I have mentioned before that I have a new book project underway, this time with Cascade Books. The topic is media, so I am thinking a lot about how stories give shape to our lives. When it comes to entertainment media, there are a lot of stories available. Yet the story called to shape the life of the church is the sprawling, complex saga told by our Scriptures. It is a story still unfolding—the denouement is on the horizon.
I get worried sometimes over which stories hold the greatest sway in the lives of my children.
We let them watch TV. We let them watch movies. We have a DVD case jammed full of flicks from Pixar and Dreamworks Animation. They tell some really good stories. We just finished “Family Movie Night”—the feature this evening in the Byers home was Disney’s Tangled.
My wife and I observed a momentous coming of age in our oldest son last year. It was occasioned with the exchange of one epic story for another. The sweet, nonviolent realm of the Island of Sodor faded before the glitter of stars in a galaxy far, far away.
The worst fate for the train characters in the Thomas the Tank Engine franchise was that someone got a little too cheeky or maybe a Diesel Engine was rude or maybe those Troublesome Trucks forced another derailing. No matter the mayhem, though, the narrator could always say, “Luckily, no one was hurt.”
The same could not be said for Qui-Gon Jinn who my son would soon watch Darth Maul murder on Naboo.
Once a little boy has seen the glare of a light saber and heard the engines of the Millenium Falcon burst into hyperdrive, there is no going back to quaint land of Sodor.
I know what a powerful epic tale like Star Wars can do. Such an expansive, well-crafted story ensnares our imaginations. We are joyfully entrapped in its galactic setting. We enfold ourselves as a character the author would surely have included had she the time and ink left before the publisher’s deadline. Such tales grip us and become hermeneutical resources from which we draw as we interpret the world around us.
I teach my kids the Bible. The context of the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) looms large in my life. After
“Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might”
“And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your hearts. And you shall teach them diligently to your children….
I wonder about how much time my children spend exposed to the storyworlds created by George Lucas or Hollywood’s best animators. I can tell you they spend more time in front of a screen than they do reading their Bibles.
(So do most of the rest of us.)
But it is the story of Scripture that is to wield final sway, and the story by which we understand and appropriate all other stories.
So you can imagine my joy when I found what the photos show below.
My son, who just turned 7 (with a big Star Wars party where we made our own lightsabers and conducted an intensive Jedi-training course for his friends) had been reading the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. We alternate which Bible resources we use, but this morning my wife found that book opened to the page illustrating Roman soldiers gathering at Golgotha. Positioned on the drawings were medieval and Roman era action figures, all pointing in the same direction from their platform on the book’s pages. In front of them, facing the same direction, were Jedi action figures, all dressed in the characteristic plain garb (which sort of looks like the clothing popular in 1st century Palestine). They were crying, our son explained. And when you followed their somber gazes, you realized they were all affixed on Obi-wan Kenobi who was himself affixed to a makeshift cross-thing held up by the speeder he and Luke road in on Tatooine. His Jedi cloak was on the ground, discarded by the Romans. Something intended to replicate the crown-thorn was wrapped around the old Jedi’s head.
A beautiful instance of one story usurping another.
The standard comment from Sodor, “Luckily, no one was hurt,” cannot be said about the story of the Gospel either.