Sunday, December 04, 2005

Lion in Winter

I was leaving a Nashville synagogue after teaching an adult education class when one of my students stopped me in the hallway and asked, “Rabbi, my kids want to see the Narnia movie, but I am afraid it will make them Christian. Do you think it is OK for Jews to go to this movie?”

“Of course it is OK. It is a great story.”

“But isn’t it the story of Jesus?”

“Maybe,” I said, “and that is a great story also.”

The woman was stunned. “You like the Jesus story?” she said breathlessly.

“What’s not to like? A people oppressed; a young child raised to free them who grows up to give his life trying to do so. Danger, courage, sacrifice; this is stuff of all great literature.”

“But this is Christianity!”

“No, it isn’t. Christianity, especially as practiced in our neighborhood, is the belief that believing in Jesus as Christ, as messiah, is the only way to avoid eternal hell fire. You can believe, as I do, that Jesus was a great prophet, teacher, rabbi, and Jew, and still go to hell for all eternity. Narnia is going to turn you kids on to self-sacrificing lions, not Christ.”

“I don’t know, Rabbi. I still don’t want this movie to influence my kids.”

“It is your choice,” I said, “but you really can’t keep your kids away from Christian influence. Rather than isolate them, teach them about Jesus the Jew, be open about what Christianity teaches and how Judaism offers an older and, to my mind, more loving understanding of God, life, and how to live justly, compassionately, and humbly. Rather than worry about the culture influencing your kids to be Christians, try influencing them to be Jews.”

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