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Jesus Sells Out at Wal-Mart (Update)…

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There’s been much written about the scarcity of Nintendo’s Wii this holiday season, but last week Wal-Mart sold out of another popular toy: the Talking Jesus Messenger of Faith doll. The 12-inch doll is made by one2believe of Valencia, Calif., which also sells Nativity scenes and other Bible action figures such as Samson and Goliath Spirit Warriors.

 Check out our last Jesus at Wal-Mart post here

The toys were sold at about 600 Wal-Mart stores and online at Target.com. 

Almost 20 percent of the Wal-Mart stores that sell Talking Jesus are in Texas, as you may have imagined.

Norma Venning was surprised to encounter Mary, Moses and Noah in the toy aisle of her local Wal-Mart on a recent morning, but there was no sign of Jesus – the son of God had already sold out.

“I didn’t even know it existed. I think it’s a wonderful idea,” the retired school worker said of Tales of Glory, a line of talking, Bible-based dolls on the shelf at the Wal-Mart off Battlefield Boulevard.

For the first time, the world’s largest retailer is stocking a full line of faith-based toys along with its usual cast – including a GI Joe Combat Squad action figure with a gun the size of his body, and a 3-foot remote-control concept car dubbed “Big Time Muscle.”

Wal-Mart is test-marketing the posable figures in 425 locations; two are in Chesapeake and one is in Virginia Beach.

Toys like the “Deluxe Aggression” and “Fury Unmatched” wrestling figures a couple aisles over are the kind that Jesus, with his pointable plastic index fingers, homespun tunic and velvet sandals, was put here to counter – or perhaps…maybe to save?

Jesus’ maker, David Socha (be careful you might offend some of the fundamentalist Christians with that kind of talk), said he created the biblical toys to give girls an alternative to dolls in G-strings and boys a source of amusement not modeled on “demons” and “spawns of Satan.”

Even though spawns of Satan are cool…besides, did these people forget that the bible is packed with violence?

Socha has an answer for that of course…

“The Bible’s full of violence, but I don’t think violence is glorified in the Bible,” said Socha, CEO of California-based one2believe. “When I was growing up, I was always GI Joe. I was never the bad guy. Now, I think some kids are playing the bad guy. We’re trying to bring wholesomeness back.”

Yeah, because Wal-Mart is all about charity and wholesomeness.

But the biblical figures aren’t just about redeeming the toy box: Sales of Christian products topped $4.5 billion last year.

Josh Livingston, a spokesman for one2believe, said his firm manufactured more than 100,000 figures, and expects the hottest sellers, Jesus and Mary, to be sold out before Christmas. The dolls also are available online at Target.com (but not in Target stores) and at one2believe.com.

The Wal-Marts stocking the dolls are mostly in the Midwest and South (go figure), including 20 stores in Virginia. Each store is near a large number of churches or has a history of strong sales of faith-based products. The retailer is not selling the toys online, said Jami Arms, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman.

At the Wal-Mart off Battlefield Boulevard, faith-oriented merchandise included a Bible-themed coloring book, a “Read and Learn Bible” for children and books by Christian authors including Rick Warren. DVDs of “Evan Almighty,” a Hollywood comedy about a modern-day Noah, also were for sale.

When Jesus is in stock, he sells for $14.97. “I am Jesus,” he says when you press a button on his back. “I am the son of God.” The talking dolls speak for nearly a minute, giving their biographies, then recite three Bible verses.

The biblical toys, which include smaller-scale nonposable figures depicting the Nativity scene, Noah’s Ark animals and a pious-looking Daniel with eyes cast toward heaven, pleased Janet Taylor, a retired nurse from Portsmouth.

“I have a new grandbaby that’s going to be born Oct. 31 and I would gladly buy this for him,” she said of the toy line.

Venning, the retired school worker, said Tales of Glory figures could supplement the Christian education children get in Sunday school or at home.

“It’s better than buying them superheroes. It’s an opportunity for a Christian parent and Christian grandparents to not buy something that transforms into an ugly creature.”

I suppose God appearing as ‘fire’ is okay though.

She pressed a button on Mary’s back to hear the virgin speak – “I am Mary. I am the mother of Jesus” – and compared Moses’ face to the popular standard.

“He almost looks like Charlton Heston.”

I’d ask if looking like Charlton Heston is a good thing? 

So what happens to Talking Jesus when he gets home?

Knowing how quickly kids can tire of their toys, he could end up buried in a toy chest with Power Rangers, Batman and Ninja Turtles – and there’s something unsettling about that.

At least we won’t be seeing Talking Jesus on the clearance shelf with tacky leftover Bratz Dolls.