: How are (should) mainstream retailers market to the demand for Christian and religious items for other faiths? Should the question,
“What would Jesus do?” enter into the decision-making of a retailer deciding whether or not to stock and sell a particular item?
We had a flashback moment when we read about the Jesus doll.
We thought of a visit a few years ago to a pediatrician’s office where, while waiting to be called, we saw two young boys pick up Barbie-like dolls and
pretend they were guns to shoot at one another. When they tired of that, they began dueling with them as though they were swords. After that they just had the dolls pretend fight.
The bigger of the two, took the other child’s doll and began pummeling it on the floor.
We couldn’t help wondering if this same sort of scene would be acted out in some other place with the Messengers of Faith and what would Jesus do if he
saw it taking place? –
George Anderson – Moderator