When I was a kid, I loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I still love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve seen every movie that has been made about the turtles, in the theatres, including the terrible new ones. So, I will watch or read just about anything having to do with “The Turtles.” You can then imagine my delight when I ran across a documentary on Netflix called “The toys that made us,” and there was a whole episode about the Turtles!
I watched it and found out so much about them. One thing that I learned is that the cartoon (yep, saw every episode when they premiered on television) was made to sell the toys (and in case you were wondering, yes, I have all four turtles and Master Splinter in their original boxes). I had no idea! A toy company in Japan found the TMNT comics and wanted to make a toy. In order to sell that toy, they made the cartoons. It wasn’t the other way around. Apparently, this was a common business practice among toy companies.
That feels so backwards to me. It was clearly effective as I am now an adult writing about my love of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but after I saw the documentary, I felt uneasy at how I was manipulated that way.
In the love chapter of Corinthians that we often hear at weddings, Paul describes what love does and does not do. Love does not manipulate. We are surrounded every day by companies, political ads, and people, who try to manipulate us. It is now a job to be overtly a manipulator, though I think they call them “influencers.”
I know of so many churches even that attempt to manipulate the congregation. Whether it is through fear, worry, or a sense of superiority churches will try to manipulate people. But my theology of God is that God does not manipulate. Love does not manipulate. So, the way we are supposed to be as siblings in Christ is that we are honest with one another. Whenever I invite someone to church, or in any of the ministries that we do, I invite people to experience the love of God and the love of community. This is without agenda. We do not need to sell people on the love of God but bring them into God’s presence so they can have that love wash over them.