Goodbye Mr Potato Head

So Hasbro have decided to rebrand one of their toys and twitter is not happy. No longer will the brand be referred to as Mr Potato Head. This has prompted Christian social media outrage.  It is of course another example of political correctness gone mad. It is another attack on Biblical standards about marriage and gender.

Those reacting are right in their assumptions. The push for gender neutrality in toys does reflect a response to societal views on gender, sex and relationships just as the decision to have a female Doctor Who was a nod to the idea of gender fluidity.

However, I’m not joining in the social media outrage. Why not. To be clear, it is not because I’m okay with the rejection of God’s creation order.  Rather, there are a few things I want to suggest.

  1. I think we and the toymakers can fall into the same trap.  If we think that changing the name of a toy will have that much affect then we are probably underestimating the resilience of children. Remember when it was decided that us boys shouldn’t be encouraged to play war games and be given toy guns anymore.  Did that stop us running around pretending to be fighting the Nazis or the Russians? Of course not, we used cricket bats and sticks and our imaginations to create our guns.  Children wanting to play families with Potato head toys will still assign genders to them and the big issue will be the norms and assumptions that their parents are passing on to them.**
  2. There is a risk that we just end up sounding angry. Not only that but with the many wrongs and injustices we face in the world around us are we most angry about the things we should be most angry about?
  3. That tone of anger does not in my opinion enable us to convey a compassionate and Biblical response to the question of gender dysphoria. There are people who need to hear the good news who are wrestling with their gender identity. Will they come to us? Or will we make something other than the cross a stumbling block?
  4. Debating Mr Potato Head is a bit like picking rotten fruit and throwing it away (and believe me, the fruit is rotten).  Romans 1:16-32 points us to the root problem, a rejection of God’s clear revelation of himself not just in Scripture but in creation and the created order itself.  The “handing over” that we see here is a consequence of that.
  5. I think it betrays a lack of awareness of our context. A lot of reactions follow the culture war narrative.  In other words, we act as though we are here to defend a dominant world view which is Biblically based against the incursions of another philosophy.  The reality is that the Potato head change is not an attempt to change the narrative and the reality but a response to what the narrative and reality already was. We already live in a world were the dominant worldview rejects Christ and His Word. Indeed, we always have done.  So the idea of a culture war misses the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Rather than twitter outrage we need faithful people being salt and light and offering  positive vision of God’s alternative society.

To be 100% clear, it is not that worldly views aren’t sinful and dangerous. It’s not that we are not to challenge sin, to call people to repentance and when believers fall into sin patiently correct and rebuke. However I believe that we need to take a different approach to responding.  We need to think again about how we offer a truly radical alternative to the world around us, clearly holding forth the warning and the hope of the Gospel.

** In fact I understand that whilst the brand name is changing from Mr Potato Head, you still will be able to but the separate Mr and Mrs characters.