Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Church, God, Grace, Inspiration, Religion, Spirituality
This summer I made another trip to Disney World with Calla, Carol, Grandma and Grandpa. It is not even close to my first trip to see the glorious rodent. I have probably been to Disney World five or six times in my life. Not to mention two trips to Epcot, two trips to Treasure Island, a trip to Disney’s main street and two Disney cruises. I have seen Disney. From the Space Mountain to the lit parade at the end of the night I have seen plenty of Disney in my life.
One of the highlights of this year’s trip had to be our trip into the original ride The World of Tomorrow. Designed originally by Walt Disney this ride takes a nostalgic look at how technology has changed our lives for the better and in the end talks about the technology in the future. The main problem with it is that it is pretty hokey, which is what I love about it. It over sentimentalizes everything in history, it has silly singing, the future predictions where obviously added in the early 90’s and best of all they use animatronics.
As a matter of fact if you had to push me on a word to describe Disney it would be the word sentimental. From the idealized main street, to the uncluttered representation of cultural harmony, to the uncomplicated views of good and evil and the changing of fairy tales I would say that sentimental views of the world are what Disney makes much of its annual profits upon. This is not a criticism, just an observation.
The other night this was reminded to me quite starkly. With Carol away leading a conference I was alone to choose what to read to Calla for her bedtime story. Not wanting to go the conventional route, I took the large volume of Grimm’s Tales off of my bookshelf.
“Look it’s the original version of Snow White!” I said with a little too much fake enthusiasm.
“You have already read me that,” Calla responded.
“No that was the Disney version, I have never read the original story. Let’s read it, please!” I said.
“Okay” was the only response and I think I detected a hint of disappointment.
Don’t get me wrong, there are similarities to the two versions, but the Grimm’s definitely has a little more edge. I reached one point of the story and paused wondering if I should keep reading or make my own safer Disney version.
In the end Calla said, “That was kind of scary,” and I would have to agree.
That is often the way it is with the Biblical stories as well. We have cleaned up the difficulties to make them more sentimental, more sanitized. I had always been focused on cute animals: David with a flock of sheep, Noah on a boat with friendly animals and Jonah in a smiling cartoon whale. If those are your mind’s versions of those stories I will warn you that each will shock you with their violent, sexually raw and real life adult content.
That propensity for the complicated is one of the reasons that I love the actual story of Jonah better than the one my Sunday school teachers taught me. Although the big fish usually gets center billing it is actually God’s grace as opposed to the prophet Jonah’s judgment that is the centerpiece of this great story. This is not Moby Dick, not a transcendental search for the elusive divine, it is that God wants to be present in Jonah and Jonah wants no part in being God’s mouthpiece.
You see Jonah knows God. After fleeing from a divine assignment on a boat to Tarshis, encountering a great storm, being thrown overboard by the crew to appease Jonah’s God, being swallowed by a gigantic fish, being vomited up by that fish on the coast of Nineveh and preaching the prophetic word of God to the people of Nineveh Jonah knew what God would do to this dirty, rotten, detestable, criminal, violent, scumbag people when they repent. God would forgive them.
It is enough to make a prophet want to die!
In the end the prophet sits and seethes under the shade of a handmade booth. Hoping that God follows through on the divine’s apocalyptic promises. Why is Jonah so mad? He has been used by God to save a people that he hates to his very core, and Jonah knew that God would never be as angry, as just and as punitive as the prophet. That is the shocking revelation of the book of Jonah. God is slower to anger, slower to judgment, and quicker to forgiveness than any human.
I’ll bet you that you know some dirty, rotten, detestable, criminal, violent, scumbag people that are not worthy of being saved by our God. I know some myself. It is the amazing conclusion to the book of Jonah that God cares for each and every one of the residents of Nineveh. Each and every infidel, heretic, apostate, fundamentalist, criminal, atheist, mental patient, annoying co-worker, democrat, republican, relative and in-law in our Nineveh’s is part of God’s creation and even if we don’t God cares for each and every one of them. So, doesn’t it make sense that we should too?
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