(RNS) — Shopping at Walmart a few years ago, David Morgan saw a statuette of Santa Claus praying on one knee before a cross and knew he had to have it.

Morgan, a professor and religious studies chair at Duke University who studies religion, culture and media, was amused by the pious Santa Claus, whose costume derives from Thomas Nast’s 1860s Harper’s Weekly cartoons and Coca-Cola ads starting in the 1930s.

He doesn’t think the statue mocks Christianity. Instead, he thinks it pokes fun at the ways capitalism reshapes the sacred.

But the people who buy the statue probably don’t care.

“I imagine some Christians even admire it as a way of ‘putting Christ back in Christmas,’” he said.

Still, the line between well-intentioned kitsch

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